JFL42: T.J. Miller

T.J. Miller seemed to take the stage with a sense of both confidence and curiousity.  It appeared to us that a good part of his performance is improvised and that sometimes the show surpised even him with what happened.  He acknowledged that the audience may have recognized him from 'Transformers' or something and showed up to see this.  Miller made fun of the JFL42 credit based admission system, and insisted that the Air Canada and Sirius XM logos remain illuminated for his show.  

The unpredictability of this show is what made it entertaining.  The awkward rants, the ability to start a joke, get distracted and then discuss the joke and why it may or may not work make for a show that's like no other.  This felt like we were experiencing something other than stand up comedy, more of Miller's stream of consciousness.  His observations on our world, though not always amusing are certainly insightful and rebellious.  When Miller got into discussing the futility of trying to stick it to TicketMaster and the most American product on the market from Evian he's leading each and every person in the audience to question the role these companies and what they sell have in their lives.

T.J. Miller is at times tough to follow, a little wild, and certainly whimsical, but there is more to this show than it first seems.  He puts on a show like no one else, and in that he does what no one else can...


JFL42: Iliza Shlesinger

Iliza Shlesinger is in a league of her own.  It's pretty clear to those of us who'd been lucky enough to see her live at previous JFL events, and quickly became so for the sizable audience at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.  She patrols the stage with a confidence that only comes from being the sort of person that makes their own rules.  It's an enviable position to those in the audience, as she rolls out an endless list of observations on our society.  One thing is for sure, she makes some sense of our increasingly bizarre world and has us laughing uncontrollably in the process.

One of the most impressive things is her ability to include the material that made her a household name, without completely revisiting previous work.  The party goblin makes an appearance, but not in any form we were accustomed to.  It's clear to the audience that this staple material is part of what makes Iliza Shlesinger such an exciting performer, she's developed these ideas to the point where they work with improvised variations in delivery.  It's something that may be subtle, and potentially go unnoticed, but it's a major part of why she's one of our favourite stand up comedians.

While Iliza Shlesinger appears to be fearless, both in her indictments of our society, and her blunt instructions on how we can each manage to do better, she's still human.  She talks about how tough and scary life can be for women, and though it's done humourously she's still introducing her audience to a reality some may ignore, and reminding others they aren't alone.  The highlight for us was a clearly personal moment when Shlesinger's long haired dachsund Blanche unexpectedly appeared onstage drawing applause from the audience and emotional surprise from her human.  It reminded us of just how tough it must be to face crowds like that everyday, but just how powerful her words can truly be...


T.U.R.F 2015 

The third annual T.U.R.F. Festival brought with it a sense of anticipation.  The lineup promised incredible local talents alongside legendary performances from bands you just don't expect to see, save for very special occasions.  The event was moved from it's late summer spot to late September, but that didn't stop Toronto's music lovers from flocking to Fort York.  The space at Garrison Common is one of the most vital places to experience live music in the heart of the city, and the experience this year was simply unforgettable.

The first day saw the Avett Brothers turn the main stage into a serious party, though quite different from the Mad Decent Block Party, the last one that took place at Fort York.  The Sadies put on a simply enchanting performance, one of several hometown heroes on the bill.  They give the distinct impression that there's something supernatural at work, that they possess some power beyond the music.  

It's safe to say that Wilco stole the show on the second day, performing after a storm, the sun came out for the opening of their show.  Without a word the band played their new album 'Star Wars' in its entirety, and then launching into an incredible collection of songs from the earlier years of their storied career.  As the sun began to set, they did one of the rarest, most unexpected things.  Wilco returned to the stage for an encore, only the second we've ever seen at a festival from performers who weren't headlining.  After witnessing this show, it became clear that this would be remembered as a highlight for years to come.

