by andrea gilders - clubkingsnake staff
Virginfest Toronto Day two
September 7, 2008. The Toronto Islands
And then came the rain.
Day one had been been gorgeous by late summer standards, the rain rolled in around midnight and well, it just kept coming.
By the time the gates had opened the fields were flooded and the Virgin "media darlings" were looking, well just a little more tense than they were yesterday. Day One's gorgeous period ferry for the media had been traded for the smaller slower but infinitely more weather proof version. The PR response appears to be when in doubt, feed the media and assure us all (and the concert goers) that they had it on pretty good authority that the rain really was going to end this afternoon. There were trays of sub sandwiches being proffered at every turn, and the the tent was fully outfitted in with nibblies, coffee, loads of water and rain ponchos upon our arrival at 1:30.
Spiral Beach , the band who declared they were from 'just over there' with a quick point back across the lake to Toronto, took to the stage right on time and with an enthusiastic intensity that surprised me.
Gone were the boom mounted cameras for the big screens, instead, the rain had driven us all through a few adaptations
A line of orange cones lined the front edge of the stage, proclaiming not only the name of the band but also the line not to be crossed for fear of hydroplaning onto the photographers. Camera men stood carefully at stages right and left pulling images for the big screens
Spiral Beach, a foursome, had an interesting front line. From Stage right, keyboardist and singer Maddy Wilde (sporting an adorable mid 80s Madonna esque ensemble) and showing a vocal style that was sexy and and fun. She was flanked by the more than a little bit bouncy Dorian Wolf on bass and more than capable Airick Woodhead on a unique guitar. (an old Danelectro covered in ratty red hockey tape). They were completed by drummer Daniel Woodhead
They bounced through the first four bars and another reviewer and I were both ready to buy the CD right there.
I'm struggling to describe it. It was rock, It was fun and even in the rain, it was damn good. Give it a listen and pay for it. They're young and I hope they're going places...
Following Spiral Beach was Toronto's own Danko Jones. A three piece hard rock group clad head to toe in black. Attitudes, growling vocals and a black Gibson Explorer later and the crowd started off into it.
Perhaps I have a weakness for low strung bass, hooky guitars and growling lyrics but the first song drew me in more than I expected. As the sun tried to peek out, the on stage attitude fought back. No on can say they were a happy band. "God damn it its not a rock show unless it rains" was the call I out I believe.
I spent much of their act alternating between loving them and not caring less. There were moments of genuis. I mean the kind of primal joy I haven't felt with a CDN hard rock act since the Kingston's 'other' best band the Headstones, but sadly that energy didn't envelop me like it should have.
Following Danko there was the mad run to the Molson Canadian area for the short Stereophonics acoustic set (see my other post on this) where the hearts of the Molson Canadian press people was obviously softened by the mud and they gave away lots of access.
Stereophonics Danko Jones The Weakerthans
photos by Clint Gilders - staff photographer
After the Stereo phonics I managed to catch some of the Weakerthans also back on the main Virgin Mobile stage. By this point the rain actually was well and truly gone. The sun was shining in a way we wouldn't have thought possible at 11 a.m. and the Weakerthans stepped out, precisely on time as the main stage ran all weekend. They were solid and deserved their mid day spot on the main stage. To paraphrase the words of Toronto Star's Virginfest Bluffer's guide Yes yes, they could indeed be THE best Winnipeg band ever. And those are mighty big shoes to fill. I liked the song writing, I liked the twangy guitar sound that occasionally showed flashes of southern rockability twang and folky goodness.
Following the Weakerthans, a small group of us made a b line for the most beautiful place at Vfest, the VIP Bacardi B Live area. It was nestled in a quiet lush area right on the shores of Olympic island with a gorgeous view of the Toronto Skyline.
Bless the people at Bacardi and more to the point, god bless their free to the media and VIP mojitos.
Following some quick refreshment we slunk across the bridge to TD Canada trust stage for the only time today to catch Yoav. A one man power house of looping rhythmn, guitar and song. I had urged my colleagues to see him, never having heard a note but I believed the great things I had read about the brilliance of this Israeli born, UK raised phenom. And he did not disappoint. How to describe Yoav in just a few words? Think an Israeli born KT Tunstall with a passionate heart and perhaps a helluva good musical education and I think you might be on the right track. It was breath taking.
The crowd filled in behind us as we were treated to Yoav's last show of his inaugural festival season. It was really amazing to be a part of. Truly give this guy a listen and pay for it. Artists like Yoav are few and far between and by god they won't make their money reselling their art to commercial outlets.
This is when the scheduling started to get tricky.
When attempting to boot it back over the only bridge to the main stage and the Bacardi B-live we had to try and guess which stage was running on time and which one was not.... Sadly they were both right on time.
Finally my Ontario based heart won out and I tuned into Niagara region wunderkid Deadmau5. Hot off massive European buzz with "Hi Friend" it was a bit disappointing to miss the trademark red Mouse head which he declared was 'lost by the airline" but the infectous beat more than made up for it.
Its not my usual type of music but I really enjoyed it
Buzzing off toward the main stage I was able to pick up the Stereophonics set already in progress. Simply they were all I hoped they would be. Great stomping and stage roving presence with just thunderous pop presence. Really what more could a girl want? Oh wait, this girl could want Richard Jones ( the Welsh born Eric Stoltz looking bass player) just for the sheer goodness of it all but....
The day had taken on a fabulous energy of its own. I was seeing act after act who were simply amazing me with their presence and skill.
While the day was far from over, I was excited to swing over to catch Moby's DJ set (and jump the line) finishing off the weekend at the B LIVE tent. The line was without any exxageration a mile long. It snaked well across the field toward the Stereophonics stage.
Our photographer stood at side stage eagerly waiting his turn to shoot the icon and noticed Moby simply standing right beside him almost completely invisible in a throng of photographers who were oblivious to his quiet presence, totally calm in a beaten black t and a red ball cap.
The Moby show may have truly been the highpoint for energy on day two.
As we headed back to the mainstage for the final two acts of the weekend (Paul Weller and of course Oasis) I was hoping to be awed. Unfortuantely I wasn't.
Paul Weller got out on stage and gave it everything he had and by god he had a lot. I simply didn't know The Jam or the Style Coucil material well enough to be enthralled. There was some great on stage chemistry and the crowd was clearly into, I just wasn't able to sing along.
Moving forward into Oasis, the place was packed. The anticipation palpable. The air was literally buzzing with excitement when the Gallaghers and their crew finally took the stage. And I waited to feel the joy, the rush,the music. And wow, there was just nothing there.
I have seen a lot of bands and wow, I've simply never seen a singer at this level of stardom with the stage presence of a wilted dishtowel before. Liam just stood there with his hands hooked on his pockets singing away while the non Gallagher portion of the band rocked out around him. We hung in for about five songs and then the weekend finally caught up to us and we snuck out, heading for the ferry back to the main land, We apparently missed the media story of the weekend, the mysterious shove of Noel Gallagher. I must admit laughing out loud this morning when Liam himself summed up my opinion of the Oasis show altogether when he quipped that the incident had 'added a little excitement' to the show.
And there it was, Virginfest in the can for another year. Two very distinct days of talent. This year the tour had a strong British invasion theme and we saw not only the standouts from the UK but some emerging shining stars from right here at home. The festival was slick, well run, on time and by god it was fun. I'll come back again next year if they will have me just to sample the talent all over again.