Of Monsters and Men, The Sadies, UB40, Chuck Ragan & The Camraderie, The Avett Brothers, Murder By Death, Built to Spill, Northcote, Desaparecidos, Restorations, Shakey Graves, Les Hôtesses d’Hilaire & Cold Specks @ Toronto Urban Roots Festival 9/18/2015

Last weekend, the third annual Toronto Urban Roots Festival took place at Garrison Commons. The festival had moved to September (it was previously held in July) partially because of the Pan Am games. Logistical things such as portapotties were all reserved for the games but the September move was quite effective. It wasn’t boiling hot and the attendance was the biggest the festival has had so far. Around 60% of the attendees were from outside Toronto.

Anyways, Friday began a little bit quieter as majority of people had to work (the only drawback to holding it in September). There were three stages. East, West and South. The first two were relatively close but the South was a more secluded area down a hill where more intimate performances took place.

My day began with the juxtaposition of Cold Specks performing her doom soul in the sunshine. I then trotted down the hill to catch the tail end of Moncton, New Brunswick’s Les Hôtesses d’Hilaire. They were a francophone band that knew how to party with the lead singer not afraid to show off in a silver dress muumuu type thing.

Back on the West side, Shakey Graves made the audience swoon to some Americana. Frontman Alejandro Rose-Garcia proved a great frontman fascinating the audiences with his suitcase bass drum thing, and energetically jumping around on stage. Down by the hill the Restorations pounded some of their post-hardcore tunes like “Misprint” and pop-punk closer “Val d’or.”

Mr. Connor Oberst’s not Bright Eyes band Desaparecidos took the main stage next shredding guitar licks leaving behind the more pleasant indie-pop world. They were actually much more interesting than Bright Eyes, inclusive of their strange political recordings that would play in between songs. I mean it is fitting for a band who’s setlist included a song called “$$$$” and “Survival of the Fittest / It’s a Jungle Out There”.

20+ year old band Built to Spill showed they still had what it takes at the West stage. They played various pieces through their vast catalogue including fan favourite “Carry the Zero” and “Distopian Dream Girl”.  Despite their 8 album repertoire they decided to close their set off with a cover of The Smiths “How Soon is Now?”

After that I decided to hang on the hill for a little bit as I caught folkster Northcote finishing up his set. Bloomington, Indiana’s Murder By Death followed with their whiskey-infused folk/country and a crowd of loyal fans who sang the tunes back at them.

The Avett Brothers were a perfect fit for the festival but it wasn’t until this year that the North Carolina band could work it into their schedule. Beginning with “Satan Pulls the Strings” the band excited the crowd with their big-band sounding Americana which included violin and cello. All the members on stage were fully of energy and looked happy to be there. They ended delicately with “I and Love and You”.

Over by the hill a party was going down with Chuck Ragan & the Camraderie and then I quickly ran over to UB40 on the West stage. Every year during TURF, Collective Concerts has the habit of booking an act that makes you go “What the hell they are still alive?” and UB40 was definitely one of those bands. In fact there are actually two living states of UB40. One with Ali Campbell, Astro and Mickey Virtue and one without them. In fact I tagged the wrong UB40 on twitter and got a few passive aggressive messages from the band telling me to delete the tweet. In fact whoever handles their Twitter just spends their time correcting people most of the time. Look, whoever is out there performing “Red Red Wine” is the proper UB40 and that will always be Ali to me.

The big headliner of the night was Iceland’s Of Monsters and Men who were seemingly out of place as a radio-pop act but at the same time ideal for this festival as they were a folk-pop band after all. Diehard fans sung along to everything from the radio hits “King and Lionheart” to the final encore of “We Sink”.

Day 1 of TURF was already proving to be a day where music fans can just enjoy music.