Written by Nilabjo Banerjee & Tiana Feng

On Day 3 of TURF, we were again blessed with lovely dry weather. Mother Nature decided not to rain on us until hours after the festival was over. Familiar faces from the past two days could be seen throughout the crowd. There were people from out of province, out of country even, and for many this was the first music festival they had chosen to travel for in Toronto. We think they made the right choice.

Another familiar face was Jon Langford of the Waco Brothers. This time they were performing with the Burlington Welsh Male Chorus. It didn’t really matter that they had already played the festival a bunch of times. They were as enjoying to watch as the first time. Tunes included songs about throwing over the right wing government, Moby Dick the whale and taking your performance money and running. The audience could be seen singing, swaying around and having the time of their lives. It was totally understandable why they were booked to play 4 times.


Chris Carabba’s latest endeavour Twin Forks sang happier, wittier country tunes compared to his sadder Dashboard Confessional stuff. He did however do a rendition of Dashboard’s “Stolen” that appealed to the teenage hearts of everyone fan in the audience (including us). The song was dedicated to a couple he met at the festival that was getting married. Carabba proved quite the endearing guy with every utterance of stage banter including the offering of sunscreen to people. Even the female members of the band could be seen constantly smiling at Carabba.


July Talk has been blowing up quite a bit in the past few years. It was only a few years ago we saw them play some shitty club like the Hideout for the first time. Now they were playing the big East stage of TURF. Leah Fay sported a “Crack is Wack” tank and Peter Dreimanis was in a white dress shirt (per usual). Dreimanis appeared on stage slapping himself, which he did randomly throughout the set and Fay teased with her femininity. Their energy was frantic, yet it didn’t seem contrived. They truly enjoyed whatever it was they were doing up there. Fans reacted positively to everything, Fay playing limbo with the mic stand, a bra somehow ending up on stage. While other bands did encourage people to vote in the impending October election, only July Talk outwardly supported Olivia Chow. They also thanked Indie88 for their support and played the heavily rotated and demanded “Paper Girl”.

Over on the South Stage Noah Gunderson serenaded the hillside patrons with delicate boy girl harmonies. Gunderson’s voice resonated beautifully on this stage as he sang songs like “Caroline” and the more upbeat “Fire”. Pin drop silence was experienced as the crowd listened to the a Capella “Winter”.


To the West, Jenny Lewis was just as enchanting. Her clothes were colourful, like a “crazy clown” said Lewis. She alternated between her solo stuff and Rilo Kiley (her more known project).


Gogol Bordello switched things up a bit with their gypsy style punk rock tunes. Everybody on stage was fun and energetic as if playing characters on stage (though there were no hats whatsoever *wink wink).  Eugene Hutz wielded a bottled of wine which occasionally spilled itself into the photographers in the pit.


Back on the opposite side, Jeff Tweedy (of Wilco) playing solo material. His backing band included his 18 year old son Spencer on the drums. The crowd was intoxicated and hushed giving close attention to someone who’s still churning great stuff after 25 years. Couples could even be seen slow dancing.


For those looking for something a little more out there, or still riding the Gogol Bordello train there was Man Man on the South Stage. Dressed like a colourful wizard, Honus Honus captivated the audience with his crazy antics. Their rhythmic psychedelic music got even the security to smile. One even got his head rubbed.

Neutral Milk Hotel was undoubtedly what people were most eager to see the entire weekend. Even the VIP section had filled up by the time they were on and the air was scented by not-so-legal smoke. Magnum instructed the crowd to put away their phones and cameras (there were no photographers allowed in the pit) and the majority obeyed. The setlist drew from the earlier 2 LPS as well as 2011’s Ferris Wheel on Fire. It’s amazing how timeless NMH songs are considering On Avery Island was released in 1996. It sounded just as perfect in 2014.


Feeling a little bad that Hollerado might have no audience, we headed to the South Stage for a little bit to discover that it was just as busy with a different type of crowd. These were true Hollerado fans, including one that threw their band t-shirt at them. Menno Versteeg even joked about his girlfriend watching NMH during his set. Like a true pop-rock band they were backed by a light-show that was almost as impressive as Sam Roberts, silhouetting the members including Versteeg which jumped about as usual on stage. For an encore the band ended the festival in the most Canadian way ever, singing “O Canada.”

All in all, the Toronto Urban Roots Festival is definitely the weekend that doesn’t disappoint. From the music, the people, the atmosphere, the food, it’s perfect and the summer of 2015 can’t come soon enough.

For more photos see the slideshow below!