The TURF 2014 Experience

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We spent last weekend in Canada celebrating our own American independence by rocking out with some awesome bands at the Toronto Urban Roots Festival. Only in its second year of existence, TURF gets a lot of things right that other festivals have been getting wrong for ages. It was honestly some of the most fun I’ve had covering anything in the four years I’ve been doing this. The mixture of genres was well-balanced, the bathrooms were still clean well into the third day, and they had some awesome Toronto-based food trucks parked in the center so you could grab something easily between sets.

OPEN SPACES

The thing I appreciated most about TURF was the ease with which one could get around. Fort York is a huge park, and everything was set up so the stages weren’t too far apart with plenty of green space to grab some shade under a tree or eat a bubble cake in a canoe. The photo pit got a little crazy during the more popular bands sets, but even then most people were courteous about bumping into you. This is a stark contrast to a fest like Lollapalooza, where they sell so many tickets that even in the vastness of Grant Park you’re hard-pressed to find a spot where you aren’t completely surrounded. The openness at TURF gives the whole thing a very relaxed feel.
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Toronto Urban Roots Festival-Day 1

20140705-113604-41764541.jpg 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. 20140705-114154-42114309.jpg 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. 20140705-113939-41979781.jpg Continue reading “Toronto Urban Roots Festival-Day 1”

Janelle Monae With The Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Janelle Monae was announced as a last minute replacement for Aretha Franklin to perform last night at the Chicago Symphony’s Corporate Night. Sitting in the audience, you’d never guess she wasn’t the first choice. The orchestra had every song down perfect, the light show was brilliantly done, and the night went off without a hitch. This was probably aided by the fact that Monae and … Continue reading Janelle Monae With The Chicago Symphony Orchestra