@ Woodbine Park, Toronto
June 11-12, 2016
Elliott Vincent Jones: Newcomer Elliott Vincent Jones got things started Saturday afternoon with his quirky brand of Synth Pop. His combination of awkward dancing and a Jim Morrison-like singing stance made him one of the most interesting acts of the festival. However, despite the energy Jones and his band put into the music, the small crowd was unfortunately unresponsive.
Rationale: The distinctive blend of Jackie Wilson Soul and New Order-style Synth Pop came together during the truly buoyant set of British artist Rationale, who killed everybody dead with his incredibly powerful voice. His vigorous performance was one to remember. Despite being a relatively new artist, Rationale found himself overloaded with hardcore fans who sang along word for word to a good chunk of his songs, which seemed to humble the singer.
Tame Impala: Closing the show at the main stage were the Aussie Psych-Rockers Tame Impala who, without a doubt, brought in the biggest and most passionate crowd of the weekend. After a two-minute instrumental ditty to get things started, the headliners went straight into an epic version of “Let It Happen.” During their hour-and-a-half set, frontman Kevin Parker encouraged the crowd to throw the giant beach ball that was being bounced around, on to the stage. The ball found its way on stage several times; each time Parker smiled as he kicked it back into the audience. Halfway through the set, Parker dazzled the crowd with a hypnotic wall of modulated feedback that seemed to manipulate the lights on the screen behind him, bringing an almost Hendrix-like feel to the set.
In recent live shows, Tame Impala has mainly stuck to songs from their latest LP Currents, but here they played an equal amount of material from all three of their studio albums, including songs such as “Elephant,” “Alter Ego,” and fan favourite “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards.” Longtime fans definitely got their money’s worth with this epic performance.
The Twilight Sad: This Scottish trio flew through their 50-minute set with their spellbinding Post-Punk sound. Singer James Alexander Graham’s energetic performance channeled Joy Division’s Ian Curtis’ signature “epilepsy dance” while guitarist Andy MacFarlane’s Shoegaze approach to the guitar combined with Mark Devine’s intense Joy Division-like drumming made for one hell of a show. It’s fair to say that The Twilight Sad brought some incredibly lush soundscapes to Bestival. Something else the band brought with them from Scotland, Graham joked, were the clouds, which began to roll in about halfway through the band’s dynamic set.
The Cure: The last act on the main stage was none other than the legendary Goth-Rockers, The Cure. Throughout their two-hour set they played a variety of material dating back to the late ‘70s, sung by frontman, Robert Smith whose voice still sounds incredibly hypnotic after all these years. The band was in full form, especially bassist Simon Gallup, who was the most energetic of the group. As expected, The Cure drew a much older crowd than most of the other acts, but there was still a considerable amount of 20-somethings gazing in awe at these icons of rock. After three encores, which included classic New Wave hits “Close to Me” and “Boys Don’t Cry”, Smith waved and said goodnight and mentioned that for the bands next tour, their first stop would be Toronto.
– Ryan Sagadore
The Bestival weekend kicked off perfectly on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Woodbine Park. This was Bestival’s second instalment of their Toronto edition. The location switch was a good call, due to the smooth accessibility and ease of transportation (compared to the 2015 island transportation fiasco). The new site for 2016 offered several hidden gems around Woodbine Park, allowing for endless exploration around the festival grounds. From The Big Top, Main Stage, Bollywood, Cosmic Commune, and Sunday Best Balearic Bar, festival goers had plenty of options for music, food, art, workshops, festival swag, games, and more (yes, unicorn balloons and onesies). The vendor setup provided festival goers with various food options – whether meat-heavy or more on the vegetarian friendly side of things, there was something for everyone.
The unconventional and non-corporate feel of Bestival lends to innovation and creativity that is welcoming for all audience types. As eloquently stated by Bestival vendor, Adam K. at the Express booth, “The festival really tapped in on its target market, which is the mature EDM fan or “rave go-er,” if you will. As festivals like Veld and Digital Dreams hold the stigma of the younger and less experienced rave-goer, with the standardized DJ’s, Bestival represented the evolving and ephemeral Toronto electronic music scene and community. Something which our city should be proud of. The production and design was a feast to the senses, using all the nooks and crannies of the small festival grounds to its fulle st potential. Bestival created a vibe and an atmosphere similar to mega camping festivals such as Bonnaroo and Wayhome, which made it a success.”
Festival highlights: Tame Impala, Bollywood Stage (best electronic music), Jamie xx, Tchami, Odesza, The Cure, The Parades, Menu’s Food Truck, and Cosmic Café.
Rob da Bank played at the Bollywood stage at 3:15pm. He is a DJ and record producer, oh and the organizer of Bestival – which started on the Isle of White England. Robert John Gorham, aka Rob da Bank hosted a Friday night/Saturday morning BBC Radio 1 show. He played some old school grooves getting the crowds swaying and grooving to the beat. The highlight of his set: Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side remix, while fire was shooting out behind the pink elephants.
DJ 4B was at The Big Top around 4pm. He signed his first original track Hold UP to LAD Records in 2013. Then in 2014, he signed Bombaclat to Main Course Records. The crowds were spilling out of the tent while he played some remixed Drake-like tunes.
Joris Voorn played at the Bollywood stage at 6pm. He is a Dutch DJ residing in Amsterdam, and the co-owner of two record labels. His overall style is house, and could also be described as Detroit techno. The audience had their hands clapping while beat dropped left right and center with some added funk on the side.
