Edgefest has been a live music institution in Toronto for nearly 30 years, featuring hundreds of bands and entertaining hundreds of thousands of fans. This year Edgefest 1 featured a fantastic series of bands.
The emerging artists stage featured new artists regularly heard on The Edge. JJ and The Pillars is a folk rock band originating from nearby Peterborough, Ontario. They’ve been impressing local and international fans, and gained notoriety for recently winning The Edge Next Big Thing (out of nearly 700 Canadian bands). They proved why they deserved the win by playing fantastic songs including “The Bench” and they had the crowd howling along to “The Wolf”. As a local, lead singer JJ Thompson has been to ten Edgefests in his 25 years. I had a change to interview him after their set and he shared his excitement about making the stage. “Last year I was on the other side of the barrier. I dreamed of playing the festival, but I never imagined it would happen so soon. It’s unreal playing among the likes of Milky Chance and hundreds of other amazing Edgefest bands over the years.”
The Franklin Electric played next, demonstrating their alternative pop-folk style by opening with a trumpet solo by lead singer Jon Matte. The Montreal-based band formed in 2012 and quickly won a Nashville songwriting competition for the song “Old Piano”. Their beautifully written songs feature regret and hope, with a crowd favourite being “This is How I Let You Down”. Matte really connected with his fans, even singing his last song in the crowd, showing why the band has been rapidly growing a loyal fan base. They’re back in the studio now, so we can look forward to their next album to follow the success some favourite songs like “Unsatisfied”.
Up next were The Zolas, an indie rock band from Vancouver who brought a different, upbeat mood to the lineup. Described in a recent interview as “bouncy and sexy at the same time”, the band features a truly eclectic mix of styles. The Zolas make fun, catchy and almost addictive music that you can dance to without going anywhere near being annoying. Lead singer Zachary Gray kept the crowd singing along to a lively rendition of “Ancient Mars”.
The main stage opened up to the X-Ambassadors singing “Put You Back Together” with their wildly energetic mix of rock and saxophone. Despite the fact that they just put out their first full-length album less than a month ago, the band has been together since 2009 proven by their very strong stage presence. Imagine Dragons heard an acoustic version of “Unconsolable” on a local radio station and asked Interscope to sign the band as soon as possible. If you think their music sounded familiar, it might be because “Jungle” is featured in a trailer for the video game Battlefield: Hardline and the Beats By Dre 2014 World Cup commercial “The Game Before The Game”. It’s also been featured in Orange Is the New Black, Horrible Bosses 2, Pitch Perfect 2, MTV’s Teen Wolf, and at Detroit Lions games. Not bad for a band who only released their first full album 3 weeks ago.
Elle King was up next with her incredibly powerful voice. She has a style that mixes country, soul, rock and blues in a way that really works. She plays the banjo and guitar and had the crowd dancing to “Ex’s & Oh’s”, the lead single off her debut album. She released another album, Love Stuff just this past February. Elle sang a cover of her all time favorite song “Oh Darling” by The Beatles, effortlessly filling the air with a faultless voice full of passion. Her advice to the crowd was “The only times to have are good times. It’s a choice to stay positive. I haven’t made that choice but I hear it’s great. Be yourself and people will love you.”
Finally, Milky Chance returned to Toronto as headliner after a recent show at the Phoenix in April. The German folk duo has a unique sound with reggae and electronic influences. They are talented musicians who have taken North America by storm after only recording their first album two years ago.
Their stage presence was calm and unassuming, their performance was a subtle blend of melancholy and danceability. “Stolen Dance” was the duo’s first song originally introduced on YouTube that has gained incredible airtime in Canada, reaching # 7 on the Canada Hot 100. The show seemed to be closing “Stolen Dance” but the band quickly came back for 3 more songs, finally ending with “Down by the River”. They were joined by a harmonica-wielding, guitarist who added an awesome funky country style that thrilled the crowd, ensuring not a single person was standing still.
The longest running rock show in Canada proved it is one of the best festivals in the industry. Edgefest 1 was a wild success.