Words by Marianne Jacobsen
All Live Photos Credit: Jonathan Sippel
It has been about 5 years since the last time I attended a music festival in my hometown of Toronto Ontario. This drought has now officially ended by my attendance of last weekend’s Riot Fest at Downsview Park.
Day 1 began like every other normal rock and roll day in my life (this is a bit of sarcasm for anyone who might think otherwise). As I walked towards the entrance there was a sea of happy faces and band endorsements of all kinds were everywhere.
From the local sweethearts, Alexisonfire to Bill Murray, T-shirt representation was a way to acknowledge the unsaid. Kinda like the first and only rule of Canadian Fight Club – you talk about it – if you want… it is optional, not necessary though – whatever makes you feel comfortable. Just know you belong.
With 4 stages to wade between bands, midway rides including my all time favourite the Zipper, games and vendors (where I was not a dick and bought a shirt). This eclectic day of musical and artistic celebration was one which required endurance and advanced cardiovascular ability.
As I caught the tail end of the seasoned alt rock band, Die Mannequin, on the Roots stage, I was reminded of the true talent within Toronto’s musical culture. They ripped through their 30 minute set with songs from their 11+ year catalogue. To their loyal and enthusiastic crowd, Die Mannequin served a delish dish of a musical premonition of what this day in Downsview was to become.
Being a people watcher, I could not help but wander in between stages without any real intent. Except going where the day took me. Then, as I was standing at the Rock stage watching Vancover’s own D.O.A. smash my teeth in as if in acknowledgement of them being one of the Canadian hardcore punk forefathers. After their most recent appearance in Croatia this past July, D.O.A. got the Rock Stage warmed up and got the ground moving with much success and enthusiasm from festival goers.
At the same time, I was keeping an open ear listening to the Dead Milkmen from afar as they rocked the Roots stage. Something familiar began pulling me like a tractor beam to a tent which I thought was for EDM.
With that, Bat Sabbath (Cancer Bats doing hauntingly amazing covers of all the Ozzy/Black Sabbath) had my full attention. The sky swelled and reminded me I was not prepared for precipitation. Ending their show with a rendition of War Pigs that caused unified hand clapping from the crowd which swelled well outside the doorway of the structure. It was so good. So good, I believe even Bill Ward would have approved.
Then the rain came.
I was sure that the rain itself, in its torrential downpour, would take this day hostage.
Even when GWAR effectively had to deny their bohabs a sample of their tasteless medicine, you would have thought there was going to be a riot. GWAR did not disappoint. Instead they took the piss and made cheap shitty wine by spraying the fans with their signature goo.
Does this look like a disappointed fan to you?
With many attendees prepared more than others, shelter became limited. Instead of running for cover, I decided to stand with a few Irish folks. I knew I was safe because the back of the leather jacket read: “COC” (MGM LOVES Corrosion of Conformity!) – which is code-word for FUN.
As the rain continued, I decided to have a bite to eat. Riot Fest had a vast array of food trucks with every delicacy from Roti, pulled BBQ to all the vegan treats you could wish for. As well as beer. There was a lot of people drinking beer. Then I remembered I was in Canada – and that was just normal 😉
With the sun came the Eagles of Death Metal.
Their set was cut to 4 songs due to the time constraints and weather issues. Jesse Hughes and Company attacked songs such as “I Want You So Hard” and “Don’t Speak”. No-one cared about the water or mud. They just wanted to rock.
Cancer Bats in their company uniforms hit the Riot Stage for a set. They reminded us of why they, like the headliners that night, were hometown heroes.
In support of their new album, Searching for Zero, the Bats continued their flight through a set that had lead singer Liam Cormier thanking the crowd and confirming – just like Dorothy – there is no place like home. For me the rendition of Sabotage by the Beastie Boys struck a punk chord which I forgot existed inside of me. So much so it inspired me to dance even though I was sure I had trench foot.
Bricks & Mortar
Arsenic in the Year of the Snake
Lucifer’s Rocking Chair
(Beastie Boys cover)
There were many bands which I missed. There was not enough time in the day and too many lovely distractions to stay focused on one thing. However, I tried my best.
After taking a few moments to buy a dry shirt (I support my musical artists) and clear my muddled head, it was time for Coheed and Cambria.
I had always heard good things about this band. However, I never had an opportunity to see them live. This error will never happen again.
Busting on to a still semi rain slicked stage, Coheed and Cambria warmed the cooling crowd up with favourites like Here We Are Juggernaut and to classics such as A Favor House Atlantic and Blood Red Summer. Claudio Sanchez stayed ahead of his hair and the rest of the band defied musical gravity with a non stop set of musical mastery which was almost like the “second wind” this crowd needed.
In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3
Devil in Jersey City
Here We Are Juggernaut
A Favor House Atlantic
The Camper Velourium III: Al the Killer
Blood Red Summer
You Got Spirit, Kid
Here to Mars
Ten Speed (Of God’s Blood and Burial)
It was becoming dark. With the darkness came the bright lights of the ferris wheel. Reminding me of the date with destiny at 8:30 I had to keep. Actually his name is Lemmy. However, it is the same thing as far as I am concerned.
Motorhead is a continual reminder – you can’t kill rock and roll, it is here to stay. Fans of all walks of life and of varying ages congregated in front of the Rock stage to pay homage to the band who always is “louder than everyone else”. The rain began to fall once again. My heart began to sink as the tenacious crowd chanted that beloved word: “Motorhead”.
Was this going to happen? Or not?
Spotting an ambulance on standby at the side of the stage did of course not help matters.
When the pirates of all things pilsner finally stormed the stage – it was as if time had stopped. Tearing in to the set with Bomber, people swam over the top and writhed together with joyous triumph. Motorhead has arrived!!!
With Phil Campbell taking over some of the mic duties (as well as those funky dance moves all over the rainy stage) and Mickey Dee smashing his way though a thunderous set, reminded me of the first time I saw them open for Alice Cooper in 1988.
The gift of a blinding guitar solo by Phil Campbell as well as Mr. Dee’s kick at the cans for a good measure helped to make this exciting hour move along much faster than most would have liked. Motorhead once again shows young, old and whatever is in between that you can’t keep a good band down – never.
My only disappointment was their rendition of Sympathy for the Devil was not played. I quite honestly prefer it to the original offering by the Rolling Stones.
Reunion and apparently reinstatement of Alexisonfire as a band was confirmed. As Dallas Green and the Gang gave their hometown fans not only an amazing show, but also the promise that they would be back with new material and another tour.
During this day, I did not see one fight. I did not hear one child cry. I did not see one mad/sad face and did not get a single diss from anyone who thought they were cooler than me (even though they so fucking were).
My cynical outlook was lost somewhere between Die Mannequin and the Ferris Wheel. The vibe made me feel a part of something and not just an attendee. So if you do find my cynical outlook of Riot Fest at the lost and found – throw it away. I don’t need it anymore.
Riotfest Day 1 – 7/10