by Tiana Feng

The Toronto Urban Roots Festival 7/4/2014

This past weekend, the second annual Toronto Urban Roots Festival took over Fort York/Garrison Commons for three days. In their inaugural year, TURF had established itself as the music festival in Toronto with the best vibes and this year it maintained that standard. It also got much bigger with the addition of a third, south stage that sat comfortably at the bottom of a hill. Performances at the East and West stage were changed to not overlap each other so that patrons could grab some delicious food and snacks in between sets.

Willie Nile Band @ Toronto Urban Roots Festival 7/4/2014
This year, I had to work so I regretfully missed a lot of the early afternoon sets on Friday. I would’ve loved to catch The Weeks, Andrew Bird, Lucius and Born Ruffians. I arrived just in time for the Willie Nile Band, who’s roots rock got me grooving and in the mood of the festival. The thing about TURF is that it’s not music you may necessarily be into, but if you give it a chance you will have the best weekend of your life. It’s definitely not a festival to come listen to buzz bands, it’s one where you listen to people’s favourite bands.

Gary Clark Jr. @ Toronto Urban Roots Festival 7/4/2014
Next up I caught Gary Clark Jr. on the East stage. The stage itself was taller than my 6’2″ friend so shooting it was a bit awkward but the nice thing was that as a patron, you could watch it far back in the field while you were in line at the icecream truck. Anyways, Gary Clark Jr. played like a veteran much older than the 30 year old grammy winner he is. His deep voice and bluesy guitar riffs put the audience in an almost-trance as they were amazed by the current king of Austin Blues.

The Waco Brothers @ The Toronto Urban Roots Festival 7/4/2014
The Waco Brothers played the festival four times. They were slotted for each of the three days, as well as a club show. They’re a Collective Concerts favourite and even played at Jeff’s Cohen wedding. In case you are unaware, they are made up of Jon Langford (Mekons, Pine Valley Cosmonauts), Joe Camarillo, Alan Doughty (Jesus Jones), Deano (Dollar Store, Wreck) and Tracy Dear (World’s Greatest Living Englishman). Country music isn’t even my thing but I whole-heartedly enjoyed myself.

Local Natives @ Toronto Urban Roots Festival 7/4/2014
Trekking all the way to the West Stage, Local Natives was my next stop. They played a calming set of their signature indie-pop which included a cover of Talking Heads’ “Warning Sign”.

Deer Tick @ Toronto Urban Roots Festival 7/4/2014
I ran over to Deer Tick on the South stage to be greeted by fans (I think) wearing “Fuck Deer Tick” t-shirts and Mexican masks. John McCauley serenaded the audience with their non-serious tunes like “Let’s All Go To The Bar” and “Trash”.

Beirut @ Toronto Urban Roots Festival 7/4/2014
As the sun started to set, the crowd eagerly anticipated Beirut’s set. They provided harmonious tunes of ukelele, trumpets, tubas like a musical backdrop of an evening winding down. Well, that is if you stayed for the entire set.

Black Joe Lewis @ Toronto Urban Roots Festival 7/4/2014
I chose to keep the energy alive for a little bit longer and ran to the south stage where Black Joe Lewis got his funk and soul on. Even Gary Clark Jr could be spotted watching Lewis in between getting stopped by fans for photos.

The first day of TURF was already very enjoyable but it only got better as the weekend went on.

For more photos of Day 1 at TURF check out the slideshow below: