WORDS BY: SCOTT CRUICKSHANK
PHOTOGRAPHY BY: JEANETTE LEBLANC
The third annual Riot Fest Music Festival and Carnival (more carnival themed than true carni-fest) hit Toronto from September 6th-7th, 2014 and your favorite heavy music publication (us obviously) was there to catch all the dirt, more than we actually bargained for this time!
Thralls of fanatic festival goers filled the Downsview Park grounds to discover this year’s 4 stage extravaganza complete with a slew of food vendors ranging from fast and fried to deluxe Mexican fiesta foods and the usual treats. To keep spirits up there were three glorious alcoholic beverage stations (see what I did there) which allowed people to stay hydrated as the day went on, as well as a “recharging and smoking area” where smokers could rejoice and relax if desired.
The festival venue was a first for Riotfest this year, the previous two years being held at the Historic Fort York grounds. Downsview Park being the new home of the festival proved to be both stupendous and tedious; being that VELD electronic music festival had been held on the same grounds early on the month previous, the entire lot was destroyed, leaving the grass punished by the bass and bodily fluid infused force that is VELD.
Long story short the entire grounds had to be re sodded with new grass, and thanks to the Friday before’s extreme rain storm, the entire venue was a squishy wonderful mud pit which made mosh pits just that much more interesting and getting around a true test of the brave, and just a normal walk in the park for those clever enough to bring boots.
The first act this concert goer was able to catch upon arriving was none other than the Pop Punk Hall of famers, New Found Glory. With recent events happening within NFG circles involving now former guitarist Steve Klein, and accusations of his possible possession and involvement with child pornography, the band was touring as a one guitar, four piece band, just as they have recorded their new album Resurrection due out October 7th in Canada.
The band opened up like a cannon with “All Downhill From Here” getting everybody stirred up with beach balls flying and fans moshing. Despite lacking a layer of guitar the band faired stupendously. Lone guitarist Chad Gilbert held things down by himself and kept the crowd going with great stage energy, as well as inspirational and uplifting stage banter. Drum mic troubles plagued drummer Cyrus Bolooki but nonetheless he held it together for a tight performance. The sun managed to periodically come out and shine down on the main stage just long enough for their performance. The band played such fan favourites as; “Understatement”, and “My Friends Over You”.
The second performance this reviewer witnessed was another veteran band Taking Back Sunday of Amityville, New York. The band took the stage to a massive crowd of fans jeering for their opening note. The band kicked things off with album title track “Tell All Your Friends”, getting feet moving and hands up in the air. The band has been touring with their original founding 1999 member lineup since the last stop they made in Toronto at the Kool Haus with the likes of The Used, Tonight Alive, and former Underoath front man, Spencer Chamberlain’s most recent acquisition Sleepwave (Find our coverage from the show here).
TBS sounded huge, and singer Adam Lazarra’s signature stage antics were not in short supply as he ran about the stage throwing this mic around and wrapping its chord around his neck while belting out the from-the-heart lyrics we all know and love. The band was touring with an unnamed third guitar player who surely added an extra layer of finesse to the bands overall sound.
The band played songs old and new from their repertoire including; “Liar (It Takes One to Know One)”, “Timberwolves at New Jersey”, “Faith (When I Let You Down)”, “Flicker Fade” and “Make Damn Sure”.
After their set The Heavy Press was fortunate enough to run into singer Adam Lazarra strolling about the grounds somehow not being bombarded by fans, and we are glad to report Lazarra is a very nice gentleman who in other words could be described as “rad”. Thanks Adam!
The third act we caught up with was metalcore giants Bring Me The Horizon, returning after their last performance in Toronto at the Sound Academy (Find our coverage here). With a silky smoothe electronic intro the band broke into “Shadow Moses” off of their most recent release Sempiternal, immediately letting Riot Fest know they meant business with an enormous stage presence, the energy these guys force feed their crowds is astonishing.
In typical fashion vocalist Ollie Sykes beckoned at the crowd, “You know what a circle pit is? THEN SHOW US!” as they broke into “House of Wolves” and chaos ensued on stage and within the core of the crowd.
Ollie’s vocals were dumbfounding from his guttural bellowing deathcore style growls to his more recent style of clean vocals, he surely gave everyone their moneys worth. Never lacking was BMTH’s superbly entertaining British cursing and rambling, its like they invented and perfected the great art of swearing. Along with their stage banter, their brand of electronic sample infused metalcore brought down the house with the band performing such songs as; “Sleepwalking”, “Alligator Blood”, “Go to Hell for Heavens Sake” and “Crucify Me”.
