I’ve always found great pleasure in discovering new music, whether that’s via community radio, the WWW, or especially live performances.
This past weekend (August 11/12) I hopped on my bike, rode to the ferry docks, and caught the Hanlan’s Point ferry over to the Toronto Island’s where I submerged myself in new music over the course of two days at the second annual ALL CAPS! Island Festival, presented by Wavelength Music Arts Project.
To say that it’s as close to a mini version of Woodstock as one could experience in 2012 would not be that farfetched, except that the crowd was around 200 not 200,000. I went specifically for the headliners on each day, Toronto/Montreal’s YAMANTAKA // SONIC TITAN (YST)” on Saturday, and Brooklyn’s A Place To Bury Strangers on the Sunday. These two acts alone would make it worth the admission price of $30.00 for the entire weekend, let alone the experience of seeing them in such an intimate and surreal environment.
Programming began each day at the symbolic designated time of 4:20pm and continued until just around 11:00pm, in time to hopefully catch the last ferry back to the mainland. The weather was looking a bit unsettled, and the white caps of Lake Ontario provided an awesome backdrop to what was to be the beginning of something special. Performances were moved inside for safety reasons, and the line-up was a nice combination of both local and out of town acts. Two bands that quickly won me over were Wet Hair (Iowa) and Tyvek (Detroit), who were on the tail end of a North American tour they were doing together. This was minimalist indie rock at its hardest and finest. To follow this up with Toronto’s incredibly talented Choir! Choir! Choir!, this time consisting of about 50 members, took many in the crowd by surprise. It wasn’t long before the sweaty mass was singing along to eighties classics like “Only You”, “Fire” and Erasure’s “A Little Respect”.
Next up was another Toronto power force, Maylee Todd. This young lady kept the energy level pumped with her strong vocals accompanied by a full band of talented musicians kicking out a funky soul inspired beat. Headliners YST were ready to keep the momentum flowing when all the sound system power went out. While the sound technicians worked to quickly get things up and running again, drummer Alaska B provided the entertainment with the only instrument still in operation. The electricity was one again ignited, and it seemed a bolt was delivered right through every band member as well. Ruby Kato and Ange Loft blew everyone away with their haunting vocals and stage antics, while Brendan Swanson handled the keys like he was born with them in hand. No wonder Pitchfork was quick to pick up on this act, and you should too!
I left the Island that night with a euphoric feeling, and wondering how day two could possibly top this experience. Returning on the Sunday I saw many of the same smiling faces on the grounds, including security, volunteers, and staff. The weather was somewhat less erratic today, so the organizes decided to program some acts on the outdoor stage and some indoors. My day began with Young Mother and Absolutely Free, two indie outfits from Toronto that once again impressed me immensely with their raw minimal analogue sounds. Canadian Winter and OG Melody both performed outdoors and brought forth some lo-fi hip hop/MC jams from beneath the cover of green leaves. Then it was back inside for the last two acts of the night with Toronto’s hard working Lioness, fronted by vocalist Vanessa Fischer, getting the crowd jumping. Recently back on the scene, this punk-funk quartet packs a wallop. Finally, the emergence of A Place To Bury Strangers beneath a blanket of smoke machine fog lived up to their reputation as Brooklyn’s loudest band. Anyone who has seen this band before knows to show up with not one, but two pair of ear plugs. Comparisons made to Jesus and the Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine are not unfounded. It was no surprise circuits and fuses were shorting out, but again the tech crew kept things rocking. I stepped out before the end of the set to catch my breath, and watched the smoke filter out of the door like the place was on fire, which it most definitely was musically.
What amazed me about all of these acts was the enthusiasm and excitement they all had when performing. As I was able to work my way to the front for each set, I watched in amazement as many of the musicians jumped around stage, often changing places with other band mates and playing multiple instruments. The continuous psychedelic visuals of General Chaos provided for a great backdrop to the on stage antics. Beyond the music, there were many art installation scattered throughout the grounds, from the sandy beach and forested pathways, to the onsite artists who welcomed guests into their studios. Many also took the opportunity to dip into the relatively warm waters of Lake Ontario to refresh throughout the course of the weekend. SkyBlueSky Sandwich Co. and Katie Mathieu provided awesome cheap eats, while Steam Whistle kept everyone liquidated.
One of the things I enjoyed most was meeting new people who also were there primarily for the music, but also for the overall experience. I chatted with a couple travelling across Canada, one from Columbia and the other from Spain, who just happened to be in Toronto and found out about the event online. They told me they had so much fun that there were planning to travel back again next year just for ALL CAPS!
Held on the grounds of Artscape Gibraltar Point, this event is both kid and dog friendly, and there are limited tenting spots available for those wanting to spend the night. It’s a good 10 minute cycle to either the Hanlan’s Point or Centre Island ferry, and about 20 minutes longer on foot so plan accordingly to catch the last ferry back or you might have an unplanned overnight stay. A huge congratulation goes out to the organizers Jonny Dovercourt, Ryan McClaren, and the Father of Wavelength, Doc Pickles who hosted the entire weekend. Sunday night ended with an explosion of fireworks on the beach, before I rode off into the darkness and back to the reality of the mainland, knowing I would also be back next year.