Day two of Riot Fest brought a new type of energy. The Misfits wouldn’t take the mainstage until 9 pm but that didn’t stop fans from showing love through clothing and makeup. By the time JXDN took the stage, it was clear Misfit T-shirts were the trend of the day.
JXDN, singer and TikTok personality, has gathered quite a dedicated fanbase since his entry into music back in 2020. Droves of fans braved the heatwave and planted themselves at the mainstage long before his set time to be as close as possible to their current fav.
Luckily for them, Yungblud would take that same stage just hours after. With a new album released earlier that month, there was a new excitement to the performance. Of course, the UK rocker knows exactly how to give the crowd what they want. The staples, dancing, twirling, jumping and whatever else one could think of were most definitely present in Yungblud’s set. Amid the frenzy, he stopped the show to speak about the fight for women’s rights in Iran.
The Joy Formidable has a way of building a moment you crave until it’s over…and then crave it more. Their music has always been perfect for capturing a feeling and turning it into a moment to be transported back to with each listen. Their live shows are a way to immerse yourself in that place and cling to that collective feeling only they can create with their sound. The band has a way of commanding attention. The sound pulls you in, their stage antics begin energetically and build until they are thrashing, seemingly lost in their own sound along with fans.
Meanwhile, all the Canadians were piling into what felt like a secret Alexisonfire showcase. Of course, it wasn’t JUST Canadians, though the army of Pup T-shirts did add to that assumption. The St. Catherines band is more often seen playing venues like The Budweiser Stage, however, Riot Fest offered fans an intimate live show. Performing on one of the more modest stages gave an extra flicker of excitement. As the sun began to lower, the antics and trashing began. The band sang the sundown and fans moshed the evening into the night.
After spending 2020 locked away in his creative space, Saint Idiot (Tomáš Andel) emerges from the incense smoke and potted plants with a new single, “Bubblewrap.” We met this Edmonton-based musician in the first virtual offering of our Artist Entrepreneur program last summer. To celebrate his latest release, we caught up (virtually) to talk about creating in quarantine, personal growth and what to expect next.
Q: “BUBBLEWRAP” IS DESCRIBED AS A “SONG ABOUT HEALTHY ANGER, AND TRUST,” DOES THIS REPRESENT A PARTICULAR TIME IN YOUR LIFE?
Totally. I used to think I’m not an angry person for a lot of my life, as in, I didn’t express anger in outbursts or aggression, but instead, in this frozen, low-key anxiety that I wasn’t even aware was there; slow poison. I read “Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames” by the Buddhist monk Thích Nhất Hạnh (it peered up at me from a thrift book store shelf at a totally synchronous moment), and it floored me to realize that it’s not that I didn’t get angry, I just wasn’t acknowledging or working with my anger. At the risk of sounding dramatic, this realization completely changed my life, and I’ve been incomparably happier since I decided to let anger into my life to work with it.
Anger is also a form of trust. You have to really trust the other person to see you, hear you, and consider whatever issue you’re raising, otherwise it just becomes either a volatile explosion of bad energy that doesn’t help anyone or do anything, or this hidden-away festering wound. So how you broach your anger is a real test of character and a real test of boundaries. It’s OK to get angry, it’s unavoidable—what we do with that anger matters more.
Q: HOW DID 2020 CHANGE YOUR OUTLOOK AS A MUSICIAN? AND IF IT DID, HOW IS THAT REFLECTED IN YOUR MUSIC?
For me 2020 was about slowing down, indulging in being a little idealistic for the sake of creativity, and taking time to imagine a more harmonious world—especially since it seems like the popular imagination is so fascinated with dystopias lately. A huge component of my album (Alternate Utopias from a Nostalgic Future) was world-making. I think when it’s all out, it’ll be worth it to lie down with it and listen on headphones, because a lot of it was deliberately crafted to transport you.
I’m already at my happiest when I’m spending endless nights shaping sounds in the studio. I love experimenting with colors, texture, and space, which has always been my favorite part of making music.
