Riot Fest, September 6th & 7th @ Downsview Park, Toronto, Ontario
on September 12, 2014 9:55 AM in
Right away I was curious as to the reasoning behind the setup for the entrance into Riot Fest. We were first directed to a lineup to receive wristbands for alcohol before being allowed to get in line to actually enter the festival. As it turns out these same wristbands were being distributed inside as well anyway. This delay actually caused us to miss the 1st band we had wanted to see that day.
After dealing with that initial line we progressed to the entrance line, or should I say LINES. Separate entrances were set up to get into the park depending on if you purchased your tickets through Ticketmaster or Ticketfly. It was immediately clear that most of the patrons had utilized Ticketfly for their orders as the lines stretched back almost to the road whereas the Ticketmaster and VIP lines were nearly nonexistent. What further peaked my curiosity was that, at times, they seemed to let a small influx from the nearest Ticketfly line in through the Ticketmaster line with no change of scanners to be seen.
After finally completing what seemed like an entirely redundant labyrinth in which to enter Downsview Park, it was long past time for refreshments as the sun was making its force felt with a vengeance. Despite this fact, and probably due to the fairly massive thunderstorm the previous night, finding a solid footing inside the park proved to be a challenge as it turned out to be a giant mud pit almost throughout, sometimes inches deep. There were places where plywood had been laid down to cross over really bad spots. There were places where some took it upon themselves to take sections of steel handrail and lay them down over deep areas and traverse across the mud pit on the makeshift steel bridges.
Any port in a storm right?
Now, for the beer situation. Still trying to figure out the logic behind this one. Wherever beer was being dispensed there were 2 separate lines. One for beer tickets, one for beer service. It didn’t seem to matter where in the park you went, the ticket line was always excessively long while the service lines were very seldom longer than a couple minutes to wait in. Whatever reasoning that was initially intended behind this scheme was completely voided by the fact that some of the beer service lines would also sell you tickets as well as beer, negating the monstrosity of the line right beside it.
Bring Me The Horizon was the 1st act we were finally able to catch and I’m quite happy we did. Although I wasn’t entirely familiar with them previously I did recognize a few tracks and they played with an intensity you never tire of seeing at a rock show. Definitely an act I would go see again. At one point frontman Oliver Sykes did his best Corey Taylor impression when he coaxed those in the crowd to get down on the ground during a lull in the song before having them jump up on his command when the music kicked back into high gear. Sure it’s been done, if you’re familiar with Slipknot you have seen this multiple times over the years, but it’s still a cool effect to watch the masses jump up in unison. One thing that happened during their set that I haven’t seen in a very long time were the random rolls of toilet paper that would stream large arcs over the crowd as they were tossed from person to person.
The band Brand New played next over on the Roots stage. I was only able to take in a few songs of their set but they were good rocking songs. Had Rise Against not conflicted with their schedule I would have definitely stayed for more of it. Sadly that was not the case so back to the Rock stage I went.
Playing in front of what looked to be 8 or 9 foot black letters that spelled RISE, Rise Against opened with Ready To Fall from their 2006 effort The Sufferer And The Witness and did so in full force. There was no letup as they powered through a set of what could only be described as one of greatest hits as many of the faithful in attendance happily sang along with every word out of Tim McIlrath’s mouth. This was only my 2nd or 3rd Rise Against show but, barring any unforeseen circumstances, it will certainly not be my last. Always a quality outing from the Chicago foursome.
I was able to catch the last bit of Death From Above 1979’s set after Rise Against. This was another act I was unfamiliar with. As it turns out this Canadian duo was playing right in their own backyard as they call Toronto home. With Jesse Keeler on bass, synth, and backing vocals, along with Sebastien Grainger looking after lead vocals while also holding down the rhythm section on the drums, these two held it together as well as any 3 or 4 piece. I’m looking forward to checking out their newly released album The Physical World.
Next up were psychedelic rock vets The Flaming Lips. If you have never had the chance to witness this act’s live performance it is truly something to behold. With countless strings of LED lights hanging from the rafters, the boys took the stage along with a dancing rainbow and a couple big dancing mushrooms. It wasn’t long into the set that some massive confetti canons shot their substantial payloads into the crowd. Shortly thereafter singer Wayne Coyne approached the front of the stage with a balloon of interconnected letters that must have measured close to 10 feet in height lifted high above his head. It looked something like this:
Of course that elicited a mighty roar. At that it was tossed into the crowd to be torn apart while they continued their barrage on our senses. Over time they would also be joined by big dancing moth-like creatures, aliens, and some sort of star-headed character. Combine all of that with incredible light show both on the screens as well as the strings hanging from the top that alternated between ascending and later raining lights and you could bet there were at least a few in attendance that beyond awestruck at what they were witnessing. Of course no Flaming Lips performance would be complete without Wayne rolling out across the top of the crowd inside a giant transparent inflatable ball. Bangin’ show. See them if you have the chance.
