Riot Fest Toronto — Alkaline Trio, Billy Talent, Death From Above 1979, Flaming Lips, Rise Against, Taking Back Sunday, New Found Glory
The first show of the Riot Fest Tour landed in Toronto on the weekend of September 6 & 7 at Downsview Park – a wide open field of dirt and grass. The kicker? It poured rain for 24 hours straight the Friday before the festival, so needless to say, there was lots of mud.
Luckily no one put their stick in it, only their shoes, and in some cases, their entire bodies. The messy environment didn’t stop patrons from romping around the massive grounds, where two of the three main stages were side by side (Riot & Roots) and the third (Rock) stage was shuffled entirely on the other side of the field. There was also a smaller stage for indie bands behind all the confectioneries.
At first it gives you the impression that lesser known bands would be playing in the far corner, while the bigger names would be on the dual stages. That wasn’t true, considering Billy Talent and Rise Against headlined the Rock stage. The dual stages down yonder provided the crowd with endless entertainment as one band was always on one stage, while the next band was setting up on the stage next to it in alternating fashion.There was always something to watch, so much so unfortunately that some times you were torn between two great bands you didn’t want to pull away from, but had to make a difficult choice. That wasn’t cool. For example, later in the day, Rise Against and Death From Above 1979 were playing at the same time. Followed up by Billy Talent and the Flaming Lips playing simultaneously from opposite sides of the venue. Tough choices, indeed.
A myriad of great bands performed up and above the aforementioned big wigs – here’s a selection of the bands Martyr was able to witness and shoot for your viewing and reviewing pleasure – in order of appearance during the day.
ALKALINE TRIOAs always, this triage can really wail. Although Matt Skiba put on a less than stellar performance – lacking energy and enthusiasm in his stage presence – he still nailed all his parts and vocals and let us enjoy the classics, as well as new tunes that keep Alkaline Trio a staple on all of our playlists.
Luckily Dan Andriano was live and in full effect as any fan of AT has come to expect from Andriano. Of course Derek Grant was live on the skins and providing backup vocals for filler. All in all it was awesome to see these veterans up on stage and warming up the Riot Fest crowd on this sunny Saturday afternoon.
They opened with “This Could be Love,” a favourite of any Alkaline Trio fan, and also rejoiced the crowd with the feel-good new tune “I Lied to the FBI,” while still playing other classics like “Private Eye.” It was a great 45 minute set that delivered as promised.
AWOLNATION is known for it’s entertaining melodies and uplifting lyrics, but what was witnessed at Riot Fest in Toronto was something else all together.
Aaron Bruno has captivating charisma and took complete control of this packed crowd in front of him, even though the music was drowning out his singing sometimes, the fans made up for the volume different by singing along.
They played classics from their platinum album Megalithic Symphony like “Not Your Fault,” “Jump on my Shoulders,” and also a few new songs that got the crowd jumping around and dancing.
TAKING BACK SUNDAY This rock outfit from the mean street of Amityville, N.Y., has grown from a young punk outfit that broke out in 1999 to a seasoned and mature band that knows how to write songs and captivate an audience. And Riot Fest was no different for TBS.
Frontman Adam Lazzara’s voice echoed across Downsview Park and had people that were waiting in line for beer halfway across the venue singing along with them. Although Taking Back Sunday isn’t a household name, they’ve always had a strong cult following which grows later as the years go on.
Although there’s a division in their fan base, due to their old and new styles developed while growing up, everyone who listens to them can agree that they’re only getting better with age, and showing no signs of slowing down. They played alongside Hopeless Records label mates New Found Glory who warmed up the punk-rock lovers in the crowd for them.RISE AGAINST
Rise Against is a unique brand of punk-rock that has made its mark in the music scene for a lot more than just their powerfully grungy riffs, fast paced drums, and deeply compelling lyrical content. Lead singer Tim McIlrath is a well-known humanitarian and philanthropist. He advocates for animal rights and fights alongside PETA, not to mention he doesn’t delve into the debaucheries of the common man, being straight-edge himself.
But above all that, Rise Against makes kick-ass music. They always have and they always will. Whether it’s tunes from old or new albums, a Rise Against song is always good, and live, they’re even better. So it’s no secret that for that hour they ruled the stage and a large portion of the Riot Fest crowd that was captivated by the Chicago outfit’s stage presence and energy. It’s too bad some, myself included, were torn away late during their set due to Death From Above 1979 playing across the way. And that brings us to our next act…DEATH FROM ABOVE 1979It’s amazing to see these two Toronto boys back at it in full gear. Jesse Keeler is always busy, but never on the same project. Before reuniting with Sebastian Grainger to continue what they left behind in 2006 after they split, Keeler was the other half of MSTRKRFT, an electronic music outfit that’s been spinning heads with their ones and twos from coast to coast, and he’s also produced other Canadian talents such as Care Failure’s Die Mannequin.
DFA1979 released a viral album in 2004 You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine, then cited personal differences as a reason for breaking up in 2006. Speaking with Keeler at Riot Fest before their set, he mentioned that it was a blanket reason given to the public to ease the burden of explaining all of life’s minutia that lead to their temporary demise.
But, they’re back, and seemingly better than ever. Out with their new and long anticipated second studio album The Physical World, Keeler and Grainger are feeling good about the direction they’re taking this time around, and from what we witnessed with them on stage, they’re right back to square one where they left off just under a decade ago.BILLY TALENTBilly Talent was the first band to go on as the sun came down over Downsview Park, which worked well to their advantage considering the wicked light set up they had going on. There’s not much to be said about the boys of Billy Talent that hasn’t been said already.
They opened with their hit “Devil in a Midnight Mass” from their second commercial record, and instantly had the crowd in sync with them singing along and rocking out. Of course the effect was only amplified when they played their breakthrough hit “Try Honesty.” But in the name of honesty, it needs to be said – Benjamin Kowalewicz’s vocals lack supremely live. The chorus melodies and spoken verses are spot on, but the screaming heard on record just isn’t achieved live, and it’s disappointing.
Billy Talent’s main attraction has and always will be back-up singer and lead guitarist Ian D’Sa, from London, England. His contribution to the Canadian metal supergroup has been more than a fair share, and he arguably creates the definitive sound those have come to expect from Billy Talent. Ironically, D’Sa also had a hand in producing Die Mannequin’s work on Slaughter Daughter.
FLAMING LIPSWithout a doubt, Flaming Lips were the lasting memory of Riot Fest in Toronto. They had not only the most decorated of all stage guises, but they also had the most eccentric antics and zealous show.
Hailing from Oklahoma City, the foursome is well-known for their glam-rock stylings and colourful costumes and animations. Especially, the glitter – lots of glitter. These psychedelic rockers have been doing what they do best for just over 30 years now, obviously hugely influenced by the glamour that ruled the rock realm in the 80s – but surprisingly, they’re growing their following in larger quantities than ever, and getting more headlining gigs later in their tenure as opposed to earlier, then slowing down. Wayne Coyne is an interesting character, both on record and live. His lyrical content all stems from science fiction and fantasy space operas he creates through his music.
They were a perfect set to warm up the crowd just before the headliners – The Cure – came on. And with Robert Smith’s two hour set from 9 until 11, the first day of Riot Fest was wrapped up after over 12 hours of muddy mayhem.
Story by Devin Size, photos by Ftfphotography