UK Festival Gains Momentum on Canadian Soil

After gaining a successful following in the United Kingdom, the organizers of Bestival decided to branch out overseas, and bring a two-day music extravaganza to the Toronto Islands last month.

“There’s such a generosity of spirit and people really want to welcome us to the city,” says Bobby Lost, one of the DJs billed at Bestival Toronto.

“It’s that little sparkle of magic. It’s the love. It’s the care. It’s the declaration – the creation of the sites. You’ve got beautiful things. All the [quirks] and oddities really make what Bestival is.”

Although there were some lows of Bestival Toronto – most notably the angry weather on the first day and the brutal inconvenience of the ‘VIP’ ferry service – the concerts themselves proved to be rock solid.

Day One: Mud & Music

By the time things really started to kick off on Toronto Island, the rain had partially subsided, but a giant mud pit had already started to take shape in front of the main stage. These are the stomping grounds of dedicated festivalgoers – those who emerge early in large flocks and feel right at home in their natural habitat, rain or shine.

The first day’s acts did their best to lighten up the atmosphere and fight the dull overcast. Maybe it was coincidental, but the scattered showers became even more scattered as acts became bigger and better. As the night shows rolled in, the festival Gods must have been listening because it stopped raining. Talk about singing the blues away – literally.

Justin Martin’s take on house music and Nicole Moudaber’s mix of deep house and electronica resonated well with the audience.

Robert Delong drew in the first substantially large crowd of the day with his mesmerizing beats. Smiles could be seen on all sides of the crowd, as a diverse group of fans joined together to enjoy Delong’s original mix of musical genres from the main stage.

As the night barreled on, FLOSSTRADAMUS packed the Bacardi Big Top tent right to the corners. People were even standing outside the tent, just trying to catch a distant view of the FLOSS duo on stage. The group used an amazing display of lighting and high-energy songs to keep the crowd bumping throughout its outstanding performance.

Other notable performances from Friday included Justin Martin and Nicole Moudaber. Both musicians kept fans entranced for hours at the Bollywood stage. Justin Martin’s take on house music and Nicole Moudaber’s mix of deep house and electronica resonated well with the audience.

Florence + the Machine was Friday’s main stage headline act. Bringing in an eccentric crowd with people looking to get their rock on, Florence laid down the hammer with her trademark indie style and neo soul touch. The show drew in the biggest crowd of the day, as expected. However, for many hip-hop and bassline fans, day two was their domain.

Day Two: Sunshine & God’s Son

Saturday made for much nicer weather, as the clouds began to peel away and blue skies took over. The crowds were noticeably larger this day, presumably because it was Saturday. Stampedes of people arrived with each ferry, making the festival a lot more crammed. It was also the day to dress up differently because the weather allowed for it. Sombreros, leotards, movie masks and multi-coloured boas finally made their appearances without being a sight for sore eyes. The lavish people made an already bright day, even brighter.

With good vibes right from the start, it’s no wonder acts like Shamir played a wicked afternoon set to an appreciative audience. Using traditional electronica beats with a modern, indie pop style, Shamir’s set was solid, and so was the fan response.

Keys N Krates also laid down an impressive set. Using a lighting display on par with a Las Vegas nightclub and graphics on a big screen, the show was live even in between songs. The electronic trio put on a great show, incorporating many unorthodox sounds and some original styling into the songs. Many fans were also appreciative of the effort Keys N Krates put into performing.

But as good as the daytime performances were, anticipation was building for one nighttime headline act, which some festivalgoers said was the only reason they attended.

Surrounding the main stage, a crowd of people packed in early to get their best view of Nas. Getting there early was crucial to seeing the iconic New York rapper.

He emerged to a thunderous applause. As the lights lowered he opened with “The Don”, which was fitting because a ‘Don’ is essentially who he was at this festival.

After rapping “New York State of Mind” and “Life’s a Bitch”, both of which included original verses about Toronto, Nas increased the energy. Going into “The World Is Yours” he described his come up in the rap game and his success story.

When Nas came on stage, it was loud. By the time he left, it was even louder. He exited the stage with fans chanting for more.

Themes from older songs and newer ones alike seemed to shape his act. Grabbing plenty off Illmatic, the show seemed to weave Nas’ success from the ’90s with his more recent releases from 2012’s Life is Good. Nas also put an interesting spin on the hook of “If I Ruled The World” sans Lauryn Hill.

There was a very interactive feeling to this concert – almost as if you were a part of the performance. For example, his rendition of “It Ain’t Hard To Tell” had the audience handling some lines for him.

The show’s big bang didn’t come until “Hate Me Now” when Nas nearly doubled his volume and the iconic violin and keyboard backbeat kicked in. The crowd erupted.

It was a great way to cap off the festival. When Nas came on stage, it was loud. By the time he left, it was even louder. He exited the stage with fans chanting for more, either because it was the last show of the festival, or Nas’ concert was truly that inspiring.

Photos By. Adrian McKenzie // © Urbanology Magazine