(By: Angela McLean and Josie Mills, with photos by Angela McLean)
A great variety of music, plenty of Instagram-worthy food options, a family atmosphere filled with good vibes and not a drop of rain – Bestival Toronto truly had the best of it all!
Returning for its second year, the North American take on the UK-based festival drew over 10,000 music aficionados to Woodbine Park in the city’s east end on June 11 and 12. It was a weekend filled with local and international talent, including main stage headliners Tame Impala and The Cure, and a variety of unique and exciting attractions.
This year’s edition, entitled “Summer of Love,” tried to capture the “peace and love” movement from the ‘60s but there was a heavy focus on EDM music, especially in The Big Top tent, with artists like Madeon and Porter Robinson drawing major buzz. However, the music definitely wasn’t the weekend’s only attraction and this elevated the experience; some of the fun highlights on the grounds included an inflatable church that festival-goers could get “married” in and daily flash mob conga lines that drew crazy characters like the incredibly shiny Silver Elvis.
But, of course, there is no denying that the festival’s selling feature was its incredible artist lineup. Spread across four stages and two days, there was no shortage of performances to catch and something for everyone to groove to. Whether you were there, or are currently riding the regret train, RUtv News has you covered with the weekend’s highlights.
Day one: Dreamy singers and high-energy producers bring the peace, with some hiccups
Elliott Vincent Jones
Toronto’s very own synth-pop artist Elliott Vincent Jones played the weekend’s opening set on the main stage. Although there was low attendance, it wasn’t because of a lack of talent. Those who chose not to come out earlier in the day missed this jem of a performance, highlighting Jones’ new wave vocals and dreamy pop sounds. He stuck to playing tracks from his new EP ‘Arto Arto,’ including “Acapulco” and “Dawawine.” – JM
Shaun Frank, a producer/singer/DJ extraordinaire from Toronto, rocked The Big Top tent Saturday afternoon with fan favourites and new material including the world premiere of his new song “Away with Murder.” To top it off, he brought out his protégé Delaney Jane for performances of their songs “Shades of Grey,” “Heaven” and a mashup cover of Drake’s “Hotline Bling” and Justin Bieber’s “What Do You Mean?” He embodied the peace and love vibes of Bestival by asking his fans to hold up peace signs instead of middle fingers to “keep the love alive.” Given the tragic events that had unfolded in Orlando the same day, the gesture was extremely meaningful and appreciated. – AM
European house producer Jamie xx had one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend, but as it turned out, it wasn’t a show-stopper. The performance was lacking and the crowd reaction wasn’t what would be expected during a big producer’s set. This could be because the songs he chose to mix for the first half of his set were not as high energy as they could have been. He brought the energy later on in the set, but during “Gosh” the song was cut short by a technical problem and brought the show to a complete halt. Jamie threw up his hands in defeat and walked off the stage and, although they were able to fix the problem, it was a significant bump in the vibe. The peak of his performance seemed to be his mix of Drake’s “One Dance,” but then again, almost every DJ spun a song from the 6 God attempting to get Toronto’s attention. In the end, fans seemed to have enjoyed themselves, but it’s hard not to expect more from the producer that rocked the smaller Bollywood stage last year and was upgraded to the main stage this year. – JM
— RUtv News (@RUtvNews) June 12, 2016
American electronic music duo ODESZA, comprised of friends Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight, brought a VELD-like feel to Bestival with the high tempo missed during Jamie xx. This is no surprise, though, since they have built a reputation of being one of the best electronic entertainers around even though they have only been together since 2012. They began with their songs “Above the Middle” and “How Did I Get Here” but didn’t stick to their own material and remixed hits like Sia’s “Big Girls Cry” and Zhu’s club hit “Faded.” They made sure to get the crowd pumped up and even encouraged women to jump up on men’s shoulders. – JM
Electro house producer and DJ Porter Robinson took his Bestival crowd to another world with his hour-long set that did not falter for a second. He kicked things off with his biggest hit “Sad Machine” and took fans through his debut album ‘Worlds’ and EP ‘Spitfire’ before treating them to some unreleased beats. While he played, MMORPG-style video game visuals and anime art flashed on the screen behind him, creating another worthwhile show in itself. – AM
— RUtv News (@RUtvNews) June 12, 2016
Australia’s Tame Impala proved that they deserved the headlining spot during their performance on the main stage as their psychedelic rock sounds drew the best turnout of the weekend. Beginning with “Let it Happen” from their 2015 album ‘Currents,’ they shined both instrumentally and with vocals courtesy of lead singer Kevin Parker. They went back and forth between old and new songs and ended the first night of the festival on a high note. – JM
Day two: EDM and girl power prove to be the cure
The Twilight Sad
Their booking may or may not be a coincidence seeing as they are currently on tour with day two headliners The Cure, but Scottish indie rock band The Twilight Sad is worth a headlining set of their own. The passion and energy frontman James Graham emits in his performances is reminiscent of Lorde – arm flailing and all – and Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons. Graham brings the music to life in a way very few performers can without going over the top, making you believe and connect with every word and emotion expressed. Bringing a hint of humour to a rather “mopey” set, the band showed they know how to make fun of themselves: as a few clouds surrounded the stage and the wind picked up, Graham laughed, “Scottish music does that to everyone.” – AM
His stage name may be Pusher, but Canadian electronic producer Marty Bernie pulled everyone into his set. The crowd inside The Big Top grew exponentially as he dropped Drake and Popcaan’s “Controlla,” blink-182’s “The Rock Show” and his single “Clear” featuring singer Mothica. Pusher’s ability to effortlessly mix recognizable hits and his own music had the crowd forgetting that they had never heard some of his unreleased tracks before; it was just that easy to let loose, have fun and dance and sing along. – AM
Indie folk group Daughter shined on the main stage, offering the crowd a laidback set compared to some of the afternoon’s more upbeat dance and rock artists. They treated fans to a mix of songs off their newly released album, ‘Not to Disappear,’ which they are currently touring in support of, as well as some picks off 2013’s ‘If You Leave.’ The crowd, especially the ladies, seemed to be very unanimous on one thing – as heard multiple times in between songs, “I wish a guy would look at me the same way Igor (guitarist) looks at Elena (lead singer)…that’s goals.” – AM
There is probably no easier way to sum up Grimes than beautifully eccentric. Her performance was filled with “Grrrrrrr”owling, screaming and apologizing – the singer said she had come down with a cold just before her set – but it all came together and made for a high-energy and dominant performance that the crowd loved. She showed love in return by saying that Toronto is one of her favourite cities to play and had her dancers give some lucky fans roses. – AM
The second main stage headliner of the weekend was English rock band The Cure, but you may not have guessed that from the size of the crowd. The field was only about half full, likely given the fact that it was a late Sunday night set, but the fans that stuck around enjoyed an assortment of classics. The Cure played songs like “Kyoto Song,” “A Night Like This” and “Push” from their 1985 album ‘The Head on the Door’ and even their 1983 single “The Walk.” It was a long set, clocking in at just under two hours, but since the band has been together for around 40 years, it isn’t surprising that they were easily able to play around 30 songs. Although there were some big technical problems during the set which included the sound going off three times – consequently ringing reminders of Jamie xx’s performance the day before – the glitches didn’t get the band down and they kept rocking on. In fact, they assured the crowd that on their next North American tour, Toronto would be their first stop. – JM
Who were your favourite acts at Bestival Toronto this year? Who do you hope to see next year? Tweet us @RUtvNews and stay tuned for our extended interviews with some of the amazing artists, including Shaun Frank and Pusher!