• Less than impressed with Virgin

    29. Sep. 2007, 16:51

    Sat 8 Sep – Virgin Festival

    Originally published in Imprint (Volume 30, issue 9)

    I walked away irritable, unfulfilled.

    I’d dished out a rather large sum of money for the two-day trip and didn’t feel like I’d quite received my money’s worth.

    Looking back, it really wasn’t that bad — blame my irritability on the pain from the countless hours of walking. It was entertaining, definitely. And I got lots of free shit.

    The Virgin Festival took over Toronto Island Park for the second time and managed to sufficiently rock me — but not without its share of problems.

    Big, small and unknown names took to the four stages dispersed across the island — far enough apart to score me a day’s worth of sore legs.

    The main stage, a mammoth sporting the larger names on the lineup, was seemingly where all the action was with majority of the 40,000 people in attendance crowding the area. Two large screens mounted on each side of the stage projected videos of the performances for the convenience of those far away — and height-challenged individuals like me. Directly below them were mini-screens with scrolling text messages — from cell phone-savvy individuals willing to dish out 50 cents — that were, at times, more fun to watch than the bands on stage. Chuck Norris jokes over the uninspired ska act Jamie T? Yes, please!

    The large crowd did make the experience a bit daunting — arguably, that’s what one can expect when venturing to a music festival. (It really says something when you have to spend just as much time in the line for a funnel cake as a band spends on stage.) The buzz around the web following the fest, blamed much of the audience for lack of energy.

    I see it differently; while there were a fair share of people staring at the screens more than is possibly healthy, it’s hard to generate enough chemistry at a large outdoor venue where the acoustics and audience dynamics vary greatly.

    Case in point, DD/MM/YYYY: their sound seemed scattered and didn’t seem to work with the openness of an outdoor stage.

    The Killers, on the other hand, shook the island with their loud danceable flavour of rock. Never mind the fact that singer Brandon Flowers floated on and off stage without so much as uttering a “hello” to the audience.

    Local favourite Metric treated the crowd to new material and some classic tracks, but was missing the oomph and upbeat attitude that their sets usually bring — Emily Haines missing her signature skirt should have been indication enough.

    Bjork was apparently able to please with her unusual-as-always antics — I never understood her though and skipped out.

    Explosions in the Sky, great mood music, took advantage of the overcast skies on day two and treated the crowd to their signature no-vocals music that can push you into that dreamy state.

    Recently resurrected super group Smashing Pumpkins closed off the fest with a loud bang. Two songs into the set, frontman Billy Corgan broke into Hendrix’s rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner.” Corgan’s seemingly thoughtless foray into the American anthem on Canadian soil, set off alarm bells, which ceased immediately after, as he broke into “Oh Canada” pushing the crowd’s decibel meter off the charts.

    But it was alt band Mute Math that very easily became the unexpected highlight of the weekend and stole the show.

    Armed with a keytar and likely an accumulated knowledge from several acrobatics classes, lead Paul Meany took charge of the stage and the audience, which went from hushed to roaring within a few songs — a feat even the greatest of bands struggle with. Their unorthodox stage setup allowed the band to move about freely jumping from one instrument to the next to create that melodic, synth and drum-heavy sound that completely captivated the in-awe crowd

    Music aside, the fest could’ve been better

    Day one was sunny and warm — a day many would tout as a good day to rock. That was until you encountered the mile-long lineup for the ferry and the two hour-long wait it entailed.

    Day two was significantly better for the ferry, but the sun refused to play along. Overcast skies shrouded the festival and a cold chill seemed to put a low cap on energy levels across the island.

    Additionally, intervals between the bands on the main stage were annoyingly filled with the haunting sounds of the same ads played repeatedly.

    By day two, the organizers had realized the obnoxiousness of being objected to Justice vs. Simian’s “We are your Friends” five times over in the short period of 15 minutes and reverted to music instead.

    Neither the crowd nor venue were particularly height-friendly. When you’re as short as I am and unable to score a position up close to the stage, you’re forced to stare at the giant screens and subsequently feel like an idiot.

    All in all, it was a bumpy rock’n’roll adventure.
  • Ain't no polar at this jam

    14. Feb. 2007, 9:46

    Thu 26 Jan – Polar Jam

    It was fucking cold.

    Which is, of course, something you’d normally expect at a mid-winter, outdoor concert held in Waterloo.

    But there was an extra bite in the air last Friday night — enough to make my naughty bits tingle.