Last weekend saw the sophomore edition of the Toronto Urban Roots Festival hit the grounds of Fort York. Like last year, we braved dragging our daughter along with us for two of the three day show. The following is her thoughts mixed with mine.
In terms of facilities, there were noticeable improvements in the washroom situation, which needs to be pointed out and praised. The Kids' Zone is a nice touch, especially with the face painting, but parents need to take more responsibility for their children there (lots of big kids running amok without supervision). A troika of childless manic pixie dreamgirls hanging around the kids was a bit creepy too.
A third stage was also added. The slope of the hill was used to create a 'natural ampitheatre'. The stage was really shoehorned in which made it treacherous for folks with strollers (though we managed with only one wipeout), and I spotted at least one wheelchair-bound festival-goer who could not make his way to watch the show there. I applaud the concept, but it needs some refinement.
Kicking off Saturday at the aforementioned South Stage was Nashville singer Caitlin Rose. She had a lively and fun set which fit perfectly with the sunny afternoon. She was a rare performer who got the thumbs up from every member of the family.
Molly's verdict: There was some dancing, but headphones were required.
New Country Rehab
We managed to catch the end of this Canadian band's set. I knew nothing about them going in, but the banjo twang was working for me.
Molly's verdict: 'Daddy I'm hungry. Are we having a picnic?"
Shovels & Rope
Adding some blues rock to the roots formula, the band really pounded out some impressively powerful songs.
Molly's verdict: indifference
Always great on record, this is the second straight show where I was disappointed by the ramshackle live performance. Now, volume issues seemed to plague the set, adding to the inconsistency. They did have a great song selection (they started with "Birthday Boy", which had been stuck in my head as I tried to sleep the night before), but overall I can't envision myself making the effort to see them yet again.
Molly's verdict: "I want to play" (marching to Kids' Zone)
I was lucky enough to catch the Violent Femmes the first time around, but I was nonetheless thrilled by their inclusion on the bill. They didn't disappoint as they ran through their entire debut album, plus some other favorites. In particular, I had a blast hearing "I Held Her In My Arms", which has been a long-held favorite of mine.
Molly verdict: "I want dessert. May I have a Popsicle please"
We caught only a bit of Gaslight Anthem as we made our way to the exit (and someone's bedtime). However, they had a powerful sound that fits perfectly with an outdoor festival.
Molly's verdict: "I wanna go home"
July Talk were already playing when we arrived and tried to settle in on Sunday. I wasn't paying a great deal of attention, but what I did catch sounded lively and engaging.
Molly's verdict: "Are we back at the concert?"
From the song selection it's pretty obvious that even Jenny Lewis recognizes that her Rilo Kiley material is much stronger than her solo stuff. At least she made it to the stage on time.
Molly's verdict: "Daddy I like this song"
The frenzied Gypsy Punk of Gogol Bordello made for a huge (but welcome) change of pace. Going in I was concerned that the songs would all sound the same live and therefore get tedious. That was far from the case as they turned TURF into what felt like a Russian national holiday celebration.
Molly's verdict: "Can I have french fries? And another Popsicle"
Seeing Jeff Tweedy play solo (with a band) just served to reinforce that I can really take or leave the last dozen or so years of Wilco's career. Even I found myself bored by the performance.
Molly's verdict: "I'm done. Time to go home"
In all it was a fun time, and the little one can't wait to tell all her friends at daycare about it.