The Cure closed Saturday night. They were clearly not short of dry ice as they played most of their set immersed in the fog pouring in from the sides of the stage. I wish I could write a better synopsis of The Cure’s performance but due to a rather unfortunate incident I was not able to fully take it in.
I will get to that at the end of the post.
As I’m sure a few of you have probably guessed by the way this post was started, a 3rd strike was imminent.
We arrived on Sunday just in time to catch the tail end of The New Pornographers set. Not an act that currently resides on my ipod but given the small portion of their set I was able to catch I will definitely be checking them out further.
Next, The Head And The Heart took to the Riot stage immediately adjacent to the Roots stage the Pornographers had just vacated. Though a little more on the pop end of the spectrum than my taste usually accounts for, they did play a very good and enjoyable set. It must be said too that they may indeed posses the happiest drummer on the planet.
The next act we caught was the whole reason my one friend made her way out to the festival for. It was an act I was entirely unfamiliar with.
Not sure I could have properly prepared myself for this act. If I could have it probably would have taken a substantial more amount of time than I had at my disposal.
Their touring DJ, Vuilgeboost, took the stage first clad in a thick orange hoodie and took up residence behind is turntables. Given the heat that day I was not at all envious of his attire whatsoever. No time was wasted as he started dropping some fat beats behind a repeating chorus of “DJ Hard Dick gonna fuck you in the ass” followed by another of “Fuck you til you love me faggot.”
……so what you’re saying is this isn’t going to be your run-of-the-mill rock show then?
The pair that front this outfit, Ninja and Yo-Landi, weren’t far behind once the beats started. Sporting the same bright orange hoodies as their DJ, these 2 ran out onto stage and began with their verbal onslaught over top of the raucous roar of approval from the waiting audience. It wasn’t long before every hoodie was shed and the sweat started pouring as these people seemed on a mission to spend every ounce of energy available in their bodies before set’s end. They were also joined on stage by a couple equally energetic dancers that would frequently change costumes between songs.
Alright maybe not quite as energetic as Ninja who, when not running, jumping, and sweating all over the stage, frequently jumped back first onto the waiting hands of the first few rows to enjoy some crowd surfing while simultaneously firing off verse after verse, seemingly unfazed.
I won’t lie to you, he could have been fazed as shit, I understood very little of what was being said/sung/rapped whether on stage or on the crowd.
What I did understand is that these guys are no joke, made even more clear by the faithful losing their minds at the performance. Combine their (what seemed like) flawless delivery on the mics with an incredibly high level of energy that didn’t seem to dissipate by even 1 iota all set, and you’ve got a seriously high octane show on your hands.
Oh yeah and then there was the inflatable ghost creature bearing a strong resemblance to Casper The Friendly Ghost that grew to life at the back beside the DJ. Much like Casper aside from the giant white ghost dick he held in his hands of course.
Right. Well then….
I’m sure I couldn’t have been the only one walking away from that performance at a total loss for words. Not in a bad way mind you, but a little stunned nonetheless.
Having been so mesmerized by what I just saw on the Rock stage with Die Antwoord I missed the 1st 20 minutes or so of the Dropkick Murphys set but they clearly weren’t a tired group either. They blazed through a wide variety of their originals as well as a couple classic covers near the end; BTO’s Takin’ Care Of Business, Grand Funk Railroad’s We’re An American Band, & the Ramones’ Blitzkrieg Bop . A great set from what I caught.
Social Distortion was up next. Now I have no previous Social D experience to base this on but it seemed lacking in energy & intensity. This was possibly a side effect of following the DA and DM sets I had just watched, but still I expected more. Between songs at one point frontman Mike Ness joked with the crowd about Toronto mayor Rob Ford being sketchy. While kind of humorous I don’t think it received the response he was hoping for. Decent set still, just a little tame.
It was now time for the mighty Clutch back on the Rock stage. I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t thrilled by the fact that earlier that day they got bumped up to a better slot allowing them an extra 5 minutes of stage time. Any extra time at all with this quartet is to be cherished. This incredibly talented foursome from Maryland has been pumping out top quality material since the early 90s and at the same time managed to stay away from the mainstream masses.
That’s the masses’ loss.
Opening with The Mob Goes Wild from their 2004 effort Blast Tyrant, it took no time to work the crowd into a frenzy. From there they launched into a set laced heavily with tracks from their latest album Earth Rocker, arguably one of the best they have done to date.
High praise considering it was their 10th studio album.
The typically stoic Tim Sult and Dan Maines were in picture perfect form churning out riff after riff on either side of drummer Jean-Paul Gaster while the bombastic frontman bounced around the stage as if on rubber feet.
