Field Trip at Fort York Garrison Common, June 7 & 8.
FIELD TRIP at Fort York Garrison Common, Saturday and Sunday, June 7-8. Rating: NNNN
Field Trip returned for a second year, bringing 25 acts to two stages at Fort York Garrison Common, plus food trucks galore, hula hoops, bouncy castles and a kids' stage. (They really upped the family-friendly factor this year.) The Arts & Crafts-founded fest branched out beyond the label - adding artists like Shad and Interpol - but remained firmly grounded in its own brand. Broken Social Scene alumni Kevin Drew and Feist were everywhere, and the original BSS supergroup closed down the party on Sunday.
Day two had a distinctly different feel than the blazing-hot, flower-child vibe of day one: it rained, for one thing, but the lineup was more exciting, especially in terms of local talent. Hydra - Feist's collab with AroarA's Ariel Engle and Snowblink's Daniela Gesundheit - provided beautiful three-part harmonies; singer Lauren Mayberry's voice rang clear over rain and wind for Scottish band Chvrches' electro-pop set; and Fucked Up actually brought the sunshine as well as a rabid mosh pit.
But the Constantines reunion caused the most excitement. The Guelph indie rockers' huge sound proved worthy of the gigantic stage (other bands seemed puny up there), and old faves like Shine A Light and Young Offenders got the crowd freaking out.
FEAST IN THE EAST 38 at the Jam Factory, Thursday, June 5. Rating: NNNN
The 38th edition of Feast In The East had a strong bill complemented by delicious raw vegan tacos, the Jam Factory's industrial beauty and a video installation that counted how many vehicles passed by on the southbound DVP over a stretch of four hours.
In guitar wiz Thom Gill's newest project, Love Thy Will Be Done, his predilection for R&B has morphed into an improvised form of gospel. Guelphites Michael Mucci & Ben Grossman's set saw Mucci playing arpeggiated 12-string guitar while Grossman coaxed deep, droney sounds out of his hurdy-gurdy and hardware. Toronto's two-drummer calypso jazz jammers Eucalyptus brought some buoyancy to the evening with songs like 54321 Calypso - which should have seen the mellow crowd up and dancing.
But the audience was more inclined to lie back on the floor and chill out, like they did for Jennifer Castle's songs, as if they were on the grass under stars instead of a stone's throw from a major highway.
THE ROOTS as part of Luminato at David Pecaut Square, Saturday, June 7. Rating: NNNN
At David Pecaut Square, the original live hip-hop band, the Roots, mixed old favourites like In The Music, The Seed (2.0) and You Got Me with cover songs in a steady two hours of music, stopping only for a handful of choreographed pauses.
Woven throughout were Motown-evoking coordinated dance moves, a drum-off between Questlove and percussionist Frank Knuckles, epic guitar solos by "Captain" Kirk Douglas (the intro riff to Sweet Child O' Mine got big claps) and emcee Black Thought doing a helluva James Brown. Then there was Damon "Tuba Gooding Jr." Bryson on sousaphone. Solos aside, the sheer physicality of dancing with that thing - at one point he ran laps around the stage - was impressive.
Once in a while the band inched toward party trick territory. But that's okay for a festival like Luminato, which draws an audience with diverse tastes as well as diehard Roots fans.
One annoying problem: superstar drummer Questlove was set up with two mics. The one to his left started working about halfway through, but the one on his right was silent the entire time, a huge technical flub that was especially frustrating when he was bantering with Black Thought.
THOMAS GOLUBIC as part of Luminato at David Pecaut Square, Sunday, June 8. Rating: NN
Some Luminato projects are a lot more interesting on paper. When it was first announced, Synchronize was supposed to be a live soundtrack to Jim Jarmusch's Down By Law created by musicians including saxophonist Colin Stetson and Los Angeles music supervisor and DJ Thomas Golubic. But by the time the fest actually rolled around, it had turned into an audio/visual DJ performance by Golubic alone, which still seemed intriguing, especially considering the work he's done selecting music for TV shows like Breaking Bad and Six Feet Under.
The technologies behind live video manipulations and digital DJing have come a long way in recent years. Unfortunately, Synchronize didn't take advantage of them. The video was a homemade compilation of clips from seemingly random films and television shows, which were paired with equally amateurish DJing that lurched between indie rock, classic rock and retro hip-hop without making much of an attempt at mixing or beatmatching. Golubic selected some decent tunes, but audiences expect more from tech-driven performances in 2014.