Overall, the 2016 edition of Toronto’s Time Festival went off without a hitch. Saturday’s weather was the type that festivals are made for – sunny but not too hot… until the afternoon. The Garrison at historic Fort York once again provided a great setting and the addition of the “Overtime” side stage made meant that there were more great artists to see. It seemed that the only problem was some clashes in set times between stages, which could be mostly alleviated with a little planning.
Sahara brought life to the early audience with the cool vibes found on their newly released self-titled EP. The audience seemed to dig the addition of a few lesser available songs as demonstrated by the sheer number of heads bopping and feet shuffling along to the mystically transient sounds of “Haze”. It was nice to see the festival staying true to its roots by promoting small local talent; giving the early slots after doors to great local acts like Bambii, Sahara and FRIGS, whom I caught next.
After just recently getting home from an extensive North American tour in support of their latest release titled Slush, FRIGS brought their unique brand of sludge-rock to the stage. The standout part of the group’s performance was the raspy growls of vocalist Bria. The band is well respected within the local music community for their DIY ethic. While the new EP was released by Toronto’s Arts & Crafts label, it was entirely written, produced, recorded and mastered by the band. It was easy to see the passion within the sludge thanks to these details.
Toronto’s very own Harrison played the Overtime stage (a second stage newly added for 2016). Harrison introduced himself, announced he was going to play some “fun music” and proceeded to turn the smaller side stage into a dance club. Dancing was exactly what the audience did as they were flooded with the savory beats. Harrison kept the dance going unhindered, as his mixes flowed into each other. During one of the transitions he took to the microphone in order to announce his understanding of the earlier set time and the heat but he urged the crowd to keep moving.
Montreal got some love on the main stage thanks to a flawless set from TOPS, who nailed a live version of their indie anthem, “Change of Heart.” Jane Penny has a voice that goes through your ears and straight to your heart. In keeping with the mantra of effectively using time, Penny used a brief break in the set to state, “we are just going to keep them coming, guys.” That is exactly what the band did adding a stellar rendition of “Outside” as well as ending with “Way to be Loved.” Both tracks can be found on the fantastic 2015 release, “Picture You Staring.”
Over on the Overtime stage, Chrome Sparks brought the heat. Well more heat than was already present thanks to the late afternoon sun. The duo did so with a tantalizing mix of classic Moog synth, midi pad and old-school drums. Speaking of the duo, Chrome Sparks is the stage name of Brooklyn noise-scientist Jeremy Malvin, who does not appear on stage but rather passes the honour on to Bill Delelles and Aaron stele.
Time Festival was the Canadian debut of Manchester’s Everything Everything, who attracted a large audience that seemed quite familiar with the band’s repertoire. Longtime fans showed that a Canadian show was long overdue by clapping and singing along with the mix of samples, staple instruments and Passion Pit-like vocals found on “Kemosabe” from 2013’s Arc. Leader Jonathan Higgs is an absolute joy to watch thanks not only to his vocal abilities but also to his showmanship. “Why is it so hot here in Canada?” he asked before inviting the audience to sing along with “Regret.” With a laugh he proclaimed, “It’s easy because all you have to do is say regret regret.” Higgs also acknowledged a mistake the band made by not including the ultimate festival tune, “Spring/ Sun/ Winter/ Dread.” The change sparked absolute joy from the crowd. After promising to comeback to Canada soon, Everything Everything closed with “Distant Past.” Here’s hoping that they live up to that promise because an EE show is something that you need to experience at least once!
Cold Cave opened up with the swooning sounds of “Love Comes Close,” a song that would be a seamless fit on the soundtrack to the Duffer brothers summer hit Series Stranger Things.” Things got a little stranger when singer Wesley Eisold stopped midway through an early song due to sound problems, calling the gig until it was addressed. With a chilly tone he asked, “Is it loud enough? I guess no one really cares though, hey?” He walked off stage and didn’t come back out for nearly ten minutes. Eisold started up again by spinning a few of his older tracks, thanking everyone for being there and the staff for fixing the problem and then wrapped his set up ten minutes early by returning to the microphone to sing “Underground USA.”
New Zealand duo Broods made the long journey and took hold of the night’s first headlining set by opening with “Conscious,” which serves as the title track of their sophomore June release. There is something amazing to watching Georgia Nott glide across the stage delivering strongly modified vocals while older brother Caleb anchors the sound with synthesizer and occasional bass guitar. By the time “Are You Home” came around the sun had set. Soon Georgia asked the audience to keep the moving going and argued that there was no excuse since the sun had gone down. If that didn’t get you moving, a superb rendition of “Full Blown Love” certainly did. The jumping still didn’t end there though, as Georgia told the Toronto crowd that before the Notts were going to leave the stage the audience had to jump along to one final song that turned out to be “Couldn’t Believe.”
Finally it was time for the main event! This year’s festival was headlined by infamous rap duo Run The Jewels (RTJ,) who kept the audience awake by shooting rhymes from their two self-titled albums and by cracking jokes in between songs. The jokes ranged in subject matter from seeing how long El-P could stand wearing a denim jacket on stage (seven songs), the colour and sound of the yet to be released third self-titled album and politics. Killer Mike has been all around the news recently due to his open support of Bernie Sanders’ Democratic Party leadership nomination run, so it came as no surprise when the emcee used one song break to discuss American politics and to lead the crowd into a chant of “F Trump.” However, there was a real smile on his face when the audience switched the chant to “Bernie.”
Even when it came to the music, the audience seemed to most enjoy having something to chant. They launched into thunderous roars of the title-line of RTJ2’s classic single “Lie, Cheat, Steal” stopping only to let the duo drop into the verse. They also took to shouting out the controversial final verse of bonus track “Blockbuster Night Part 2” first found on the Itunes cut of RTJ2. This prompted Killer Mike to call the Canadian audience “cold and heartless.”
Festival report by Luke Williams. Photos by Tiffany Cruz
Photos edited by Jacqueline Howell