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The local hip-hop culture festival presented art, comedy, a well-curated Discovery Series and a stellar free outdoor show headlined by Charlotte Day Wilson
MANIFESTO VOL. 12 at various venues. Thursday, August 9-Sunday, August 19. Rating: NNNN
With a plethora of Toronto festivals, it can sometimes feel like you’re on a treadmill of sameness housed under changing festival monikers. Manifesto is one of the few local festivals that seems to grasp what its audience wants and isn’t afraid to shift formats to deliver it.
This year, the multi-arts festival featured comedy, visual art, food, dance, speakers tapped into local community efforts, and a well-curated Discovery Series. It felt safe and accommodating, with a team that lives and breathes the community they’re creating for, and a mindset that embraces fresh ideas.
Here were some of the 10-day festivals brightest nights.
(Friday, August 10, Super Wonder Gallery)
Charismatic host Cheffy made it clear that Manifesto was ready to escort out anyone who did not respect its safe space, and stellar DJ Rosegold kept the small but eager audience perked up and ready for the all-women lineup of singers. It was awhile after doors opened before the music started, but it was a pretty full house by the time the sets started, and they deftly lit it up.
While the performers – Staasia Daniels, Charmie and Tamara Madison, to name a few – are all strong vocalists who illustrate what a vibrant R&B and soul scene we have in the GTA, it was the fiery-haired, up-and-coming Vanessa Lu who stole the show with her powerhouse voice and stage presence that seems ready for international success.
(Tuesday, August 14, the Soho House)
It was a case of rush, rush, wait for this show from Moonshine, a promising Montreal collective of musicians.
The Moonshine showcase required guests to text a number, then reply “moon” before receiving the venue address. The text back urged showgoers to arrive early to get into the 100-capacity space. But the show started late, which was a frustrating preamble to a night that turned out to be worth the wait.
Lights dimmed to candlelight level as Elle Ray of the duo The Boys took the stage without her harmony partner, who was unfortunately stranded in Montreal. Nonetheless, performing solo with just her guitar and some backing tracks, her completely hypnotic voice was enough to set the mood for the night. Some magic was lost during a cover medley that included Bob Marley and Rihanna songs, but the crowd sang along enthusiastically.
The sounds of drinks being loudly shaken (not stirred) by bartenders did nothing to ruin the dreamy synth-pop vibe of Mind Bath – a fitting name for music that seduces you in waves of aural Zen. He was admittedly nervous during the early portion of his set, but once his nerves were calmed he settled into a chill zone that mesmerized the room. Playing solo, his echoey backup tracks and his keyboard left room for quirky dance moves and R&B runs that were greeted with cheers and snaps. Not to mention a gorgeous Sade cover!
With luxurious vocals and a fantastic live band, Kallitechnis shifted between jazz, bossa nova-esque beats and hints of hip-hop and lounge. It felt like a mashup of Beady Belle, Nelly Furtado and Jamiroquai. Look out for her new project Chromatic, which is due to drop in late September.
Charlotte Day Wilson
(Friday, August 17, City Hall stage)
The influence of Sade popped up again, with Toronto’s Charlotte Day Wilson evoking the U.K. icon’s effortless, sultry cool, from her slicked-back hair and minimalist style to her sultry vocals and guitar.
Truth be told the rain-soaked crowd, which expanded as the night went on and the skies cleared, seemed most excited by Jamaican reggae star Chronixx, whose dynamo stage presence and majestic looks ended the festival on a high. But Wilson definitely won over some new fans, even after showing up later than her band and backup vocalist, who waited onstage for her.
Once on, the singer/songwriter wowed with a string of unapologetically slow songs that felt perfect under the overcast skies and red stage lights. The only challenge is that Wilson tends to mumble her words, making it difficult to track down those songs that you fell in love with after the show.
U.K. MC, poet and author Akala commanded the stage with fierce energy, criss-crossing back and forth and swinging his locks like a rock star, illuminating the audience with bar-for-bar truths on race, politics and personal integrity.
email@example.com | @chakavgrier