After a less than spectacular beginning to our trip to Toronto, which required us getting off of a plane we woke up at 4:30am to catch and waiting 3 hours for another one, the day ended up going much more smoothly than I’d feared. We missed Born Ruffians set, but the rest of the festival was really cool. The planners did a great job of setting up the stages so that you’re far enough away that the noise doesn’t bleed over, but never so far that walking from one to the other is a hassle. It also helps that there are wide open spaces between the stages so you’re not trying to force yourself through a huge crowd between stages. It’s a much more relaxed fest than I’m used to, and I really like it. The first band we saw was Lucius on the South stage. They were delayed a few minutes while they checked out the sound, but once they started they were great. I love their blend of new wave synth pop and folky harmonies. I was a little disappointed they didn’t do their cover of “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” that they just released, but what can you do. When we arrived at the stage the crowd was pretty small. After the third or fourth song the audience had tripled at least and everyone was dancing and bopping their heads. After Lucius we headed up the hill to see Gary Clark jr on the East Stage. He had a fairly large audience before we even got up there, and I talked to a guy in his late teens/early twenties who had come just to see Clark play. He was treated to a great performance that featured the guitar master shredding all over the stage with his red-hot blues riffs. The set was like lightning in a bottle for the first six or seven songs, then when he slowed it down for a tune the audience lost a little interest and a lot of people started leaving. It never quite recaptured the initial energy, but Gary Clark jr puts on a helluva show and I recommend checking him out.
We headed over to the West stage for Local Natives next, but first stopped at food truck plaza for some food. We decided on Korean BBQ spare ribs and a Cuban pork sandwich from Deava’s Feed Your Soul, both of which were delicious. As we were walking toward our destination we happened past a place called Penny Lou Lou Sweets & Treats. Their specialty is Bubble Cake and it looked so good we had to try one. We split the latest offering, a New York Cheesecake that came with sour cherries over ice cream. It’s one of the best desserts I’ve ever had. If you’re a fan of stuff like funnel cake, elephant ears, or beaver munch you’ll dig Bubble Cake. So we finally made it over to the West stage for Local Natives and the place was packed on the VIP side of the rail, and a good amount of people in the general admission area. Taking pictures earlier in the day was a bit of a hassle due to the sheer amount of photographers, and this one was no exception. Between the photogs and VIP bracelet holders who were occupying the same space, it was tough to move or get a decent shot. I suppose that’s part of the fun of these festivals but I’m just trying to get you all some great pictures. Some good ones came out, but overall Local Natives set was disappointing. They were playing with a lot of energy, but I think they played at a point where festival goers had hit the proverbial wall. Lots of crossed arms and people standing around not really paying attention outside of the small mob up front. We took off from their set about 7 songs in so we could get a good spot for Beirut on the East stage. There were already a bunch of photographers making camp and getting ready to shoot when we got up there, but we found a place to sit and relax before the headliner went on. Zach Condon & co were one of the main reasons I wanted to come to TURF, and they did not disappoint. I’ve been a fan since Gulag Orkestar so I was happy that they played some older songs as well as a couple brand new ones. I think they would’ve played all night if they were allowed, but they were cut off around 10:30. So the set was right around an hour and they crammed that hour with song after song, barely talking to the audience at all (which Condon acknowledged, saying “We’re not big talkers.”) Overall the first day of TURF was a great success and I’m looking forward to two more days of amazing music including Jenny Lewis, Jeff Tweedy, and Neutral Milk Hotel on Sunday.
For pics from the day, check out our Facebook page!