Jamie XX performed on the Main Stage from 6:00pm – 7:15pm. Jamie Smith, 27, is known as a solo act, as well as a member of London-based band The xx. This year, he received a Grammy Award nomination in the Best Dance/Electronic Album category for his latest album In Colour. The sparse crowd from the last act was swarmed by a sea of fans eager to catch his stellar performance. He played a solid 1 hour of tunes from both his albums We’re New Here – such as the classic, Loud Places; as well as various tunes from In Colour.
Odesza was up next on the Main Stage from 7:45pm – 9pm. The American electronic music duo hail from Seattle. Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight have been at it since 2012. Their latest album is In Return from 2014. They played some classics, such as Say My Name – which got the audience revved up. The live trumpet and trombone harmonization over Odesza’s tight beats were a beautifully added touch. Fans were dancing and swooning to the grooves and loving every bit of the performance.
Chana S. provided some insight on Maya Jane Coles, who played at the Bollywood Stage at 9pm. Coles is a music producer, DJ, and audio engineer, born in London. She composes and plays house music, and under her alias Nocturnal Sunshine, she is dedicated to dubstep. On top of that, she is part of the electronic dub duo She is Danger. As Chana stated, “Maya Jane Coles was under appreciated. It was packed, but under-reported without much social media coverage. She stole the show with her young DJ vibes. As one of the only female DJs at Bestival, she raised the energy to whole other level – she is very talented. Too bad it was at the exact same time as Tame Impala, and at the other side of the festival grounds.”
The Wombats played Main Stage at around 3pm. The British rock band, signed to 14th Floor Records in the UK and Bright Antenna in the US, rocked out to a decently sized crowd of fans. They played a variety of tunes from Glitterbug, their latest album, which was released in 2015.
Unlike Pluto was on at The Big Top at 3:40pm. He played well known track remixes of songs like ILoveMakonnen’s Tuesday (ft. Drake), and Beyoncé’s 7/11. Visually, this performance was magical – the two acrobatic gymnasts on stage blew everyone’s minds with their contortionist glittering bodies.
Grimes, aka Claire Boucher performed at the Main Stage at 5:50pm. With her self-admitted sniffly nose, she told the audience she was getting over a cold and apologized for her vocal flaws. This seemed pretty unnecessary, as she proved her manic self on stage – no one could tell she was an ounce of sick. She played with her vocal effects and synths, while dancing with her energetic group of two intricate dancers and backup vocalist. She played Flesh Without Blood from her album Art Angels, which was released in 2015. Scream – a pretty aggressive (as per the title) track made originally with Taiwanese rapper Aristophanes was showcased to the crowd. Everyone went wild when she played her classic – Oblivion. There was lots of interaction with the audience between songs, explaining parts of the songs and their significance.
Lee Foss performed at the Bollywood Stage at 5:50pm, rocking some serious beats. American-born from Chicago Illinois, he is a DJ and producer. Foss is inspired by R&B, classic house, and Detroit techno and has been released on labels like Culprit and Wolf + Lamb.
Daughter played at the Main Stage at 4:20pm. The indie folk band from England, started in 2010 has already released 4 EPs, 3 singles, and 2 albums. They are signed to Glassnote in North America and 4AD in Europe. January 2016 was their latest album release – Not to Disappear. Their show had some pretty dark and suave tones. And of course, the crowd all smiled at once as they played their classic, Youth.
Bad Willow’s Mike Kirsh stated, “I thought Bestival was great! Highlights for me were Jamie xx, Odezsa, and Tame Impala. It all sounded incredible. I don’t know who their sound guy was but I’ve never heard a band mixed so clearly. It was like the record, but on steroids. Creamy tones, perfect weather, tasty food, beautiful people.”
– Giselle Hausman
(Photography: Justin Binder)
Rationale: English alt rocker Rationale was able to bring his signature sound to an early, but enthusiastic crowd during the first day of Bestival. Rationale’s big open Pop sound was the perfect match for the festival’s massive stage. The crowd may have been small but they loved every minute of the performance. It didn’t take long for first-time listeners to pick up the choruses and sing along. As Rationale bounced around the stage it became clear he’s no stranger to this sort of festival. His easy confidence on stage and fun songs made for a surprising treat for early Bestival goers.
Swim Deep: Hampered by a poor audio mix for the first half of their set, Bestival U.K. veterans Swim Deep managed to play through and deliver a fun and engaging late afternoon set on Bestival’s first day. Trippy music and space-age visuals played well with a crowd dressed to make David Bowie proud. Unfortunately the vocals were hard to hear resulting from poor audio mixing. The band soldiered on as the mix gradually became more balanced the crowd slowly began to embrace the group. By the time the set was over it was hard to spot anyone in the crowd not dancing.
Daughter: Not every band is going to be able to run across the stage with boundless energy, getting the crowd to jump and dance along. This of course is not a particularly bad thing. Sometimes a band knows when to take a step back and let their music do the talking. Daughter is exactly this kind of performer. Cerebral, chilling and haunting, their music often won’t get people on the dance floor, but it’s music with real substance. The crowd may not have been jumping and dancing as hard as they were to other artists, but they paid more attention to Daughter than anyone else over the weekend.
Grimes: Who needs a guitar player? Or a drummer? Or a DJ? Grimes can do all of that and more. Even with a duo of dancers it’s hard for one to take their eyes off of Grimes. Even with a sore throat and battling the flu, she was still without a doubt one of the highlights of the entire festival. The crowd ate up every word, every bounce; anything elicited a roar of approval from the crowd. Effortlessly switching between instruments, Grimes is clearly a performer who knows when to take a step back and just let her music do the talking. But just as fast she’ll be back at the front of the stage, urging the crowd to jump higher, to scream louder. And every time she asked, the crowd couldn’t help but oblige.
– Morgan Harris