I do like playing live, but given that it’s still unclear when we’ll be able to do that again, I’ve actually been more than happy to double-down on going deeper into being a “studio first” musician.
Q: TELL US ABOUT SOME OF THE CREATIVES INVOLVED WITH YOUR PROJECT
My friend Doug Parth from The Den and With Dogs helped dial in the orchestral arrangements, and it was then mixed and iterated by Hill Kourkoutis, who added additional production, and carved this gorgeous lifeline through what was probably more of an enthusiastic muddle at that point. Kristian Montano breathed the final magic into it—his masters really deepened all the musical space.
All along though, I’ve had so much help from everyone around me. Kelsey McMillan, who has done my photos also helped me workshop lyrics, and has often weighed in on the music and the art direction, as has my friend Holly Pickering aka sodium light. Working on my roommate Anthony Goertz’s documentary really humbled me and inspired a lot of the directions I went exploring after, plus he’s a wonderful, bright mind to bounce ideas off of. A very, very cool Twitter-famous visual artist did the album artwork (the only non-Canadian involved), but I wanna save that for later!
I share my work in progress songs all the time, so I really see the final thing as an accomplishment shared with a pretty huge group of pals. I feel pretty lucky to be surrounded by so many wonderful, receptive people.
Next month bands from all over the world will invade the city for four nights of nonstop music. We know the big names are some must see shows, but don’t let the smaller font fool you. There are some hidden gems you should not overlook. Here are a few of the smaller name you shouldn’t miss at CMW this year.
Making everyone fall in love with the addicting track, Johnny, which dips into the mind of a heartbroken girl in love (which we’ve all been), Basement Revolver has been quickly causing a stir around them. Their debut EP was a strong glimpse at what is to come from the band. Invoking deep emotion when you listen, they’re even more powerful live.
The Australian duo will once again grace CMW stages, but they’ve got a new look and sound. They’ll blow your mind with their oddly sensual set. Try not to fall in love with them as they turn each room into their own private jam session.
For three nights Japanese Breakfast will be climbing on amps and jumping around the Silver Dollar stage. Belting out an enticing rock, the band is a one of a kind gem.
A simple packaged band with an extraordinary sound. Making the long trek from Ireland, Bitch Falcon are a band you need to keep on your radar.
Dropping Dirty from their name didn’t alter anything that we loved about Frigs. They’re still the same grimy alt-rock you love to get wrapped up in. Droning guitar taken from the ’70s and a raspy voiced angel make these guys a must see show.
In a few short weeks one of Toronto’s best festivals will take over Fort York and unleash a stellar lineup. Death Cab for Cutie, James Bay and (for the nostalgic ones) Jimmy Eat World are just a few names drawing people in. But there are some amazing up and coming performers that should not be missed. Often times if the band is unknown, festival goers might not care as much if they arrive a little late for the set, or grab a beer during. Well, if you’re unsure of when to opt for a break, make certain that you don’t miss these names.
Wild Child make fans fall in love by telling them intimate stories in the form of songs. Vocalists Kelsey Wilson and Alexander Beggins beautifully confess their souls with homage to their Texas roots whittled into their unqiue campfire indie-pop.
Twistedly pop, The Belle Game find a way to create an energy that makes their music thrive. The Vancover-based band disappeared off the scene for a little while, but resurfaced with a shiny new sound, with the same elements that made them so unqiue before. Check out River, off of their debut album.
2016 marks the band’s 20th anniversary of their self-titled debut album. They are a throwback to angsty grunge palatable for adults, kind of like if Death Cab for Cutie was a little more rock. The 2015 release of the album Pacific Milk is a masterpiece and a must hear.
Listening to Marlon William’s is like taking a walk down an abandoned road. Walking forward, there is an impending feeling that something menacing is close behind. Capturing audiences with hunting stories with equal parts beauty and country, William’s is a performer not to miss.
Familiar to TURF and Toronto The Sadies are a sound all of their own; bluegrass, blues, psychedelic, garage rock, all these and more can be found in the talents various albums. Their stage presence is enticingly unique and each show is never quite like the last.