After finishing Gravel Road, the bearded man in question, Neil Fallon, briefly stopped to talk with each member of the band before commencing with the next song. “We were just telling each other how awesome we are” Fallon explained to the crowd before jumping into Cypress Grove.
Understatement of grandiose proportions Neil.
After finishing off with Electric Worry and One Eye Dollar the boys said their thank yous and gave their waves of appreciation to the crowd and exited stage right as everyone in attendance chanted CLUTCH! over and over again begging for more.
Of course, as truly unfortunate as it is, encores at festivals are rarely to be had.
Metric closed the Roots stage followed by City And Colour closing the Riot stage. While I am not a die-hard fan of either, and being as impartial as is possible, I am going to have to disagree with the time slots awarded here. Nothing against City And Colour, they do have some pretty good tunes. Now when I say “they” it is by all intents and purposes Dallas Green. City And Colour is solely his creative outlet (get it? City/Colour:Dallas/Green) and he takes care of everything in the studio while bringing touring musicians with him on the road. You name it he does it; a wide assortment of guitars,banjo, harmonica, piano. drums & percussion. That is an incredible amount of talent and should not be sold short by any means.
Metric’s general repertoire is a lot more rocking and upbeat which will generally sit into the closing slot better than C&C’s laid-back folk rock approach. This fact was made more evident by the steady stream of people heading towards the gates during the final act.
Again not trying to bash any of the acts at all. As far as the music goes it was great weekend!
Unfortunately there’s more to the story.
Onto strike 3.
The Flaming Lips were drawing near the end of their set on Saturday night. Some friends and I were watching intently from the crowd when all of a sudden one of my friends grabs my arm, says “I don’t feel so good”, and abruptly falls to the ground. Not able to speak or even open their eyes, I established through head shaking & nodding that they were not in fact alright and help was most definitely needed. I leave my friend in the care of another and take off for help. Upon reaching the First Aid tent I explain to the first responders there my friend has just collapsed in the middle of the crowd & I need help like, now!
The response I get?
“Oh yeah, well, we can’t leave the tent. You’ll have to go see security.”
[Insert stunned look of disbelief here]
Are you…..are you serious right now?
After a futile conversation with these people whom I was under the impression were left to look out for the health and wellness of the concert-going public, I run from the tent to the nearest security guard and repeat the problem.
“Oh yeah, well, we can’t help you here you have to go see the security over by that fence way over there.”
Not willing to waste anymore of what could be very precious time on these clearly inept hands, I run back to my friend where it’s left to me and a new friend of mine (who is a small girl herself) to literally drag my unconscious friend’s near lifeless body through a couple hundred yards of sloppy mud back to the first aid tent ourselves.
Alright now let’s examine the facts then shall we?
This year alone, there have been 5 fatalities at music festivals in Canada alone:
-a 21-year-old at B.C.’s Pemberton Music Festival
-a 19-year-old at the Escapade Music Festival in Ottawa
-a 24-year-old at the Boonstock festival in Penticton, B.C.
And if all that wasn’t bad enough:
-a 20 and a 22 year old both at the VELD Music Festival last month IN THE VERY SAME PARK I WAS CURRENTLY HAVING MY PROBLEM IN!
Now I am no expert, however I do think that given this year’s terrible track record for festival mortality, ESPECIALLY IN THE VERY SAME PARK NOT MORE THAN ONE MONTH PREVIOUS, that there would be a little more of a sense of urgency from the people stationed there to help people in these kinds of situations when they’re approached about a person needing help after inexplicably collapsing to the ground.
Sounds reasonable does it not?!
Fine, let’s just say that there is some sort of protocol in place stating you are not under any circumstances to leave your first aid tent, security post, random spot by a fence, what the fuck ever. If that is in fact there, is there anything written anywhere stating that you cannot, at the absolute very least, call for help on those nice shiny radios you are assigned at the start of your shift everyday so that the poor bastard that came to you in need of help in the first place doesn’t end up running around having to do everything on his goddamn own (minus your help Christine, you are a truly amazing person in so many ways I can’t thank you enough for everything) in the hope that time hasn’t run out on his poor friend who’s currently doing their best lawn ornament impression sitting in the mud in the middle of the crowd?!
While I’m sure my frustration seems evident here, I can assure you this in no way compares to the emotions coursing through me that night.
It should be stated that my friend is now alright. After being taken to the hospital via ambulance and treated that night they were released early the following morning. Given the symptoms described all signs point to them being drugged somehow, very likely GHB.
I do not know exactly where blame should be placed here. Whether the problems lie with Riot Fest, Downsview Park itself, a combination of the 2 or somewhere else entirely, something has to be done to avoid these kinds of problems in the future. Had this been a more serious medical condition and my friend had tragically passed while I was being given the runaround by everyone under the fucking sun, where would the liability fall then?
Thankfully that was not the case, however the fact remains that this is a sour taste I don’t foresee vacating my mouth anytime soon.