Toronto Urban Roots Festival-Day 2

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Day 2 was scheduled as our “easy” day, and it lived up to that designation quite well. We kept busy, but it was very relaxed and cool. Four sets was all we needed to hit to consider the day a success and we did it without rushing from stage to stage and managed to enjoy most, if not all, of each set we set out to see.

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Shovels And Rope kicked off the day on the West Stage. I wish more people were listening to this amazing country/blues duo. They ended up with a surprisingly high attendance for being so early in the day, so that put a smile on my face. Michael and Cary Ann played a bunch of tunes from O Be Joyful, and also broke out some brand new songs from their upcoming record (out in August). New stuff sounded really good even though they prefaced the first new one saying they were still learning how to play it live. Their set-up is a lot of fun-it’s just the two of them so they set up a drum/keyboard hybrid and mainly face each other while they play. They were great, and festival founder Jeff Cohen let it slip that they’d be playing at Phoenix Concert Theatre in the fall.

After taking in some great americana what else would you want to hear but some loud punk music? Lucky for us over on the South stage Andrew Jackson Jihad was gearing up. We got over to see them a few minutes late, but managed to see probably 90 percent of the set. They flew through what seemed like a dozen songs in about 20 minutes and questioned whether they needed to slow down to make the show last longer. If you haven’t taken the time to check them out, I seriously suggest doing so. They sound like Mountain Goats if John Darnielle were backed by Titus Andronicus-fast and loud and very cerebral and witty.

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After AJJ we headed back to the West stage for Vioelnt Femmes. I’m not a huge fan of the band, but they were playing their debut album straight through, and that record is pretty killer from start to finish. During the intro Cohen asked if everyone was enjoying the fest and someone behind me yelled “Andrew Jackson Jihad was fucking awesome!!!!” Cohen agreed and then before I knew it Gordon Gano was on stage in front of me going straight into “Blister In The Sun.” If you know the record at all, the first three songs are classics so it was cool to be right up front seeing them do those songs. It was a bit crazy because by 5pm all the photographers had shown up so it was mayhem trying to get decent shots. Still a lot of fun, though. And even 30 years after the album, those songs hold up beautifully.

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It was food time after Violent Femmes and before Gaslight Anthem, so we headed over to the food trucks (we stopped back at Penny Lou Lou’s for another bubble cake right when we walked in the gates). While over there I saw Deacon Batchelor of Andrew Jackson Jihad getting some poutine from The Poutine Machine. I stopped him and we chatted for a few minutes about how scarce good poutine is in their hometown of Phoenix, AZ. He seemed excited about playing in Toronto (and not just for the poutine), and said they always have a good time in this town-that it reminds him of New York City. Really nice guy and a food blogger, apparently. So here’s a picture of his poutine.

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Gaslight Anthem was our last show for the night. I purposely made it so we could head back early and get some rest because Sunday’s lineup is ridiculously full of great music. So we hung out for a while in the pit area at the East stage and watched the crowd start to gather. By the time the New Jersey-based band took the stage, the whole field was packed with people. They opened with “59 Sound,” which I thought was a big enough hit that they would save it for later in the show. They knew what they were doing, though, because the audience went nuts and sang along to the whole song. 20140706-103205-37925469.jpg They played some new stuff off their soon-to-be-released record that’ll be out at the end of summer and it didn’t sound wildly different than their last release. They did a couple covers, including “House Of The Rising Sun.” And a couple got engaged during their set, so I think it was a pretty good day for Gaslight Anthem as well.

That was it for us today. We headed out to Hunter’s Landing for some dinner that was pretty tasty. A little pricier than I anticipated, but the food was good and it was nice to sit outside and watch some dogs play in the park across the street from the restaurant. Now it’s time to hit the hay and get ready for a full plate tomorrow.

To see more pics from the shows, check out our Facebook page and Instagram!

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