Would I go again? Never. Am I Glad I went? After a shower, I decided, yes.
They are one of the most hated, most loved and most confusing bands of all time. The Insane Clown Posse,Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope, are a hip hop duo one conundrum over a mind f*ck. On the core they’re two men who dress up as clowns and rap about murder, degrading women, anything obscene, but peel back a few layers and pull apart their lyrics and there, oddly enough, is a sense of positivity wrapped up in the world they’ve created.
After legal troubles surrounding the band finally being put to rest, the two embarked on a Canadian tour (now legally being allowed to cross boarders) with a Toronto stop. Like them or not, they are two fascinating to pass up, though many might disagree. After going to the show…well…there are five unavoidable things you’ll experience at an ICP show.
To be expected. The clown makeup isn’t just for the stage. If you don’t know ICP, well then quick lesson. With a large fanbase so dedicated to their music, an entire subculture called Juggalo’s have been created.Face paint, emo clothing and a bottle of Faygo are just a few of the identifiers some of the crowd decked themselves in.
Faygo the drink of Juggalo’s proclaimed by the band. If you set foot in one of their shows, be prepared to be COATED with this fizzy drink. If you’ve never come across the drink before, be assured by the end of the show you’ll know what it tastes like, feels like, smells like and how it messes up your hair to no end.– Gallons are shed at each show. Buckets of two-liters are kept at the band’s side, and restocked endlessly throughout the show. Don’t even think of hiding in the back, trust me, you’ll still get soaked.
3. Crowd Surfing
Entertainment is what the band thrives on. Before the band took the stage, before the bottles of Faygo were sprayed, “ICP” was chanted among the crowd. As the anticipation rose, so did the stage drivers. The lights were out and the chants rising, and the unspoken camaraderie brought person after person passed forward until ultimately kicked to the back by security.
4. All the hits in 2 mins or less
Over 27-years in the music business, millions of records sold and two gold records wracks up a lot of hits. There is a lot of material to get through with a venue cap , which might be an issue for most artists, but ICP simply powers through all their known material so cleanly it’s almost robotic. Rarely was a song played in it’s entirety, some even just the chorus. Though it’d be unfair to say it was over looked. Gimmicks, props, and even dancers were all brought on stage to make the most out of the small amount of time each hit before it melded into another.
5. A whole lot of manners
Trust me, this isn’t cheesy. I’ve been to a lot of shows. Too many to count or remember, I’ve seen fights, brawls, crying fans grasping between bodies to remove an extra inch of space between them and their artist. With clown makeup, black clothing and some questionable characters you’d expect manners to be foreign. Well, I have to say, these were some of the nicest folks I’d ever met. Clearly not wanting to be sprayed, people shielded me when they could (or my camera at least), made sure not to push me when a mosh pit broke out, while apologizing with a smile if they did.
At a certain point in the night, my shoes were covered in soda, sweat and who knows what else. Retreating to the back, I realized how easily people made a path for me in the packed room. Offering smiles and a clear way to the back as I passed.
“Do you want my seat? I’ve got a perfect view.” A women offered once I began shooting from the back, (sort of) safe from the soda spraying. I declined, her thoughtful offer. Looking around the room barley distinguishable faces were all smiling. Simply smiling as this odd sense of comfort presently roamed the room as the two clowns on stage roared on about murdering people with their best friend…an axe.
Most everyone stands at the main stage. The first day of Field Trip is nearly over. The sun goes down cooling the growing crowd. In well-worn muddy shoes with a camera around my neck, I shift my weight to my other foot. Glancing around at the familiar photographers waiting at the photo pit entrance, I smile, nod and laugh in conversation. Security gives the wave as July Talk is about to take the stage. The crowd is cheering the band’s name from behind the barrier to the left. To the right, in matching black outfits, five stone-faced men stand in a line at the stage.
A large man with yellow vest blocks the photo-pit entrance, checking wristbands as each photographer enters the pit. With shoulders back and my head held high as I hold my wristband high and step past, nothing new. My wristband had gotten me into the pits all day long…(so far).
