Toronto Island Concert with Broken Social Scene
Sailing across to the Toronto Island on Saturday, one could only think, "Hey, weatherman! Erroneous!" With last year's Toronto Island Concert cancelled -- allegedly due to noise from the also occurring Honda Indy -- the thunderstorms forecast for Saturday's all-day concert were ominous.
But like the circling seagulls, Toronto (well, those that weren't taking in free shows at Yonge-Dundas Square for NXNE) saddled up on the rammed ferry and took in Toronto's indie sweethearts, Broken Social Scene and their indie-god brethren. To get it out of the way, this would include: Timber Timbre, Beach House, Band of Horses and the nostalgia-inducing Pavement.
Like every time Broken Social Scene comes back home, their friends -- all indie champions in their own right, including Emily Haines, Feist, James Shaw and Sebastian Grainger (of Death From Above 1979 fame) -- made an appearance, to the crowd's contentment.
And like all big outdoor concerts go, the typical was apparent. Bouncing beach balls made an appearance. Beer and food lines were bloody absurd (commenters, do your thing below). Police carved around the island with riot gear attached to the back of their bikes. Inane, I know. And a sea of young, sun-kissed patrons stood below a weatherman-be-damned blue sky and soaked up a day of indie glory.
Due to ridiculously long ferry lines, I missed the idyllic yet haunting sounds of Timber Timbre. The critically-acclaimed artist and Arts & Crafts label-mate to Broken Social Scene and Zeus (who opened the concert), was well received by a swelling crowd, according to a couple of fans I caught up with.
Like the majority of the concert-goers, I arrived for Pitchfork-praising buzz band Beach House (pictured above).
As the beer lines mounted, the dream-pop duo had the docile crowd nodding to their hook-heavy, spacey tunes. Although lacking in much stage presence -- although you don't expect much presence from a melodic indie band -- singer Victoria Legrand was full of quips. "Thank you... for getting suntans," she said to the crowd after tying up a song. In summary, Beach House was chill, dreamy and refreshing.
As Band of Horses took to the massive black stage, fully equipped with beards and denim shirts, a sizable crowd embarked on the island.
No strangers to large festivals or crowds (having played Glastonbury Festival, SXSW and T in the Park) Ben Bridwell and co. played their spot-on, infectious hits from their earlier two albums.
Leading off with Island on the Coast, The Great Salt Lake and Is There a Ghost, Band of Horses were composed and seemingly giddy. Like Broken Social Scene, Band of Horses have a recently minted album out, Infinite Arms, from which they played the songs Factory and Laredo. But the indie-cum-alternative-rock quintet mainly stuck to their earlier catalog of ditties. By the end of their set, they had the crowd waving with both arms in the air.
And then came the obvious crowd-pleasers, Broken Social Scene.
You know, the band with both a book, This Book is Broken and movie This Movie is Broken, about them. A bunch of beach balls came out to dance with the clouds and seagulls as Kevin Drew's small army of rockers jumped into the new single, World Sick.
Starting with a meager eight people onstage, at one point through the two-hour performance I counted some 14 musicians doing their thing. In between songs, it was like watching mechanics tune a car in the pit stop at the Indy 500.
As the art collective is wont to do, they were constantly bringing friends onstage, including the aforementioned Feist and Haines, who harmonized on Sentimental X's. And a full horn section was added for all-systems-go songs like Meet Me in the Basement. Aside from some minor technical difficulties -- Drew's pedals weren't working and a blown amp -- BSS clearly pleased.
The set list fused their classics like Cause = Time, 7/4 (Shoreline), and Andrew Whiteman's Fire Eye'd Boy with most of the new tracks from Forgiveness Rock Record. Drew, donning a fedora, shades, a blue tank top and long hair, was in his element. Interacting with the crowd between songs, he talked about the honour of playing with his idols in Pavement and that all the vendors (including Caplansky's Deli and Big Fat Burrito) were Toronto independents and not of the Pizza Pizza variety.
Drew even tossed in a tirade against the upcoming G20 summit that's invading Toronto, calling it "a giant circle jerk." He also chortled that he'd love to see a photo op of Obama at the Huntsville-bound Weber's burger joint.
It was good to see so many younger kids in attendance. Especially those wearing ear protection.
As we were only allowed to bring one sealed bottle of water with us onto the island for this event, many chose to forgo the $2.50-a-small bottle of water scam in favour of lining up to fill their own bottle at one of two drinking fountains on site. One of those two fountains was broken, creating a bit of a commotion at the side of the fountain.
As the sun hid its face behind the island's ring of trees, Pavement took to a Toronto stage for the first time in a decade.
The crowd was a little diminished at this point. Presumably, Toronto didn't want to miss out on the other aging rockers, Iggy and the Stooges, who were playing a free gig at Yonge-Dundas Square starting at 9 p.m.
But Pavement, equipped with a dedicated cult following, delivered to the fans. The fans including both Kevin Drew and Band of Horses' Ben Bridwell, who joined Pavement for Kennel District. Both were clearly ecstatic by the honour. The epitome of '90s indie rock, the California band blasted their feel-good lo-fi rock. It was all well-received nostalgia with hits like, Fight This Generation, Father to a Sister of Thought and Shady Lane. It was one of those down-memory-lane-we-go moments for sure.
With slowly darkening skies, we headed back to the ferry where we drifted back to the lights of the city and sounds of NXNE. And oh, one last time: Take that, weatherman!