Riot Fest happens three successive weekends from the end of August to mid September in Denver, Chicago, and finally Toronto. The festivals boast top punk (and hip-hop) acts both current and retired. This past weekend fans of all ages rocked out in Downsview Park for the Canadian incarnation of the festival. We put together a list of the highlights and lowlights below.
1. Alexisonfire Reunion – Whether you support the decision or not, the Alexisonfire official reunion announcement was definitely a historical moment. “The Only Band Ever” played a tight, if not slightly reserved set, that had the crowd anything but. The set list was well rounded and they really played up the comeback, proclaiming early on in the set that the rumors would end that night.
2. Weezer double-header – Weezer really had fun playing both nights of Riot Fest and the crowd had an even better time experiencing it. The first night they played Pinkerton to a ready-and-damp group of festivalgoers followed by a Sunday play through to a familiar crowd of the band’s debut release, The Blue Album. Both nights Weezer played hits after the albums had been finished, and both nights thousands of people had their engines revved by The Weeze.
3. Food – The food quality and diversity was commendable. Just like the city, Riot Fest Toronto offered a variety of food trucks with everything from grilled cheese to chicken-on-a-stick! Considering it was festival food it was a bit pricey (to account for the percentage the organizers are allotted) but in most situations the portion sizes were more than fair.
4. Sunny Second Day – The insane amount of rain on the first day was a bummer to say the very least, however the gorgeous weather on the second day may have just, kind of, almost made up for it, maybe. It was hot and sunny, and for many avid music fans the perfect conclusion for their summer music festival seasons.
5. Crowd Surfing – Crowd surfing was rampant at Rockfest. Let’s put it this way, it would be easier to list the bands that did not crowd surf than the ones that did. The people wanted it, and they were ready. It helped that in comparison to other major festivals the grounds at Downsview are relatively small, channeling people towards the stages. To surf the crowd is the ultimate rockstar move.
1. Rain – Merely hours after the gates opened the heavens followed suit and unleashed a walloping of rain, soaking, short-circuiting and simultaneously ruining the moods of thousands of people. The rain and its aftermath, which will be addressed momentarily, directly affected anyone who attended Riot Fest Toronto. Band’s had their gear ruined and sets cut short, fans had their phones drowned and souls thoroughly soaked causing many people to leave.
2. Mud – If you missed the rain there was no dodging the swampy festival ground aftermath. The incredulous amount of water marinated and transformed the grassy hills to muddy deathtraps and everyone had their shoes caked. On the second day they combatted the still gelatin-esque terrain with sand and plywood, making an interesting concrete/quicksand consistency.
3. Navigation – On the first day hoards of music fans wandered aimlessly through Downsview Park’s vast system of trails using only their ears for navigation. When the festival grounds only take up a small corner of such a large area, signs facilitating the flow of foot traffic are imperative.
4. No video screens or seating areas – The festival did not have any video screens to make the shows easier to view for the people in the back or those more “vertically challenged” fans. The grounds were very hilly which made it easier to find elevated areas to watch from but even just one screen placed strategically between the two adjacent main stages would have enhanced the festival experience. Second, there were no seating areas! The ground was really the only option for taking a load off, but after the rain it felt like being on a waterbed that a porcupine had been sleeping on, and the subsequently soiled.
5. Schedule changes – For some unclear reason, a few set times got shuffled around last minute on the second day. Notably Jazz Cartier who got pushed back an hour. The Toronto rapper, visibly and verbally fed up with a summer full of Riot Fest performances ran his set long despite the stagehands trying to shut him down and promised the audience that they would all be “under one roof” again soon. Like Pacific, also a local act, was set to close out the Radicals Stage at 8:15pm, after Weezer and Wu Tang Clan had finished performing, but when they showed up they were informed they had been moved up to 7:30pm. The band still had a sizable audience rocking out, but the unannounced shift no doubt hurt their draw.
Overall it was a weekend full of great music so despite any hiccups or logistical oversights most in attendance left each day with that warm fuzzy feeling that can only be ignited by experiencing live music.
Photos taken from the Riot Fest Facebook page.