The sun was out and shining again on Day Two of Bestival Toronto (click here for my recap of Day One).
Setting the perfect environment for another day of Bestival’s insane mix of events and activities. Earlier in the day, one could make their way over to the Cosmic Commune and find some tranquility in the Shamanic Soundbath, or enjoy a mellow set of dance music at the Balearic Bar, not to mention some nice early day programming on one of the 3 larger stages.
Blajk got the Main Stage going with a pleasantly upbeat set of pop-addled R&B, while Toronto’s Weston and Teston got things going a bit louder underneath The Big Top. Regardless of your energy level, there was something for you to do early in the day. While it wasn’t quite as hot as Day One, the conditions were still ideal for a nice, long day of music and eclectic activities.
The day’s mix of music was organized much like the first day, with The Big Top and Bollywood stages serving as havens for electronic music lovers, and the Main Stage being the place to go for some full-band performances. While the Main Stage was essentially the only one utilizing live instruments (except the Cosmic Communes small performances), it didn’t seem to segregate the crowds at all; most attendees seemed to be enjoying the music at all stages equally. If you needed a break from the dance parties located at the electronic stages, you could grab a bite to eat and lounge over at the Balearic Bar, or check out one of the range of live sets happening at the Main Stage.
Or if you just wanted another outlet to release some energy, you could hop on their giant multi person drum installation and bang away at some pots and pans for a bit. If you’re not liking any of the stages too much, why not just make your own music, eh?
Since an earlier curfew caused Sunday’s events to end at 10pm, there wasn’t quite as much to see on Day 2. However, there were still some fantastic performances. Woodbine Park may not be as fancy a location as Toronto Island, but it proved to be a perfect spot for Bestival, with very little sound bleed to complain about, a nice amount of shade, and of course things to do everywhere you look.
Although Daughter probably take the prize for the least movement during a set, but it didn’t take away from how mesmerizing they were on stage. It’s an interesting contrast to Grimes, whose live sets have energy through the roof, and played the same stage shortly afterwards. But her presence didn’t seem to faze this trio. They somberly took the stage and calmly delivered a crisp set of lackadaisical indie folk jams. They may not have had people howling, but was set the perfect mood by the Main Stage.
While they did keep their energy as a decidedly low-level, they seemed very thankful to be playing the biggest stage on such a great day in Toronto. Though Daughter are likely used to playing some of the darker, smaller rooms in big cities, they’re definitely not new to playing festival stages, and they soundtracked the Main Stage beautifully.
Hopping on stage fairly early in the day, Chris De Minico’s set was certainly danceable, but it was equally hypnotic. Playing a nice mix of mellow, deep house, hip hop and more in a similar vein to his pal Kaytranada, Hrmxny’s set was ideal for a sunny Sunday afternoon. Given how well he did with getting hips shaking this early on in the day, it makes you wonder how he could have fared with a later set time. Not only did this prove an ideal choice to get some bodies moving early on in the day, but it’s another sign a job well done by Bestival’s programmers. Throughout the festival,they did a good job mixing local artists with ones from the UK.
Claire Boucher’s been a bit busy recently. After releasing her newest LP Art Angels late last year, she’s toured pretty relentlessly. Indeed, Sunday’s set at Bestival was her first show back in the Great White North in some time. Armed with three backup dancers/musicians, Grimes skipped out onto stage and wasted no time getting down to business. After getting her set started with some newer material like “Flesh Without Blood,” the audience’s energy level was likely the highest it had been all day. Without taking much more than 20 seconds to say something to the audience between songs, Grimes sped through her songs like a regimented workout. Not only does she still sound 100 per cent point while running across the stage, but it’s obvious she loves performing more than anything else. Passion, hard work and talent have all gotten Grimes this far, and it’s great to see all three are still alive and visible in her live music.
Formerly recording and performing under the name Saint Pepsi, Skylar Spence took to the Big Top on Sunday afternoon, providing a healthy dose of sugary, poppy dance tunes. Dancing along with a giant grin on his face the entire set, Skylar was having a great time; if only he didn’t have to stay at those decks or he likely would have taken to the floor himself. Sporting a great mix of his own compositions and some fun remixes, Spence ended the set by bringing out a microphone and delivering a great vocal performance before Classixx took over. It would’ve been nice to hear him to perform some more of his own pieces, but it also wouldn’t have worked with the Big Top’s stage template of alternating DJ’s. Regardless, Spence did a great job of getting everyone moving under the Big Top before Classixx came up to sport his more retrospective dance mix.
While Classixx may have been one of the least attended sets at the festival (Grimes played at the same time), those who checked him out under the Big Top found a consistently great mix of disco and pop-inspired dance. Interestingly, Classixx was the only artist on the day’s bill strictly doing a DJ Set. And Classixx played a solid mix of tasty and danceable tunes, which made sure bodies didn’t stop moving. I can’t say I know too much of what was being played during his eclectic and immersive set, but there was definitely some Todd Terje in there, and that stuff always gets me moving.
While I wasn’t able to catch too much of this, what I did manage to see of Lee Foss’ 2-hour set at the Bollywood stage was something else. Even with a giant mass of attendees still over at the Main Stage for Grimes, a lot of people made their way to the Bollywood Stage for one of the biggest sweatiest dance parties of the weekend. Dropping a powerful mix of techno, acid house and deep house, he did a stellar job of keeping the vibes high, since the people watching didn’t stop moving. Perhaps it’s the stage’s proximity to the dress-up tent, but the most intriguing mix of costumes were always at the Bollywood stage.
After only 2 years of being in Toronto, Bestival is quickly making a name for itself. There are countless things to keep you occupied aside from the great music offered. If you found yourself here, saying “dude, this is boring”, then you may just be allergic to fun. I’m already starting to anticipate what next year might be like, but for now I’ll look back on this weekend thinking that Bestival knows how to do a festival the right way.
Of course it helps that the weather was incredible and very few other problems arose, at least none that were too obvious. Attendees had a difficult time getting back to their respective homes after the events on Saturday due to subway closures, but it was still nothing compared to the mass of people trying to get off of Toronto Island last year. All in all, I’d say that Bestival did one hell of a job in 2016. I’m pumped to see where they take it next year.