Review: Time Festival at Toronto’s Fort York

Time Festival was strange. The music was strange. The vibe was strange. The people were strange. There was a woman dressed as sexy Pikachu and a handful of other cosplayers. I saw a dog pile of women cuddling against an actual trash can on one of the hottest days of the year. I saw another girl smoking and sleeping at the same time. I don’t know how that’s even possible. It wasn’t terribly out of place, though, considering the oddity and diversity of the lineup.

Producer Ryan Hemsworth made the Fort feel like Club Daytime and Freddie Gibbs’ performance was laughably formulaic. He started with an a cappellla iteration of the rhymes, followed by a version with his DJ – for every song. His rather large and mostly silent entourage was on stage, too, prompting my friends and I to ask each other “What is that person EVEN doing?” Those hype men were entirely devoid of hype.

Ariel Pink was as strange as I expected and even more rude. He had so many issues with the sound guy that he eventually just refused to play, exiting the stage early. His drummer announced “we had a really awesome finale planned, but we’re not going to do it anymore.” Bummer.

BadBadNotGood followed Ariel Pink and tried to make nice, giving the newbie sound guy a warm shout out and playing what was easily the best set of the day. They overcame the festival setting, their instrumental jazz soaring over the clamor of the crowd and adjacent highway.

Mac Demarco was the most musically conventional act of the day, playing his noodly guitar-based pop songs for a crowd that was surprisingly familiar with his stuff. He covered Steely Dan, which was the most interesting song in the performance. The rest of the set list drew primarily from his latest EP, Another One, and 2014’s Salad Days. Demarco is a bit of a bonehead and, though I found him to be obnoxious, the rest of the crowd appeared to disagree with me, enjoying both the set and the eccentric singer’s antics.

Once Die Antwoord went on stage, all of the strange encounters I had experienced leading up to that moment made sense. As it turns out, nothing is weird when it’s against the backdrop of animated bouncing penises and the rap stylings of Yolandi Visser and Watkin Tudor Jones. They perform in a frenzy of beats and pop hooks, which caused the crowd surrounding the stage to burst into dance. I was happy for them; after waiting in the blistering hot sun for hours in their plushy costumes, their moment had finally arrived.

I had a fun time at Time Festival but, truthfully, I enjoyed the people watching more than the music.

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Hilary Johnston
Hilary Johnston is a writer, event manager and musician from Toronto.
Hilary Johnston