Following Wilco was the choice of the joyous, energetic Rich Aucoin, and Cake.  Both played incredible sets, leaving us wanting more, and ready to return for the third and final day.  Neko Case, Heartless Bastards, and Will Butler all paved the way for one of the most anticipated performances of the summer.  The thought of seeing the Pixies live stuck with us since the announcement of the lineup was made.  The legendary band may have a slightly different lineup from when those unforgettable songs were recorded, but hearing them live you'd hardly notice.  T.U.R.F. provides something special in the wide world of music festivals, and we highly encourage you to attend next year.  The sounds of new discoveries and legends you never thought you'd see will make for a weekend you'll never forget...

See more photos here


The Mad Decent Block Party: Toronto 8/29

The Mad Decent Block Party took over Fort York, bringing the world class event to Toronto for the fourth time.  Since the very first event in the city, the Block Party has grown.  The lineup has always featured all time heroes from the Mad Decent extended family, as well as newer artists from all over the world.  This time we were greeted by RiFF RAFF, and his special guest CL.  Mad Decent founder Diplo took to the stage with them to perform their single 'Dr. Pepper', perfectly setting the stage for a wild and unpredictable day. 

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Time Festival 2015 at Fort York


The annual Time Festival landed on one of the sunniest, hottest days for a music festival in Toronto this summer.  The day alternated between hip hop and electronic dj's, irreverent indie bands, rappers, and inevitably Die Antwoord.  It became clearly partway through the day that Embrace is slowly building something special here.  They're creating a festival that is so inclusive, and so dedicated to the curious and unpredictable world of modern music. 



Tommy Kruise and Ryan Hemsworth proved they are both incredible dj's, despite the heat keeping so much of the crowd from getting down.  Hemsworth played so many of the songs we know and love, and was joined at the end of his sent by vocalist Ramriddlz for a memorable finale.  Toronto MC Tory Lanez showed a lot of love for his hometown crowd and got a whole lot back in return.  Australian Alison Wonderland delivered a show that went far beyond the music deserved buzz around her music.  DIIV performed at what felt like the hottest point of the day.  It was a far cry from their rainy set at Governors Ball, the first time we saw them this summer.  They sounded amazing, filling such a large space with their laidback music provided some much needed relief and comfort from the heat.



One of the acts we were most excited to see was Freddie Gibbs, and he did not disappoint.  He showed great love and appreciation for Toronto from the moment he took the stage, and a lack of love for law enforcement that equalled his affection for our city.  Gibbs performed some favourites and some brand new ones too.  He proved his skill beyond any doubt, showing Toronto his ability to chop with the best of them with acapella verses more than once.  The dynamic effect it had on the audience was instantly noticeable, and had a huge positive effect on the vibe at Fort York.



BadBadNotGood took that positive feeling and elevated it to new heights.  Playing new music, classics like 'Lemonade' and shouting out nutrition and hydration on a day when you need it most.  The trio brought out numerous guests, and put on one of the most energetic shows we've ever seen from them, though it felt like it was over in the passing of a moment.  Every opportunity we've had to see them play has been incredible, but more importantly it feels like a step in the evolution of a very powerful positive musical force that is a blessing to the entire universe.



Ariel Pink and Mac Demarco compliment each other perfectly.  As the sun began to fade behind the trees and condo buildings of Liberty Village the noisy party of Ariel Pink began to rage, setting the stage for the evening to come.  Mac Demarco brought his smooth, hilarious, energetic show to the stage providing what was ultimate the surprise of the day for us.  We expected it to be good, but from the first second it was clearly that this band passed greatness a long time ago.  With old songs and music from 'Another One' they gave their fans what they wanted and made new ones out of everyone else.



There aren't too many opportunities out here to take part in a show like Die Antwoord in a place like Fort York on such a beautiful night.  It's safe to say that Embrace took some chances with this lineup, but managed to knock this one out of the park.  The one of a kind, energetic, wild and crazy, sensory overload experience that is Die Antwoord live brought their dedicated following to Fort York.  The rest of the irreverently curated lineup had a few favourites, and a few new discoveries for us.  There's a lot of room to grow, and after this year we are really excited to see what Time Festival grows to become in the future.


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