Festival Review: Arts & Crafts’ Field Trip

Had the great opportunity last weekend to take in the Arts & Crafts Field Trip when Mudtown Artistic Director Josh Richardson couldn’t attend and I inherited his ticket. Thank you, Josh. Festival design and graphics man Steve Armstrong and I trekked off to Fort York mid-day Saturday to take in the first day of the fest.

One unique aspect of this fest was how family-friendly the show was as parents could bring kids under twelve for free. Plenty of strollers and kids dancing around put smiles on everyone’s faces and the gorgeous weather, good food, and cold beer led to a relaxed and upbeat crowd.

Neither of us were real familiar with many of the bands that day but that led to many delightful surprises. Shad and Tribe Called Red were most noteworthy with the former bringing his upbeat hip-hop and the latter their intense dance music to a receptive crowd. The rest of the afternoon was spent basking in the summer sun and recognizing songs here and there from Chvrches, Half Moon Run, and Lord Huron. Interpol rounded out the day and though I had earlier thought it an odd choice to have the first day rounded out by an American band rather than an Arts & Crafts one, the crowd was into their gloomy rock and the band was friendly in their few remarks to the crowd.

My highlight of the weekend was definitely the Constantines rain-spattered Sunday afternoon performance. Mudtown fest artist Bry Webb resumed his role as frontman with the recently reunited band and if you haven’t read his beautiful letter outlining the reasons for their getting back together, please check it out here: http://theconstantines.wordpress.com/
It was an absolute thrill to see these guys back together and the four years off did nothing to diminish their intensity or precision. After Bad Religion, I’ve seen these guys more than any other band. They’ve been a part of my life since I first saw them on a summer 2001 bill opening up for the Weakerthans. I’ve seen them at tiny venues like the Jane Bond in Waterloo, mid-range ones like the Starlight, and co-headline with the aforementioned Weakerthans at the Phoenix. They always performed their rock and roll duty and Sunday afternoon was no exception. Opening with Draw Us Lines, they quickly had the crowd singing along to Shine A Light, compelled everyone to throw their hands in the air, and implored the crowd “can I get a witness?” during Young Offenders. The crowd echoed the lines back to testify they missed you, Constantines. To Bry, Will, Steve, Dallas, and Doug: THANK YOU FOR COMING BACK.

As far as the rest of the day, Feist brought Hydra, her sweet-sounding collaboration with AroarA and Snowblink, and Fucked Up stormed the stage and the crowd and performed their always entertaining show. Guest appearances were plenty throughout the weekend, with Andy Kim and festival friends Torquil Campbell and Amy Milan taking the stage with Broken Social Scene and Feist taking the stage with Kevin Drew. Most ambitious was Gord Downie playing with the Sadies but also singing with BSS and, more surprisingly, Fucked Up. He was greeted each time with thunderous applause. It’s no surprise: the man’s an institution. BSS were great, and ended the fest on a high note, playing classic cuts Cause = Time, and Texico Bitches (with Gord!), before Steve and I took off after they played my favourite, 7/4 (Shoreline).

All in all it was a great weekend highlighted by surprise performances, a great crowd, and the reunion of one the best bands to ever come out of Southern Ontario. Kudos, Arts & Crafts.

I’ll blog at you later Otherfolks, have a good one.

– – Matt Capel, Otherblogger.