The fourth and final day of the Toronto Urban Roots Festival (TURF) was wet. Now anything seems better than the Monday Toronto endured, but to stand outside for an entire day with Sunday's weather was no treat. Fortunately, the people and bands stuck through and ended the night with a relatively dry set by Belle & Sebastian, speaking to the weather not the band.
Belle & Sebastian took the stage promptly to play one of the loveliest sets all year. I managed to wiggle my way to the front to get a close view of the band. Now, I am not the biggest fan of Belle & Sebastian, however I do enjoy most of the music they make. I find listening to them on a regular basis a bit difficult because their music is just too sweet. In getting a glimpse of the front row crowd, I could see that where I was at the gig I was certainly the minority. At the ripe at of 44, frontman Stuart Murdoch is an absolute joy to watch. He donned a pair of vibrant, blue slacks that accentuated his extremely petit frame. He and other bandmates wore Fred Perry polo shirts that Murdoch drew attention to early set to acknowledge Andy Murray’s Wimbledon victory. He gave a mini-history that I am certain most of us Fred Perry-wearing folk had no idea about. Regardless, I found Murdoch’s presence absolutely charming.
Throughout the set, Murdoch grabbed people throughout the crowd to take part in all sorts of activities, which often turned into an on-stage dance party.
Before being thoroughly enlightened and entertained by Belle & Sebastian, I was reunited with a long lost pal, Neko Case. Over the last two years, I’ve had a couple of opportunities to see Case, however it never really worked out. This time, not a whole lot different, I took in Case’s powerful live set from the edge of a tent as the rain poured down. She took the opportunity to play a ton of new material as well as some older fan favourites such as “This Tornado Loves You,” and my favourite ditty “Middle Cyclone.” She and her sidekick Kelly Hogan kept acknowledging their gratitude to the dedicated, wet show goers from their sheltered stage and referred to songs as “rainy tunes.” While Case has to be one of the most certain and confident voices of Canadian rock, I got a sense that she was uneasy about something. Throughout the entire set she kept urging the audience to come see her again in support of her new album, despite seeing her perform at TURF. She ended the set with a cover of a Sook-Yin Lee tune called “Knock Loud,” and in an introduction to the song she labeled Lee a “Boundary-less fox of Canadian rockets.”
I thoroughly enjoyed watching Canadian duo Whitehorse play. I’ve always found Luke Doucet’s edgy country-twang guitar to be incredibly charming and in combination with wife, Melissa McClelland, the pair was untouchable. Perhaps it was being in such close proximity to the duo, but their set exuded a sense of intimacy. Performing on their own, Doucet and McClelland looped instruments to mimic a larger sound. Mid-set, in introducing a tune, Doucet told a story about how he used to rifle through old records that belonged to a family member, judging all albums by their covers and eventually finding they never sounded as he had envisaged.
I arrived just as Yo La Tengo was wrapping up their set. The band sat on a tremendously long guitar jam.
Big regrets of the day are missing Kurt Vile and Shakey Graves. Two great acts I plan to see in the very near future. Festival life, you win some, you lose some.