To celebrate 10 years as Canada’s best-loved record label, Arts & Crafts took over Toronto’s historic Fort York for a day with two huge stages, an army of food trucks, an Etsy artist’s village and a killer line-up sure to be remembered for years to come.
Arriving right into the middle of Cold Specks’ set, they provided the perfect introduction to the day: their soulful, laid-back, blues-jams washed over the crowd as they relaxed in the unexpected sunshine with Field Trip’s specially brewed bespoke IPA. As our first couple of beers went down nicely, Ra Ra Riot treated us to some of their upbeat, infectious indie synth-pop. The band oozed nonchalant New York cool and got booties shakin’, providing the perfect fun, bouncy summer soundtrack.
There was a definite buzz in the air as the crowd eagerly anticipated Trust. The duo took to the stage accompanied by their sole backing dancer: a guy in pink hot pants and a panda hat obscuring his face, as well as an ambiguous-looking appendage dangling from his head (which turned out to be an elephant trunk). Trust’s 80s new wave inspired synth-pop certainly didn’t disappoint as a mosh pit formed and their upbeat set served to blow the cobwebs off of this hazy Field Trip afternoon. As they amped up the camp, the freaks crawled out of the woodwork to join the dark, ravey interlude on this sunny afternoon.
After running across the fort to the bigger stage, we thought we would be disappointed as half of Toronto seemed to want to see Bloc Party too: however, perseverance is key as we fought our way through the crowd to higher ground, a perfect vantage point for Bloc Party’s energetic set. Their jaunty post-punk rhythms cut through the crowd and had everyone bopping along to their British charms. They had drawn the biggest crowd of the day so far, and the main stage was where the party would be for the rest of the night. Our position in the field, surrounded by these historic buildings felt completely out of time against the backdrop of the Queensway and the gleaming CN Tower: the perfect contrast of the buzzing city surrounding our peaceful green haven where all the city dwellers came together and bonded over some fantastic music.
Timbre Timber provided a welcome change of pace with their prog-rock stylings. They’re certainly not a band that you might click with straight away, but their sound gave the sunny festival a darker edge with their tense, brooding sound. Give this band some time – they’re definitely one that will grow on you. Their sound evoked the swampy bluesy sound of the south and set the tone as we passed into evening.
Dreamy Dan Mangan is a ride*; sorry we couldn’t say more, but we had to cut his set short as we rushed to the other stage to secure a good spot for Feist. And that’s actually all we had in our notes. Sorry Dan, but you should be flattered really. Feist presented us with more abstract, electronic versions of her hits, different from the expectation of a acoustic folk gig – she felt at home at Arts and Crafts, so decided to fill the stage with a more epic, experimental set. Each song was disjointed and sounded completely fresh, a nice reinterpretation which we’re sure was welcomed by the many Canadians who have seen Feist play dozens of times.
By the time Broken Social Scene played, we were certainly reflecting the group’s name: definitely in bits from the delights of the day and the gregariousness of the gin. Thomas busied himself in casting off his boots and dancing barefoot, whilst I Tia, was momentarily lost in a fog of nostalgia, reminiscing about listening to BSS records with an old boyfriend. In other words, the gin had well and truly gotten to us.
But it hadn’t broken us. We stayed till the bitter end. As Jes Ellacott said in her excellent review, ‘many of us have fallen in love, fought, fucked, broken up and made up to Lover’s Spit and a glut of other BSS tunes’; the time was right for nostalgia.
The good vibes were dripping off the seemingly hundreds of band members and it was clear to see how glad they were to be playing on home turf. Broken Social Scene were the perfect ending to this Art & Crafts decade long love fest. We returned to the city, after a quick rest plopped under a tree, still reeling from the day’s delights; ravenous and determined to hunt down the nearest barbeque.
And for our Canadian readers:
*Ride= Sexually attractive male specimen one would like to mate with (or be serenaded by).
Photography: Lucia Graca and Courtney Lee