Sunday, July 29, 2007

September 2006 - Virgin Festival (Toronto)

© September 2006 - Virgin Festival (Toronto) By Bryen Dunn, Toronto

So the inaugural Canadian debut of this UK Fest has come and gone, but not without some newborn hiccups. The first disappointment came less than one week prior to the event, with the announcement that the most anticipated act on the bill, Massive Attack, would not be closing the Festival as they were not able to get their travel visas sorted in time.

This proved to be a big disappointment to many fans, but promoters did their best to make up for this unforeseen last minute glitch, and plopped in local favourites, Broken Social Scene. Not a very good position to fill, but I personally overheard several fans anticipating the BSS set, amid the masses that were heading to the ferry after The Raconteurs performance. It was quite entertaining catching this new “super-group”, featuring Jack White (Stripes) on vocals. Their rendition of Nancy Sinatra’s Bang, Bang was astounding to hear with the original vocals intact.

The Strokes offered a typical indie-New York-we’re so cool performance that seemed to please those who were there to catch this where-are-they-now combo.The second disappointment came unexpectedly, this time affecting first day headliners, the Flaming Lips. Seems the early morning rains delayed the start of performances earlier in the day, which resulted in an unbelievably shortened set by the Lips, further hampered by the 11PM city noise bylaws in effect.

Both the band and the fans were quite upset with this, especially after hanging around all day in anticipation. Despite the limited time, the crowd was treated to one of the most beautiful, bizarre concert experiences as lead man Wayne Coyne arrived on stage in a large bubble and proceeded to roll out atop the masses in the field, gently prodded along by thousands of loving hands. Balloons, confetti, aliens and Santa Clauses also created to this magical wonderment.

Gnarls Barkley and his band were good and all, but perhaps his lengthy set could have been shortened a tad in consideration of his fellow performers.Toronto Islands are a great location for an outdoor music festival, and having a main stage and side stage makes sense, but a closer proximity would have helped create a more intimate vibe – but then again that filler space between stages was sparkled by all those high end corporations that most everyone scurried by without a glance.

In keeping with the spirit of music, there was a DJ tent set up just outside the main stage area that offered an array of local and international DJ names to keep the beat pumping all day and all night - 'many artists collaborate -- one spirit released' goes the motto.

The tent action was presented as part of B-Live, as in Bacardi. Yet another alcohol inducer getting involved with the music industry, this time with an online internet/mobile phone site and event sponsorships.

This was their first big scale production in Toronto and hopefully not their last -

Gripes: Why is it that Ontario still forces beer consumers to be caged in the farthest distance possible from the stage? Is this a form of punishment for drinking and supporting events financially? On a plus note, the transportation to and from the island went well.

Kudo’s to Virgin for raising funds for their charitable arm, Unite, focused on helping fight the Big 3 – Malaria, TB, and HIV/AIDS –

Statistics: The 2-day annual UK Festival averages 130,000 in attendance, while Toronto’s first attempt brought in around 50,000 – more than the UK’s first event.

As a first attempt, I’d give them one thumb up in hopes that experience will prove beneficial and make this an annual event to look forward to.

Concert Update: As previously promised by Emerge Entertainment, Massive Attack has been rescheduled for October 6th at the Carlu in Toronto. - -

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