The second annual Toronto Urban Roots Festival went down over the July 4 weekend and it was, in a word, "awesome" — despite a notable lack of bouncy castles. A detailed report comes courtesy of the National Post, which we assure you is a very real newspaper that serves a sizable Canadian audience, weekly circulation 844,661 as of March 2013. Ben Kaplan is a real reporter for the paper, a writer of actual books, and a very sweet dad no doubt. He's also authored what may be the worst (read: best) concert review ever.
The "astounding" writeup scans not unlike a fourth-grader's report on a really, really swell field trip (though, not the Field Trip festival). He begins with a classic act:
[TURF] didn't quite have the super family vibe of Field Trip, as there were no bouncy castles and the beer was Molson, but the music was unbelievable. My daughter and I saw the Violent Femmes on Saturday and they opened with "Blister in the Sun" — the crowd was mellow, it wasn't too loud, and the tunes held up. You could release their first record today and it would be a smash. (It came out in 1983.) That was it for us on Saturday.
Wait, "that was it"? And what happened to Friday? Well, okay, onto Sunday then:
July Talk was the first act I saw and they are my new favourite band. How nice is it to see the younger generation playing the festival circuit. They’re hungry, fun, sexy and raw. They actually worked the crowd and the music, which my Sunday TURF partner described as Tom Waits meets Metric, is electric, sizzling, like the two singers' chemistry. It's loud guitars and Stars-esque back-and-forth vocals and no wonder everyone under 25 loves these guys.
We too, are happy to see young people suddenly taking an interest in young-people events. But what about that youngish person Jenny Lewis — a virtual unknown before Lena Dunham's premium cable dramedy shined a light upon her Canuck-jacking ass?
I found Jenny Lewis's set kind of boring. She can really sing, but after July Talk she sounded a little too Neko Case for my tastes, plus, she didn’t do her one song from HBO's Girls ("Completely Not Me"). I know people really like her, and she played piano, guitar and sang powerfully, but I was ready for the something weirder.
But weirder soon came, at which point we're pretty sure Carles becomes co-writer:
Gogol Bordello is a punk Gypsy Roma band from New York's Lower East Side and they've been around for more than 15 years... They moved from punk to metal to reggae to klezmer like most bands change hats, and their set was a jaw-dropping experience. They are authentic. A dust cloud began to surface over the dance floor and I wish my wife had been there to push me into the mosh pit.
The personal details are sweet, but where's the good, old-fashioned critic-speak? Ah, here:
From there, it was on to Jeff Tweedy, the American Thom Yorke, who seems to have been pining over the same woman for the past 20 years. Someone cure his heart. Still, he's is a true icon, and his roots rock was divine. He's got the Eddie Vedder thing, where you absolutely believe everything what he says. It was the most romantic part of the evening and I saw more than one couple do more than hold hands.
The Wilco boss loses points with Kaplan for not bringing out Feist for an unscheduled duet (moar Kanadah plz), but another indie great made up for the oversight. Sure, our man in the trenches has heard about people liking Jeff Mangum's swirly shut-in lo-fi psych-folk, but it's another thing entirely to see his facial hair in person:
Wow, Neutral Milk Hotel was mind-blowing. Lots of people have said they're admirers but I didn't know their stuff. The singer looked like he was on Duck Dynasty. Their music is sort of like Wilco, but dreamier. There's a surf rock element mixed in with the band's obvious country influences that gives it an upbeat feel... I know I'm going to go out and buy the CD.
Some have suggested that this Post piece was some sort of misguided parody, but all signs point to sincerity. Ultimately, Kaplan concludes that Sunday at TURF was "perhaps the best one-day concert experience I've ever had," and we believe him.
UPDATE: As reader Tyler Munro points out below, the review has been edited since it began to receive negative attention. An earlier version reveals that Kaplan in fact declared that, "Sunday at the Toronto Urban Roots Fest is perhaps the most fun, best music, most awesomest one-day concerts experience I've ever seen." So, in that case, kudos to the editors of the National Post!