Festival Review: Riot Fest Toronto 2014 — Muddy Boots and a Weekend to Remember

Death Cab For Cutie
Photo by Alicia Atout | @AliciaAtout

Ah, Riot Fest — Hearing those words bring back memories of music, food, friends, mud, and of course, one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had.

I have to be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect with Riot Fest since I’d been to a ton of very different festival venues this summer. With Field Trip having taken place on a sunny weekend with lots of amazing vendors and clean, mud free ground, I was nervous to see what Downsview Park would bring after we’d just had an epic rain storm.

I thought I was being smart wearing boots — turns out I should have worn boots I hated with all my life since everything I wore ended sputtered with mud (my boots were slathered). That having been said, the mud did not deter from the amazing landscape that housed Riot Fest; there was a giant tree in the centre of the grounds, and at about 7pm the sky grew red and the sunset was astonishing.

After I acclimatized (and realized there was no way I was going to use the washroom for the rest of the night, unless I wanted to line up for an hour and likely be horrified with the facilities) I figured out the stage set up. In short, there were 4 stages, two on each side of the venue. The lineup was organized so that one band would play at the same time at opposite sides of the field. Pretty much right after one act would finish, the stage directly next to it would light up and the following band would take over.

In case you couldn’t keep track, there was an APP you could download, but in all fairness if you just wandered you could listed and figure out who was playing.

Mounties
Photo by Alicia Atout | @AliciaAtout

In terms of the lineup, it was pretty massive and branched across quite a few genres. Some highlights from Saturday included Mounties, Taking Back Sunday, Brand New, Death From Above 1979, The Flaming Lips, and of course, THE CURE!

If I had to point out some memorable moments from Saturday, I’m sure most people would agree that The Flaming Lips were very entertaining. Lights, confetti, costumes, balloons, and props were just come of the tools they used to put on a wild show (seriously though, I had confetti stuck in my hair for the entire night, it was everywhere!). If you missed it, I’d really recommend looking at the photographs we took from Day One and Day Two, they really capture the atmosphere. Of course Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots made its way into the set, along with the more intimate Do You Realize?.

With almost no time to digest that set, at 9pm sharp the Riot Stage lit up and Robert Smith made his way centre stage, hair billowing through the grey smoke. Everyone crowded in and sung together as The Cure played nearly a two hour set!

A couple hours of sleep later, day two of Riot Fest begun. I personally was very pumped for the lineup, particularly for The New Pornographers, Tokyo Police Club, Stars, Death Cab for Cutie, THE NATIONAL (anyone that knows me knows how much I love the National, so I can’t stress enough how excited I was to see them [for the 5th time…]), Metric, and City and Colour. Since it was my second day I took it a bit easier and wandered more, trying some of the festival food which included the ‘Colossal Onion’ (it truly was colossal).

Although every band was truly amazing, I can’t help but point out a particularly special highlight from day two. Lucky enough to be a writer for AMBY and work with Alicia, I was able to meet a band I love. We spotted two individuals seated on a golf cart, and from the backs of their heads knew who they were. We walked over and next thing I knew I was shaking hands with Matt Beringer and Scott Devendorf of The National and taking a photo literally minutes before the band went on stage. I was truly amazed with how kind they were, especially given that they were about to perform.

The National
Photo by Alicia Atout | @AliciaAtout

As if that wasn’t ridiculous enough, I then got to watch the set side stage. Having a chance to listen to some of my favourite tracks (including Ada, Mr. November, and Fake Empire) was truly surreal. Although I’ve seen The National five times already in the past few years, this gets top of the list.

After dancing my way through Metric, I ended off the night by winding down with City and Colour. Heading home in a daze, I can now happily look at my muddy boots and remember the weekend that was Riot Fest.

Review by Nadia Kaakati |

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