The Virgin Music Festival 2008 – Day 2 Part 1

Photos by Alex Ramon

When I woke up in our rented car (Yes… we slept in a car), the weather couldn’t have been better. Alright I’m lying, the weather was horrible. Before I left Vancouver, I specifically checked the weather report for Toronto just so I would know what to pack. Oh Tamara Taggart, you may be beautiful but I guess your meteorology needs a little work. She claimed that it was going to be highs of 25 (we’re talking Celsius for all you American readers) and lows of 22, but in reality, it was rainy and cold, well for the first part anyways. Considering I’m from Vancouver, I’m used to this sort of, how can I put this lightly, shitty weather. However, I was not prepared for this because good ol’ Tammy Tag led me to believe I would be wearing shorts and flip flops. I, instead, had to rough it out in my lone hoodie and jeans. But of course that didn’t stop me from going balls to the wall for this festival.

We finally made it through the ferry ride (When I say ferry ride try not to think of Vancouver to Victoria, but rather a 5 minute boat ride to a land of milk and honey…whatever that means) and trudged through the mud all the way to the media tent. The nice people at Virgin so kindly provided us with ponchos, or garbage bags with holes for your arms and head, and the day finally started to look up. Now it’s time to let the flood gates open and let the fans come watch some music!

Spiral Beach

Spiral BeachThe day started off with a nice little band out of Toronto that goes by the name of Spiral Beach. This four piece, comprised of Daniel and Airick Woodhead, Maddy Wilde, and Dorian Wolf, is getting some great buzz around Canada. They’ve opened up for the likes of the Hidden Cameras and Sloan, and have gotten great reviews from other music critics such as NOW Magazine and Exclaim! Magazine. But I can only read so much about them before I can make my own claims, so when they kicked off Day 2 of Virgin Fest to a smaller than expected crowd, I had my fingers crossed for these guys and gal.

There was definitely less people at the start of the day than I had expected, but I shouldn’t be surprised considering the weather was more Vancouver-like than Toronto, but that didn’t stop this quartet from giving it their all. Despite the horrible weather, everyone in the crowd had their ponchos on (most likely given out at the door… how thoughtful of you Virgin!) and was thoroughly enjoying the music. The lack of people in the audience sure didn’t affect the band, because they seemed like they were having a blast up on that stage. Oh did I mention, they were on the MAIN stage. Yeah that’s right. Oh and did I also mention that they KICKED OFF DAY 2? That’s right, I did. So you can imagine what it must feel like for a young band like Spiral Beach (and when I say young, I mean baby face young, like no facial hair young) to be playing such a huge festival right in their own backyard. They reminded me a lot of a younger Metric, where that guy used to sing. Remember that? For Spiral Beach, they frequently rotated vocals between Maddy and Airick and it was a great change of pace every once in a while. Even with the rain pouring down, Spiral Beach provided that nice little reminder of summer with their up-beat psychedelic rock, which, dare I say it, possibly foreshadowed the rest of the day.

Paper Lions

Paper LionsA lot of bands change their band names before they kick off their career. For instance, The Rainbow Butt Monkeys later became known as Finger Eleven. So I guess it’s safe to say, going by the above example, that changing a band name is the sole purpose for fame and fortune. Well it’s a good thing that Chucky Danger has become Paper Lions, otherwise we would never hear about them and that would be a great shame indeed. With influences such as The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and Queen, you can be sure that this band is a melodic bunch. Playing over 250 shows in 2007 alone, they landed a nice spot on the Vans Warped Tour in Vancouver and spawned a great review from The Georgia Straight. But let’s be honest now, I’m no Georgia Straight, I’m Ronatron after all. So let’s see what I have to say about this…

Alright the Straight was right. To put it lightly, they kick ass. Coming out of P.E.I. (for all you non-Canadian readers, that’s a small little island we call a “Province”), Paper Lions have got to be one of the most surprising bands to play at Virgin Fest. I couldn’t help but be amazed by how melodic they were. The harmonies between all the vocalists was a match made in heaven, and even a simple instrument like the tambourine was played with the energy and emotion that could light up the drowsy day. Unlike all the big name acts, the boys in Paper Lions, who are made up of John MacPhee, Rob MacPhee, David Cyrus MacDonald, Colin Buchanan drove in their tiny van all the way to the venue (the venue’s name: TORONTO ISLAND PARK…). However, there weren’t that many people lined up to watch these guys, but as soon as the music came on there was a steady stream of people making their way over to the stage. With these people were two fans waving a P.E.I flag, making it well known that they had enormous pride for the Paper Lions. All members used the stage well, running back and forth from mic stand to mic stand, and they seemed comfortable playing on a stage that big. During their song “Can You Feel It” I was impressed beyond words. Without missing a beat and midway through the song, everyone starting to switch instruments, with David emerging from behind his drum kit to smack on some bongos on center stage. There wasn’t much else I could ask for and they are a band to watch out for in the future. Who knows, maybe they’ll change their band name again and make it super huge in the industry (I suggest naming their band “Awesome”… but that’s just me).

Arkells

ArkellsNow let’s go back to the Oh Henry! Stage where all the up and comers and playing. I really love the idea of having a stage at such a big festival like Virgin, because it gives the opportunity for smaller bands to showcase their talents and give them the exposure they truly deserve. The Arkells are a perfect example of how a hard working band can actually get that big break. It’s not everyday a band can say they “opened” up for Oasis or Bloc Party, even though they technically didn’t play the same stage, it’s still nice to say they were part of the whole Noel Gallagher beat down show (Not that I’m condoning what the guy did, but I have to say he’s got some mighty big balls to do that in front of 20,000 people and hundreds of security guards…).

With the whole pussy push put aside, the Arkells put on an amazing set that really surprised me. I had no idea what to expect when I walked up to the stage, but what I did know was that the day was finally clearing up just in time for their set. This five piece from Hamilton consist of Tim Oxford on drums, Dan Griffin on keys, Mike DeAngelis on guitar, Nick Dika on bass, and Max Kerman on guitar and vocals. What I saw on stage from these five guys was something special, because every song seemed like it was their last. They played with the passion and drive a band needs in order to survive this cut throat business, and all the while they were having fun doing it. The chemistry they displayed was remarkable and I could honestly tell that they are all friends just having a good time playing music. For a minute, I thought I was watching a jam session in a garage, but of course with more precision. Not to single anyone out, because they were all amazing, but I have to say that Dan really impressed me, possibly because I was standing right beside him, because he just rocked out so hard on the keyboard. There was a stool at the beginning of the set, but he never sat on it, and on more than one occasion he knocked it over. He just stood up, had his rocker stance (every musician should perfect it because it is a vital part to being a rock star) and just pounded on those ivories (ok maybe they aren’t ivories… more like plastic). Their song “Abigale” was a highlight for me because it gave the opportunity for the band to just relax and go berzerk on stage, while still being in control and aware of the music. All in all, it was a great set that brought out the sun and was a sign for good times ahead.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of the review, because well, it was just too long for you to read at once so I split it up into 2 parts.