Ryerson’s 6 Fest sets the stage for more

(By: Angela McLean)

On an open lot in downtown Toronto, a slew of hip-hop, R&B and rap artists and DJs devoted their Canadian Thanksgiving weekend to putting on a show for several thousand students as part of the Ryerson Students’ Union’s 6 Fest.

Undoubtedly the RSU’s biggest event to date, it was unfortunately riddled with, and at times overshadowed by, controversy over a lack of publicly-available information and a constantly changing artist lineup, among other things that gave the fest its “6 Mess” nickname. At the end of it all, though, 6 Fest came out strong and, despite a Drake-no-show and some hiccups, easily became the new Toronto festival to beat.

Day one

The festival kicked off on Oct. 9 with local DJs including DJ Mix n Match and the weekend’s unofficial host DJ DattaBass who got the groove going.

 

The first official act, Toronto DJ duo Thugli, set the bar high with a 60-minute set featuring several original tracks and remixes, like single “Sic ‘Em” and a Diplo and GTA remix as homage to the night’s headliner. Drake tracks like the Rihanna collab “Work” and “Child’s Play” were thrown in for good measure and got the crowd hyped.

Grandtheft, who rolled up to the event straight from a flight back from Germany, knew what the people wanted and gave it to them. Instantly recognizable hits from the likes of Drake, The Weeknd, Calvin Harris and Tyga were a hit with the crowd. One funny moment ensued when backstage crew brought out free McDonald’s to the front row and media pit, amping everyone’s excitement as Grandtheft played French Montana’s feature hit “All The Way Up”.

 

Rapper Pusha T, one of the most buzzed-about artists of the two-day festival, came on stage and introduced himself as the president of good music. Really, he was referring to his GOOD Music record label, but his performance was worthy of the title, despite being the shortest of the night at around 30 minutes. Pusha T surprised fans with a preview of music off his upcoming album, including its lead single, and it was immediately well-received.

To close off the day, international DJ, Diplo, put on a packed 90-minute set and didn’t skip a beat. “I know it’s cold out there but we’re trying to have a dance party tonight,” Diplo said early on in the set. The crowd delivered, and Diplo noticed and recognized their enthusiasm multiple times. Missing from Diplo’s set was “Cold Water,” his latest hit collaboration with Justin Bieber and , but a spin of “Where Are Ü Now” filled the Biebs void.

 

When an artist says they have “one more song,” they usually have a lot more than one lined up, and Diplo was no exception. Interacting with the crowd during his encore, Diplo showed his appreciation for “shows like this where everyone comes together even though it’s cold outside” and wished all of the Ryerson students a great school year. Thanks, Diplo!

Day two

Day two started the same way day one did with its local focus, but with a much bigger crowd building early on. It was obvious that people were expecting a big guest, namely Drake, especially as a significant amount of his friends and crew were around the stage. As well, three of the night’s acts – Baka, Roy Woods and dvsn – were Drake’s Summer Sixteen tour openers.

Baka, Drake’s friend and OVO Crew entourage member, warmed up the stage and captivated everyone’s attention. Brampton-born rapper Roy Woods also had the crowd going hard with his recent OVO Sound single “Gwan Big Up Urself.” Slowing things down a notch, but definitely not losing any momentum, dvsn won the crowd’s heart with soul-infused R&B music off his debut album “Sept. 5th.” He even did his tour cover of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” showing off his vocal abilities and some slick choreography.

 

French Montana, filling Big Sean’s headlining spot after he pulled out a few days prior, put on a show that was worthy of the hype. He’s a familiar face to Ryerson, as he performed at a free pop-up show on Gould Street a few weeks ago. This time around, there was no shortage of light shows, intense smoke machine use and “Haaaan!”s. Plus, there was a guest appearance by Toronto Halal Gang rapper Smoke Dawg for “Trap House.” It was also great to finally hear “All The Way Up” performed by the actual voice behind the song.

 

The crowd had been standing on the edge of their toes for the majority of the night hoping for a subtly-promised Drake appearance – who could blame them, after a “coincidental” date change to coincide with Drake’s Toronto tour stops, two previous Ryerson appearances and multiple announcements of a big special guest to come. But all hope was gone once the clock struck 11 p.m., the smoke cleared and the stage began to be torn down.

Whether it was connected or not, news broke online during French Montana’s set that Drake was cancelling the remaining U.S. dates of his tour due to the ankle injury which had also forced the postponement of one of Drake’s two ACC shows.

Fortunately, despite Ryerson’s strong connection to and love for the 6 God himself, 6 Fest did not suffer as a result. Torontonians would be hard pressed to find another festival offering such names on a ticket under $150. Perhaps, just maybe, Drake wanted to be the good guy and give his friends the chance to shine in the spotlight this time. They surely did.

Scroll through our photos from the fest below, and stay tuned for additional 6 Fest coverage, including an exclusive interview with Thugli.

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