Two guy’s review of Riot Fest

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Well Riot Fest has come and gone and The Indie Blender crew had quite the time rioting, chilling, and being press tent gurus. From the muddiness of the first day to seeing rockers mix awkwardly with hipsters, the festival had its highlights but none more that the great lineup of music. Here are the views of myself and my co-writer, Eric:

Saturday
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Mounties:

The Mounties are an electro pop group with a sound similar to MGMT or !!!, especially the latter in terms of the singer’s energetic performance and dance moves. The song “Headphones” was especially catchy, which also has an accompanying groovy video inspired by Telefrancais (elementary school anyone?)

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The Beaches:

An all girl punk pop band from Toronto, they seem to combine Canadian understated politeness with a carefree rocker LA attitude. Two different beaches I suppose.Their songs would often transition from a soft stream of consciousness lyric style to more to the point power chords.

AWOLNATION:
Most people will know “Sail” by this alternative electro-rock band based out of L.A.  Front man Aaron Bruno danced around the stage while singing and screaming songs like “Not Your Fault”, where he got the crowd to sing along.  Aaron even got the crowd to crowd-surf as many women (and a few men) as possible during one of the songs.
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The Flaming Lips:

The Flaming Lips have become well known for their live performances, where they pull out every trick in the book to create the trippiest experience possible. The show started with giant dancing mushrooms and a rainbow, transitioned to giant dancing butterflies and a sun, and ended with giant dancing aliens. This is all while lead singer Wayne Coyne wears a body fitting red muscle suit, or later, a coat with long tassel arms which the singer proceeded to swing around. This is not to mention the giant ball he came out in and proceeded to roll INTO THE CROWD, and the extravagant amount of confetti shot into the crowd.

The music was what you would expect, with lots of texture and sound walls. They ended with a cover of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds that obviously had their own unique take on it, with the chorus being sung omnisciently, as if Lucy is a terrifying menace in the sky who is launching diamonds at the civilians below.

Sunday

Wounds

Wounds:

The first act on Sunday was definitely the embodiment of Riot Fest; Irish punk rockers Wounds kicked it off on the Rebel Stage.  Their set was energy-filled and loud, with Aidan, the lead singer, screaming most of the songs.  In between songs, the crowd learnt that the original bassist left the band right before flying out for their North American tour , starting with Toronto.  The bassist they played with (on the right in the picture above), Curtis, is actually from Toronto and fit right in with the rowdy Irishmen.

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Tokyo Police Club:

One of the largest crowds was definitely for the local boys in Tokyo Police Club. Their newest album Forcefield  was on full display during the set, with amazing live versions of “Argentina”, “Hot Tonight” and “Miserable”.  Die Alone Records threw beach balls for the crowd to enjoy, which they definitely did, keeping them up through the whole set.

The National:

This is the second time I’ve seen The National live, and they really are in a league of their own. All of their songs pop in their own way when heard live, and you can feel the full extent of their textured sound and often progressing intensity of their songs that you can’t with the recording.

Lead singer Matt Berninger gave an emotional performance, singing certain lyrics in a frustrated scream (“Graceless”, “Squalor Victoria”), while in other songs he stumbled on stage as though in a sad drunken stuppor, and leaned on the mike stand to softly croon. Although his drunkenness was likely an act, it did give more of an emotional impact. Apart from the emotionality, the band also played strongly technically, pulling off some intricate drumming in the introduction to “Squalor Victoria” for example. The emotional force and technicality all came together in the sheer number of solid hits The National have, from “England” to “Terrible Love,” where each are satisfying in their own right.

Metric:

Like The National, Metric has their own live tricks that set the tone and mood of their songs that you just can’t get by listening to the albums. Emily Haines puts on a cute death girl kind of persona, bobbing around stage with a bubbly energy, but still providing the rock attitude. The set list was a little disappointing though, where hits like “Monster Hospital” or “Gimme Sympathy” weren’t played and everything was ended with the mediocre “Breathing Underwater,” which left me wondering “that’s it?”

Metric’s latest album, Synthetica, which is actually two years old, deals with staying true and not being a pop gum caricature of yourself. It felt like Haines was having fun with that idea of being a shell of yourself, a puppet, by switching from the fatalistic vision of a poppy dream girl to reclaiming her essence, and not letting the world “make a loser of [her] soul”.

City and Colour:

I’ll admit I’ve never listened to much of City and Colour before this performance, besides walking out of one of their concerts in Melbourne Australia, but this one left me impressed. What struck me was the clarity and control Dallas Green has with his voice, singing in a falsetto style amidst minimalist guitar. It’ll leave you with chills. With his favourite hat on, Green carries the show like a rock star and commands attention, making it little wonder he has been able to drive two successful bands over the years. He had a different rendition of “Coming Home,” which was a little disappointing to not get exactly what you want. However, the show was the perfect soother to end the muddy rocking of the last two days of Riot Fest.

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