This past weekend Toronto’s TURF festival took over Fort York for three days of great music. This years line up was packed with rock heavy-hitters and indie-pop favourites. While the festival also held a great selection of food trucks, LCBO wine tastings and pop-up shops, let’s face it, we were all there for the music! And speaking of the music, there was a lot of it! If you were there for the entire weekend, you were witness to countless artists who gave it their all through rain or shine. Amongst all of the performances, there are certain moments that I will take away from the festival. Here are my five favourite moments from TURF 2016!
1. James Bay Puts on a Rock ’N’ Roll Show
James Bay was given the headliner spot on day 1 of TURF, much to the pleasure of fan girls and rockers alike. As a singer-songwriter, Bay is most notable for his fluid vocals and catchy, often low-key songs. His performance, however, was anything but low-key! Instead of pulling back and giving us an intimate concert, James went big and gave us a rock show. Everything was bright lights, bold sound and high energy. This was especially true during his encore, where the singer started with CCR’s “Proud Mary.” Eventually morphing the track into a fact paced, Tina Turner rendition of the song, it was the perfect segway into his hit, “Hold Back the River.”
2. The Sheepdogs Welcome The Sun After A Dreary Day of Rain
After a gorgeous first day on Friday, day 2 of the festival got hit with some pretty awful weather. Needless to say, that didn’t stop concert-goers from getting out and hitting the turf. Dawning plastic ponchos and rubber boots, attendees sloshed through mud puddles to see their favourite acts. For me, that was The Sheepdogs, a great rock ’n’ roll band and one of performances I was most looking forward to. As I combatted the slippery terrain (my shoes sure need a good washing!) I jammed out with the band as they played favourites like, “I Don’t Know,” and even a cover of the The Allman Brothers’ “Whipping Post.” As the group played on, the sun began to slowly peak it’s way from behind the clouds, and the rain that had taken over the entire day started to dissipate. While the band had made comments about how they were willing to rock out rain or shine, when the sky cleared up, they were convinced that they may have a bit of an influence on the good weather. Perhaps The Sheepdogs were right- the rest of the weekend saw only clear skies.
3. Barenaked Ladies End Their Set With a Diverse Medley of Hits
I’ll admit, I waited the entire Barenaked Ladies set for “Brian Wilson” and “One Week.” When they played these iconic hits, they did not disappoint (even without singer Steven Page). There was something charming about these guys- maybe it was their random comedic jokes throughout the set, their welcoming of guest bongo player, Adam Hindle from Born Ruffians or perhaps that I had one of the best times all weekend singing “If I had a 1,000,000 dollars” with them.
And just when you thought that was it from the hilarious 90’s band, they broke into one of the weirdest medleys of music I think I have ever heard. Beginning with “Lean On Me,” and eventually going into Drake’s “Hotline Bling,” Rihanna’s “Work,” Bieber's’ “Love Yourself,” and even Bowie’s “Let’s Dance,” the band concluded their set with hit after hit. While I was satisfied after hearing their own popular songs, the end of their concert had me singing, dancing, and hoping it would never end!
4. Jimmy Eat World Bring Us Back to Grade School
It’s near impossible that you haven’t at some point in your life, rocked out to “The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World. As a staple in every grade schoolers life over the last 15 years, this punk pop anthem has become just that … an anthem. Ergo, getting to see the band perform it live was a real treat! Jimmy Eat World have begun to make a splash on the rock scene again with their recent release, “Sure and Certain,” and a tour set to follow right after the festival. For many people reliving their youth, this band was a must to see. For the rest of us … it was all about “The Middle.”
While the set was heavy and full of energy, when they started playing “Sweetness,” another monster hit from the band’s early years, they captured the attention of each audience member. After that, we knew what was next to come. The crowd turned from people lightly dancing to a full out jump pit as Jimmy closed his show with the iconic hit. Closing with “The Middle” was, as, if not more exciting than the entirety of their set.
5. Death Cab for Cutie Stole Hearts With “I Will Follow You Into the Dark"
On Sunday evening, festival-goers had seen some pretty incredible things, danced in the rain, and probably visited one too many food trucks. By the time the event headliner, Death Cab for Cutie were set to play the East Stage, morale was still high. You could tell that this was the band the crowd was really waiting for. As someone who had never been a die-hard fan of Death Cab, I went into the show somewhat open minded. When the music began, and the broody purple and grey lights dropped the mood of the festival, the tone was set for the rest of the evening. With a tight band playing and a captivating presence filling the Fort York grounds, this final act became the height of the festival.
About half way through their set, Ben Gibbard, the frontman of the band, stopped to take a minute and talk to his audience. He told the crowd that we were his final stop on a tour that had lasted about a year and a half. With regard to that, he listed off a long thank you to his crew and dedicated the next song to them. He then broke into fan favourite, “I Will Follow You Into the Dark.” Gibbard became the focal point of the stage, with the rest of the lighting pulled down low, and a breathy air of smoke circling the singer. The song, a delicate and poetic ballad drew us further into the band’s romantic performance, and let the fans in the crowd sing along. It was one of those moments where your surroundings didn’t matter; it didn’t matter that you were in a huge festival with thousands of people. In that moment, it felt as if it was just you and Death Cab for Cutie standing there.