Toronto Urban Roots Fest (TURF) took place between July 4-6 at Fort York and Garrison Commons. Although it is only in its second year running, the festival managed to bring in some hefty and eclectic acts. When you’re attending a festival, it’s hard not to get caught up in the dynamic atmosphere created between the artist and the crowd. Though some types of music cater to audience involvement more than others, a good performer can captivate the crowd regardless of genre.
Crowd rating: 4/5
Andrew Jackson Jihad is a folk-punk group with impassioned, quick-paced, funny, sad and sometimes horrific lyrics. What really left an impression were the scattered hardcore fans who sang along with all the words, clapped along, and raised their fists in the air. Towards the end of the set, I turned to see a teenaged-boy standing beside me with tears rolling down his face. That was how much he was moved by the band, and how passionate many others also felt.
Crowd Rating: 5/5
There is something so charming about Pokey LaFarge and his band hailing from St. Louis, Missouri. They look and feel like they come from a different era compete with guitars, saxophone, clarinet, trumpet, cello, harmonica and washboard. Foot-tapping and infectious American music rooted in swing, jazz, blues had the whole audience dancing along. He got the crowd to sing along to the chorus of “Close the Door” and the “Good Lord Giveth and Uncle Sam Taketh Away”. It was certainly one of the most memorable performances of the weekend.
Crowd Rating: 5/5
July Talk completely blew me away with their charismatic performance and playful boy/girl flirtatious violence between front-members Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay. At one point, after shoving their hands in each other’s faces and jostling against each other, Leah threw her high-heel at Peter. Peter has the gravelly voice of Tom Waits and Leah sounds like a purer version of Emily Haines. Together, backed with the bass and drums, July Talk created a rambunctious performance that got the crowd moving with them.
Crowd Rating: 2/5
Being a long-time fan of Jenny Lewis and her former band Rilo Kiley, I was really excited to see her live. However, although they sonically sounded fine and played both old and new songs (from Rilo Kiley days and Jenny Lewis’ upcoming album) the performance felt a bit lacklustre. Jenny seemed to be missing that sassiness and engaging stage-presence that shone through in past performances. The crowd was an even bigger disappointment though. Even though the set time was a bit earlier in the day (4:30 p.m.) the crowd was really subdued, hardly bobbing along or singing as I expected them to.
Crowd Rating: 5/5
This high-energy “gypsy-punk” band did not disappoint. Frontman Eugene Hütz was running around the stage in his butterfly pants swinging a bottle of red wine around and spilling its contents all over the crowd. The band has an eclectic style, mixing many styles of world music and featuring instruments like the violin, accordion, and marching bass drum. The crowd went nuts during the set — dancing, throwing their fists in the air, and shouting—especially during the performance of “Start Wearing Purple”. This group is a must-see if you ever get the chance.
Crowd Rating: 4/5
Jeff Tweedy, perhaps better known from the band Wilco, certainly had a lot of fans. His music and attitude are very mellow and he wryly acknowledged that by explaining, “We like to do a group shrug before we go on to get the energy-levels just right.” He joked a lot with the crowd and explained that he set out to make a solo record 18 years ago but had to grow a drummer first (his son Spencer joined him onstage to play the drums). Although some of the songs he played were new, he told the audience that “if you feel like singing, go ahead and make up words” and I’m sure the crowd happily obliged.