A best friend and Riot Fest were my twin reasons for visiting Toronto this weekend, and it was a perfect trip.
I spent most of Saturday and Sunday morning wandering the city with my best friend from college: we went to the beach, a bookstore, and out for amazing Thai food. Sunday afternoon I met up with another friend* at Riot Fest in (at?) Fort York. I skipped the first band but got there in time to see The Flatliners (above), a band I hadn’t heard of before I saw the lineup for this show, but I really like them now. They’re from Ontario and have apparently been around since 2002.
Next up was Best Coast. Objectively, they’re a good band; subjectively, I didn’t like them much. Next was Dinosaur Jr.:
The vocals were way down for some reason, so it was hard to hear the singer. I haven’t listened to much of their music until the past few days, and then only their most recent album (and they’ve been around since 1984), but their real fans seemed to enjoy the set. (I did too, but I only recognized a few songs.) Edited to add: Dinosaur Jr. played a great cover of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven.” (Thanks to Ben Apatoff for reminding me.) It must be a popular song to cover – I saw the Bouncing Souls do a version in the early 2000s. I loved it both times.
Here I should say that the timing of the show was absolutely precise: the set changes were quick, bands went on the minute they were scheduled to and left the stage on time (except The Replacements, who had an encore and went ten minutes over, but who on earth would complain about that?).
After Dinosaur Jr. was Rocket From the Crypt, all in matching outfits, and with some of the strangest banter I’ve ever heard. (“Who likes shrimp cocktail? Make some noise!”)
I’m sure there are better photos out there for those who are interested.
Another nice thing the concert organizers did was to have a water refill station just inside the entrance. You couldn’t bring unsealed bottles in, but you could refill water bottles there throughout the day. Since it was in the low 80s/high 70s and we were standing in the sun all afternoon, this was great.
After RFTC it was time for the first of the final three bands, The Weakerthans. This is a band I’ve been listening to ever since a friend put “Pamphleteer” (from Left and Leaving, 2000) on a mix for me my first year of college. Though they probably wouldn’t make my all-time top ten list, in a way they are my perfect band, because the lyrics are clever, funny, precise, touching and storylike, and audible over the rest of the music (which is also excellent and not to be downplayed). As soon as I got my ticket for this show, I bought their live album, Live at the Burton Cummings Theatre (2010) and listening to it repeatedly. (Along with many songs from Reconstruction Site, it includes “Civil Twilight,” “Tournament of Hearts,” and “Left and Leaving.)
Lead singer John Sampson came out first for a solo version of “One Great City!” (Later, he put on a Winnipeg hat. The way the stage was set up, the bands were facing directly into the sunset.)
I loved every minute of their set, and they played every song I hoped to hear (with the exception of “Civil Twilight”).
Next up, Iggy Pop and the Stooges. They did not disappoint. Iggy came out shirtless, with abs visible from fifty yards away (though probably too small in this photo to tell):
He sang with manic energy, though he wasn’t quite as insane as I was expecting after watching Henry Rollins talk about opening for him several years ago (video footage from Live At Luna Park, about 20 minutes and well worth it). I knew perhaps half of the songs; I really enjoyed “Search And Destroy” and “The Passenger.” Shockingly, the crowd was fairly calm; everyone was enjoying it, and there were mosh pits here and there, but altogether there was very little shoving or jostling; it was the most polite, considerate punk concert audience I’ve ever been in. (Thank you, Canada.)
After Mr. Pop, we made our way as far forward as we could (about 3-4 rows from the front) to wait for The Replacements to come on. We agreed that we wouldn’t quite believe it until we saw them up there, but they arrived on time and opened with “Takin a Ride.”
By then it was approaching full dark, and I must commend the lighting guy (or lighting lady, or lighting persons), because it was perfect: coordinated with the music but basically unobtrusive. Never once did they flash strobes at the audience or zoom spotlights wildly around or do anything clever with disco balls or star-shaped lights.
The high point of the set, for me, was in the second half when they played “Little Mascara” and “Left of the Dial” (from Tim) followed by “Alex Chilton” (from Pleased to Meet Me). Three of my favorites, in a row; I couldn’t have asked for better. I also liked “Favorite Thing,” “Color Me Impressed,” “Kiss Me On the Bus,” “Androgynous” (even though Paul Westerberg forgot the words), “I Will Dare,” “Merry Go Round,” “Can’t Hardly Wait,” and “Bastards of Young.”
Yet another Canadians-are-nice anecdote: about halfway through the set, I saw a security guard leaning over the barrier to pour sips from a bottle of water into people’s mouths. He was so careful, and the crowd was so non-jostle-y, that I don’t think any was spilled.
I have to do it: even though they didn’t play “Unsatisfied,” I think everyone there was satisfied, if not ecstatic. It was well worth the trip.
A better photo, videos, and the complete setlist can be found from a Pitchfork post that went up less than an hour after the show ended. Edited to add: Replacements write-ups can also be found at Rolling Stone and Spin (includes video).
*Edited to add (9/7/13): Read his (much better) write-up of the Replacements’ set here: The Replacements at Riot Fest.
All photos in this post licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.