The inaugural Toronto Urban Roots Festival (TURF) kicked off last night at Fort York and yours truly was
Before we get into the music, I must say that the layout and organization of the venue is marvelous. Check in was simple, with the clever move of having a dedicated booth for getting your 19+ wristband keeping the queue down. The two stages are separated by the food trucks, and other vendors. The distance is manageable, making it easy to hop back and forth. Things seemed to move mostly on schedule as well.
East coast veteran rocker Joel Plaskett was just taking the stage as I arrived. He didn't disappoint, with a set that was ideal for a festival setting. He rocked with great tunes like "True Patriot Love" and "Deny, Deny, Deny", but slowed things down when appropriate. Kick in some solid stage banter (which is always welcome) and you've got a great outdoor rock n' roll experience.
The headliner for the evening were the adorable duo of She & Him. Surprisingly, their cutesy sound worked in the outdoor setting. I had "This Is Not A Test" running through my head for the entire trip home...and for about an hour as I tried to fall asleep.
The backing band was a little overwhelming though. Including Ward & Deschanel, and their back-up singers, the number of bodies on the stage totaled eight, which is much more than necessary for their type of music.
With the backing singers joining her, Deschanel performed a rendition of the classic "Unchained Melody". The results had you wondering just how many production tricks were used on the records, as her vocals limitations were on full display. It was a pitchy night for her in general.
While the first night of TURF didn't yield any eureka moments, but it was a nice, relaxed way to ease oneself into the festival mood for the weekend.
Tonight's line-up features The Arkells, Justin Townes Earle, Fitz & the Tantrums, and JD McPherson.