The next Riot Fest Act we caught was American heart throbs, Brand New. With bouquets of flowers and a serious psychedelic vibe the band kicked off their set on one of the main stages. Singer Jesse Lacey was really giving his all to his performance both vocally and in his on stage energy.
The band was exceptionally tight, perhaps to being the only band we witnessed with an additional percussionist to keep things locked in time. The band rolled out the big guns with “Sic Transit Gloria, Glory fades” which was a huge crowd pleaser getting fans singing and screaming along with the alternative anthem of their youth.
Jumping about and screaming into their guitar pickups Brand New put on quite a show for Riot Fest, inspiring some very entertaining crowd watching- which for this reviewer was watching two females who had indulged in the beverage stations goods, attempting to help each other put on chapstick. Maybe it was lip gloss.. either way it was great, as was the band’s performance!
Brand New played a slew of great tunes including; “Seventy Times Seven”, “Okay I Believe You But My Tommy Gun Don’t” and “I Will Play My Game Beneath the Spin Light”.
The next band we caught was Rise Against of Chicago, touring their new record The Black Market which was released on July 15th in Canada. Rise Against really “Gave it All” (close enough right?) for fans who came in the masses from what seemed like nowhere to the bands stage, it was crazy how many die hard RA fans were in attendance singing and screaming along to every word uttered by front man Tim McIlrath.
The band really put out a memorable performance, including a surprise guest vocal appearance by hometown hero Wade MacNeil of Alexisonfire, Black Lungs, and more recently Gallows. The band, along with Wade surprisingly performed not Rise Against songs, two Ramones covers of “Teenage Lobotomy” and “Commando”. Fans undeniably got a full dose of the band, with performances of songs such as; “Ready to Fall”, “Give It All”, and “The Good Left Undone”.
The final band of the evening The Heavy Press witnessed was none other than the hometown boys, hailing from Mississauga, rock monsters, Billy Talent. With smoke billowing off the stage and superb lighting the band electrified the air with “Devil In a Midnight Mass” launching the steamroller ground pounding force of a gargantuan crowd jumping up and down off of their feet.
Billy Talent as well as fans could not have asked for a more perfect picturesque environment for the set, as singer Ben Kowalewicz said, “We could not be more happy to be playing at home.. Fuckin look at this, if only you could see it from up here, we’ve got the sun setting the right and the moon glowing to the left, and all of you in the middle!”.
The guys of Billy Talent did not disappoint, tearing up the stage as we all had hoped they would. Early on in the set Ben stopped once again to make a slightly politically coloured speech about Toronto’s most recent political break out celebrity Mayor Rob Ford, stating, “If all of you who are 18 or older could do me a favour, please do everything you can to make sure that homophobic, racist, fat fucking moron does not get re elected. We are all proud Ontarians, and we need to show the world who we actually are…”
Billy Talent did a great Job co-headlining the show, next to punk rock legends The Cure, and left fans with far less voice than they initially came with. Billy Talent’s set included such songs as; “The EX”, “River Below”, “Rusted From the Rain”, and “Try Honesty”.
Overall Riot Fest was a complete and utter muddy success for Day 1 at Downsview Park, with all the bands putting out great performances, and the weather co-operating, excellent food vendors and experiences galore to be had.
Full Riot Fest line-up (Saturday) included: ALMIGHTY TRIGGER HAPPY, SOMOS, THE BEACHES, LAURA STEVENSON, BRONCHO, PENTIMENTO, RUBBLEBUCKET, MOUNTIES, CITIZEN, BAD SUNS, TITLE FIGHT, MANCHESTER ORCHESTRA, CIRCA SURVIVE, NEW FOUND GLORY, GLASSJAW, ALKALINE TRIO, THE AFGHAN WHIGS, TAKING BACK SUNDAY, BRING ME THE HORIZON, AWOLNATION, PAUL WELLER, BRAND NEW, DEATH FROM ABOVE 1979, THE FLAMING LIPS, RISE AGAINST, BILLY TALENT, THE CURE.
Full Riot Fest live-up (Sunday) included: DEAD TIRED, THE BOTS, WOUNDS, SEAWAY, SAY YES, RESTORATIONS, THE HOTELIER, RADKEY, NOSTALGHIA, PUP, LEMURIA, LUCERO, CLUTCH, BUZZCOCKS, THURSTON MOORE, BOB MOULD, THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS, TOKYO POLICE CLUB, DIE ANTWOORD, DROPKICK MURPHYS, THE HEAD AND THE HEART, STARS, DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE, SOCIAL DISTORTION, THE NATIONAL, METRIC, CITY AND COLOUR.