– By Amrit Sandhu
Over two days, with more than 40 artists and bands scheduled, Riot Fest was sure a fire way to end the summer with a bang! Being a relatively new festival to Toronto, Riot Fest brought out the big guns this year. Covering over four different stages: The Riot Stage, The Rock Stage, The Radical Stage and The Roots Stage, Riot Fest dominated the entirety of Downsview Park. People from all walks of life, young and old, came out to have a fantastic time. Although there was a ton of mud, it did not stop the festival goers from experiencing their favourite bands live. Every single person who entered through those gates, was here to have fun, no matter the weather!
I made it into the grounds just as Die Mannequin was about to go on. I was looking forward to hearing Do It or Die as well as Sucker Punch and rocking out with Care Failure. All of which I got to check off my list. An epically good time.
As the rain started to pour, I made my way towards shelter beside the Rock Stage. The rain was pelting down on the audience and sadly, hotly anticipated band Gwar, has to cancel their set. Their equipment got damaged due to the rain, however that did not stop them from spraying “blood” onto their fans. Over on the Riot Stage, Moneen still played despite the rain.
Eagles of Death Metal were up next. Jesse Hughes refused to be told that he could not play due to the extreme weather. Jesse even stated “They tried to come on my bus and tell me I couldn’t play. You know what I told them…” Not even torrential rain could stop their performance. Although their set was cut short, Eagles of Death Metal played four wicked songs to their soaking, dedicated fans.
After the rain had subsided, it was time for Cancer Bats. They covered one of my favourite tracks of all time, Sabotage by Beastie Boys. It was absolutely what people needed to hear after the rain and it got people moshing and singing along. Even the EMT’s and security guards were singing along. Although the ground was muddy, to the point where boots were getting stuck in the mud, that did not deter people at all – the show must go on!!
Echo & The Bunnymen wowed the crowds with favourites like, Broke My Neck and The Killing Moon, which lead singer Ian McCulloch triumphantly called, “the best song ever written.”
Against Me were simply amazing to watch and see live. Lead singer, Laura Jane Grace, talked about acceptance and truly what punk was about. She captivated the audience and was one of the highlights of that day. They played rousing tunes to warm everyone up like Take Aim, Pints of Guinness Make You Strong and closed their set with Teenage Anarchist, leaving the festival goers wanting more.
Hellzapoppin Circus Sideshow was nuts. I quickly went in to take a peek and saw a woman swallowing a sword. They had all sorts of other performances and it gave the crowds something a little different to see if they felt like taking a break from the music. One of my top things to see at Riot Fest.
The crowds were only getting larger and larger, so I decided to grab something to eat before Coheed and Cambria, Motörhead and The Dirty Nil. With the amount of food trucks and services available, there was a little bit of everything for everyone.
Weezer was next and was playing on the Roots Stage. They played the entire “Pinkerton” album! It was absolutely incredible to experience for long time Weezer fans and newbies alike. Everyone in Downsview Park seemed to sing along to Island In The Sun and you could not help but have a smile on your face. After Weezer were finished, you could feel the anticipation engulfed the air at Downsview Park as Alexisonfire’s team began to set the stage for their entrance. People had been waiting the whole day; through rain, cold and mud, for this very moment…
Alexisonfire fans were eager to see the legendary band live. Having only seven dates on this mini tour, one of which was cancelled, made this last performance something extremely important to everyone who was there. Even before the band took the stage, the crowd started singing “O Canada” to welcome these hometown heroes. You knew this was going to be one for the books. George stated as they entered, “The sky has parted for Alexisonfire” and it was true. It seemed like the stars had aligned to make this performance absolutely unreal.
They played pretty much everything everyone wanted to hear, from Accidents, Boiled Frog, The Northern, Heading For The Sun, We Are The Sound, to my favourite This Could Be Anywhere In The World. The whole crowd erupted in cheers as the show came to a close. I have never heard Downsview Park as loud as they were during Alexisonfire’s set! With Day 1 being over and having the biggest smile on my face I left to go home and prepare for Day 2.
I just got into Downsview Park on Day 2 just as Andew W.K. was taking the stage. He said “If you came to party, let’s go!” and the crowd was indeed ready to party. Playing It’s Time to Party, We Party, I Get Wet and, the ultimate party song, Party Hard got the crowd all riled up. Giving away gifts while singing Davey Boy is bearing gifts, Andrew W.K. threw t-shirts and a ton of other stuff into the audience. What an awesome start to day two of Riot Fest. Andrew W.K., my hat goes off to you, you were wicked!
The Airborne Toxic Event wowed the crowd with their impressive performance. I swooned over the music. It was mellow but fit right into Riot Fest. It soothed your soul and the lyrics resonated with the surroundings.
Before could scream for more it was time for Frank Turner. And this Englishman did not disappoint. Frank Turner was amazingly humble considering his wealth of talent. That resonated when he was talking to the audience in between songs. He played Recovery and everyone joined in and sung. He told the audience that the “Blue Album” and “Out Comes The Wolves” were the first albums he ever bought and that Rancid had saved his life, so he dedicated his last song to them.
Bleachers were on next. Bleachers started their set with Like A River Runs and from there on out, I was mesmerised throughout the rest of their set. Towards the end, he introduced his band and gave the audience a challenge, make as much noise as you can and we will play and sing as loud as we can. It worked and it was perfect.
Rancid was up next and they were to play “…And Out Come The Wolves”, the entire album. I was so excited to hear Ruby Soho and Time Bomb. People were crowd surfing everywhere. I absolutely loved their set. I sang at the top of my lungs during Fall Back Down and kept dancing along with everyone else until the very end.
Weezer were about to start and the crowd was growing. When they came on stage, everyone had their “W” hands high up in the air. This time, they were going to play the entire “Blue” album. They played hit after hit from this record and had thousands of people singing along to the classics Undone (The Sweater Song) and Say It Ain’t So. They ended their stunning and heartfelt performance with Beverly Hills to a smiling, grateful crowd. It was a historically nostalgic 2 days for any die hard Weezer fan. Hearing all those songs live is something we’ll all remember forever.
Fans who did not catch the second Weezer show were treating to an energetic and enigmatic set from Wu Tag Clan. They gave it their all and the crowd was right there with them. They chatted with the audience like they were long-time friends and made everyone feel like a part of the show.
The Prodigy was here to close out this incredible weekend with a mind blowing show. Their visuals were amazing and it looked like a proper party here in a muddy Downsview Park. The band kept enticing the crowd and calling out “Where are all my warriors at?!” I was dancing until the last second and people all around me seemed to be having the time of their life. The Prodigy, thank you so much for that set, thank you for sending us off with the most amazing feeling and most importantly, thank you for keeping everyone dancing.
Riot Fest, you have delivered once again. I cannot wait until next year. I’m already in withdrawal and the countdown has started. Just 361 days left until the return of Riot Fest!