Another year, another excellent weekend courtesy of Field Trip. Now in its fourth year of operations, the little-festival-that-could has grown up into a full-service offering, with two big stages, a comedy zone, as many food trucks as the eyes can see, and a sprawling area tailored to kids with hula hoops, bouncy castles, a kids stage (featuring all your favourite artists) and more! It’s come a long way from its inaugural year (2013), where it celebrated Arts and Crafts’ 10-year anniversary with a reunion show from hometown heroes Broken Social Scene, but in a lot of ways, it still feels like a community festival.
The first day of Field Trip was absolutely beautiful – the weather was perfect, the crowds were in full force and the grounds looked lovely. The first act I checked out was Meg Mac, who was making her first-ever Canadian appearance. This Australian singer-songwriter’s brand of pop music comes infused with soul and gospel, and the layered harmonies (courtesy of her backup singers) were divine. She just finished recording her first album in the US, but you can grab a copy of her EP on iTunes. I’d pick it up if you’re into artists like Jessie Ware.
After a brief pit stop over at the TD Day Camp Stage to make my dreams come true and hear Kevin Drew, Justin Peroff, and Brendan Canning sing about camels and losing underwear in Hamilton (and an acoustic version of “Forced To Love”), I made my way over to the Fort York Stage to catch a set from Bully, an alternative/post-punk/grunge back from Nashville. Led by Alicia Bognanno’s fierce vocals and guitar lines, the band played an absolutely frenetic set at breakneck speed, capping it over with two covers (including one of McLusky!!).
Next up was the mind-blowing experimental electronica of Holy Fuck, who were fresh off releasing their latest record, Congrats, on June 3. Though Brian Borcherdt claimed the band was nervous about playing a hometown show, you wouldn’t have known it by watching their set. Methodical, loud, hungry and still danceable, Holy Fuck was a must-see performance for me.
Unfortunately, a late start meant that I only caught a few songs from Jazz Cartier‘s buzzed-about set at Field Trip, where he started with an absolute banger in “Dead or Alive”, and proceeded to call out the lack of diversity on the bill. Next up: The National in the headlining slot. If you’ve ever seen The National play a show before, their set at Field Trip wasn’t really a departure from what they do best. From Matt Berninger’s sing-to-screaming vocals in “Mr.November” to the inevitable singalong that comes with perpetual set-closer “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks”, the setlist was a palpable demonstration of The National has become a staple of indie rock. Despite the familiarity of the rest of the set, there were some special moments, including the performance of two new songs, “Sometimes I Don’t Think” and “The Day I Die”, and a duet with Hayden on “I Need My Girl”.
As I’m sure most people have heard by now, Day 2 of Field Trip was a bit more of an adventure. Beset by an extreme weather-related evacuation as soon as arrived on site to watch Dear Rouge, the Festival was suspended for about 3 hours or so. While unfortunate, Field Trip’s staff should be commended for keeping everyone updated via social media regularly, and eventually, we were let back in with a revised schedule. The Festival also managed to get a curfew extension, thanks to the City of Toronto. As such, it was fitting that Charles Bradley and the Extraordinaries were the first band of Field Trip, take two. The “screaming eagle of soul” brought the sunshine and good tunes en masse, and had everyone in the crowd grinning by the end. From there, Ra Ra Riot played a punchy, upbeat set that battled some light rain but overcame it with gusto.
One of my favourite performances of the weekend was from Basia Bulat, who was showing off some fancy, pop-influenced new tunes from her latest album, Good Advice. Backed up by a stellar band (that included The Weather Station‘s Tamara Lindeman), she played a set that really worked to showcase the wide breadth of her catalogue. Honestly, it was one of the most fun, and most engaging performances of the weekend.
Sunday’s headliner was Robyn, with a twist. For her North American festival performances this year, Robyn had announced that she had asked artists she admired to remix a selection of her songs, and that they would be played as a continuous mix. An interesting concept in theory, but the execution was subpar. There was limited singing from Robyn, and really a just a whole lot of dancing. I had a hard time getting engaged with the set, which really felt like more a DJ set, despite the interesting-ish things happening onstage. While she did play a lukewarm versin of “Dancing On My Own”, at the end of the night, one of her best songs was missing, in “Call Your Girlfriend”.
If you regret missing out on Field Trip this year (and you should!), you can check out some of our pictures on Instagram!