“Hold it.” The man said. “What is this?” Ignoring personal space he grabs my wrist, turning the yellow band. He eyes it, and then stares at me.
“I’m here for the festival.” I say simply. He drops my arm and nods. I take my spot in the pit pretending that I didn’t have a mini-heart attack, because…well, I’m not saying I snuck into field trip but I’m not saying I didn’t. I’m just saying I was there. I won’t say how. But I will say thank you!
Back to security: now, let’s note, I wasn’t lying EXACTLY. I was there for the festival; it’s not my fault if he assumed I was in the pit shooting for the festival. That’s simply, a misunderstanding on his end.
Now, this wasn’t exactly easy (at first). There were a few things I had to learn, and learn quickly when it came to being somewhere I wasn’t technically allowed.
First, confidence is everything…EVERYTHING. If you can convince yourself you belong, everyone else will follow. In the beginning I was content with shooting from the crowd. People were polite, everyone respected my space and I had the equipment. After the first band, my limitations from shooting from the crowd were apparent. More people were coming and it wasn’t as easy to move. Not impossible, but more of a challenge.
Bully was up next and the pit was open and…fuck it. I went for the pit. The security guard was off to the side. Photographers entered the pit, with wristbands completely different than mine. With shoulders back and head held high I hold my dinky camera in front of me and walked past as if I was the most important person in the world. The few in knew in the pit waved to me. While slipping right under security waving my arm for him to get a glance at my wrist band, as if I’d done it a thousand times before. A few stares from security came my way.
Before anyone could give me another look, I realized it’s about who you know. No one is going to say anything to you when you walk up to the photo pit and are met with waves from the big guys.
“How’s it going?” a familiar voice called as I took a spot beside him.
“Great. How are you?” I asked.
“Great. Where’s that red wristband? “ He winked.
“Excuse me.” I heard hollered behind me. A mini heart attack ensued. I turned slightly, realizing he wasn’t talking to me but another media outlet that wasn’t granted pit access. The girl turned away, taking a place in the crowd.
A few more shows later, and a tummy full of fries. I headed back to the smaller stage, this time fewer were in the pit.
“Hey, where is your media pass?” The security guarded asked midway through Holy Fuck’s set. I lowered my camera, politely, yet gave off enough of an attitude for him to know he was disrupting me while I was working.
I could have panicked…but then he would have known I wasn’t supposed to be there. Point being. In this moment, you can really only stay calm and again, go back to point number one. Confidence is everything, but more importantly: be prepared to stick with your bullshit.
“I’m here for the festival.” I said confidently.
*He stares* His hands reaches toward the walkie-talkie strapped to his chest. He hit the button and before he could talk I interrupted. Now I don’t want to say lying helps, but twisting the hell out of truth sure does.
“Oh, I was given this. It has given me pit access all day. Is there a problem? Should I request a media pass with the front?” I say waving my bracelet.
Security guard stares, dropping his hand.
…Kinda. When in doubt…lie…lie…lie…if you believe it they will too.
“Do you need me to email someone?” I asked pulling out my phone.
“Oh, no no. You’re right. It’s cool. My mistake.” He said backing away.
“No problem.” I said raising my camera.
Throughout out the festival my debatable presence was only questioned a few times. The second day there were different security guards and I had to start from scratch.
The festival began, but was shut down and evacuated as soon as the flash flooding began. Arriving after the entire debacle once the festival reopened, I checked the security situation. Different faces. My heart-raced again, after the familiarity of yesterday’s guards were gone.
Yet again, Itook a chance.
Waiting at the pit with the other photographers we spoke of the evacuation and the cancelled shows. Things were behind and pushed back, but everyone was grateful the rest wasn’t cancelled.
DIIV was up and it was time to enter the pit.
“What’s this?” The guard asked me. With a frown he stared at my wristband. I could tell he was mentally recalling which bands were allowed in the pit. He had just sent two people away for not having the right ones. There was difference between me and them: our answers. When asked the same question they answered with “Umm…” and a panic in their eyes. Replaying everything I learned the day before, I let out an easy breath and smile.