On a whim, a friend and I decided to head up to Toronto for the day on Saturday to check out the first annual Virgin Music Festival held on Toronto Park Island. This show is a two day event bringing some huge name acts over to Canada, just a short drive down the QEW. It’s our very own Lollapalooza only with great bands playing rock from the US, Canada, and England. The catch-phrase is “From England with Love” afterall.
While the second day had more well-known bands playing – The Strokes, Broken Social Scene, The Raconteurs, Zero 7, MSTRKRFT, Sam Roberts, and Wolfmother (unfortunately we were unable to attend day two as day one kind of fell in our laps as a journey to take in the firstplace), day one had the bands we really wanted to see, namely Muse and The Flaming Lips. Sadly we missed the first good band Phoenix as we arrived later than expected, but started off well with Canadian band The Dears. After having just released a new album, they played a great hour long set spanning their two discs. With a bit of time to kill before Muse, we walked around the two islands which closed down to festival-goers only. There were vans of merch, tents set up for mini-raves, food and beer tents, and a gorgeous view of the Toronto skyline. EdgeFest this was not, by a long shot.
Muse took the stage around 7:30 and played a loud rock-infused set which rivaled the one we experienced at the Town Ballroom a year or so ago. While not the intimate setting that one was, to bring the lushness of sound, piercing your ears across a packed lawn (they were anticipating 200,000 people), with only a three-piece band is a feat to behold. Muse is the new Radiohead, bringing the rock with them across the pond from the UK. Gathering our bearings, we took the bridge to the second stage to see the end of the Eagles of Death Metal set – same schtick they had in Buffalo at the Showplace the night before, but not the heart. Boots Electric really took to the Buffalo crowd and made it a special evening Friday night. Heading back over to see the Flaming Lips, we finished a surprisingly entertaining set by Gnarls Barkley, and a dj set from Kid Koala as the Lips setup their confetti machines. Jeff said it all about the Lips in his blog review, the only addition here being Wayne starting the show in a rubber ball, crawling over the crowd before Thor and Superman helped him back on stage to perform the most outlandishly entertaining set I’ve ever seen.
Toronto didn’t end it with a bang, however. Hopefully next year Virgin will rectify the kinks in this weekends shows for a fuller experience. While only having one ferry to transport people back to the mainland after the concert was a hassle, the real problem was that of the island closing at 11:00. Since the music was running behind, they had the audacity to shutdown the headlining band. After only five songs, Wayne from the Lips announced that Captian America said they needed to leave the stage as the concert ran too late. Even his bandmates thought he was joking before he waved and left the stage. Chanting ensued but was rewarded only with Wayne’s return, bowing and apologizing that the power had been cut. While tainting an otherwise great day, it was still definitely worth the trip. That kind of bill doesn’t come close to WNY often, if ever before since Woodstock, and knowing it’s an annual occurrance, it can only improve in the future.