The whole mad adventure that is MEDIAZOIC started for me at a music festival, nine years and a few weeks ago. Those who know me know the story - it was the weekend of my 40th birthday, the inaugural Virgin Music Festival was happening on Toronto Island, and I had a free pass from my wife and kids to disappear at a music festival, like I used to do when I was a young lad. I went in with one career, and came out after two days convinced I wanted to dedicate the rest of my professional days to music.
The weekend before last at TURF (Toronto Urban Roots Fest), I had plenty of opportunities to reflect on that decision 9 years ago. The result of those reflections? The realization of why I had done it all in the first place - to do whatever I could to help bring the glorious gift that is great music to the world. TURF was great live music, phenomenal live music, played by some of the most talented artists alive in the world today.
And this time I actually got to pass it off as work ;-) Thanks to some last-minute scheduling issues that left me holding a media pass, I decided to head down to Fort York to support and celebrate the talent of my friend, client and fellow music missionary Julian Taylor, whose ridiculously good Julian Taylor Band was tasked with the job of setting the tone, and the standard, of what would follow on the festival's West Stage on Saturday. The set was killer. Years of making phenomenal live (and recorded) music in many different forms seem to be finally paying off - just last week, virtually all Toronto's underground music illuminati were gushing about JTB, with a glowing Segarini review, deep love from Toronto Music Reviews, a spotlight from NewCanadianMusic.ca, and a spot in the Alan Cross Top 11. Check out this slideshow:
Turns out I saw a total of 17 bands, in two days (Friday & Saturday) overflowing with moments of music festival ecstasy. Some of the most memorable:
- Discovering the magnificent Murder By Death from a hilltop and hightailing it down to the front of the stage to bask in their glory;
- Selling my musical soul to the long tall Satan up on stage during the incendiary set by The Sadies;
- Lucinda Williams with the tighest band in the world;
- The joyous, cacaphonous call and response of I and LOVE and YOU with the Avett Brothers;
- The emotional outpouring of love from a fan to Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros;
- A veritable stampede from the East stage after Wilco to the West Stage to catch Cake.
The photo slideshow below contains only bands I saw (and loved) in the order I saw (and loved) them. Big thanks to Darryl at StageFright Publicity.
I would be remiss if I did not mention that I also got to "mix business with pleasure" again and hang out with a music obsessive after my own heart, Matt DiPaola from Sid Lee. If you want to dive into Matt's experience at another festival (Osheaga), check out his playlist in the tuner at the top of this page.
While walking with another fellow music missionary, Gideon Greenbaum-Shinder of Toronto Music Reviews, we were approached by a friendly young man from sponsor MedReleaf (producers/distributers of medicinal cannibis), for a chance to win a very fancy-looking vaporizer. "Whatever on earth would I use that for?" I exclaimed. Ok, I didn't say that, but I did spend a bit of time at their booth, learning that they were the ones who had provided those clean water stations with cold water flowing, which festival-goers were using all weekend to top up their refillable water containers.
Which brings me to another of my personal highlights of the festival. Not a single plastic bottle of water to be found on the grounds all weekend. Think about that for a moment, then pair it with a mandate to open every day on every stage with a Toronto band and feature only local food stands & food trucks and you have far and away the greenest festival I've ever attended.
For the maestro of it all, Jeff Cohen - manning the entrance at opening, popping up on stage to introduce many of the bands, tending to the VIPs - such a weekend must feel like reaping the rewards of a life lived for live music. Need proof? When the crowd failed to cheer loudly enough when the word "Legendary" was emphasized in referencing the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern, none other than one of the greatest live bands in the world, Wilco, called them on it. Said Tweedy: "That's the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern, people."
And TURF 2015 - green, gutsy and glorious - had all the elements of another legend in the making.
Respect, Mr. Cohen. Much respect.