FESTIVAL REVIEW & GALLERY: Toronto Urban Roots Festival 2014

Review by Marisa Martel and Winnie Surya. Edited by Savana Ogburn. The first weekend of July held some exciting and busy days for Toronto as they hosted the second annual Toronto Urban Roots Festival at the Garrison Commons at Fort York. Over the course of three days, people got to the chance to see many popular musical acts, most of which hailing from our very own city. Ranging from country, to indie, to jazz, to rock, there was something to be enjoyed by nearly every music fan in Toronto at this three-stage, weekend-long festival.

We kicked off day one of TURF with Mississippi-based band, The Weeks, who played a great opening set at the West Stage with their slightly Southern, but very rock-based sound. Ten minutes after, over at the East Stage, came Born Ruffians, an indie band based from Toronto. The band performed songs from their debut album Red, Yellow, and Blue as well as some from their recent release of Birthmarks, all of which were well-received by the crowd. A funny and memorable moment from Born Ruffians‘ set was when frontman Luke Lalonde asked for sunscreen from the crowd, and the sound guy ended up applying some sunscreen to bassist Mitch DeRosier; I mean, gotta stay protected under the sun, right?!

Local Natives were another crowd favourite; beach balls were flying over the crowd as the band performed their hits, as well as a cover of the Talking Heads‘, “Warning Sign”. The biggest act of the night was definitely Beirut, who captured everyone’s interest when they started off the set with their song, “Nantes”. Beirut‘s fusion of many genres and sounds kept the audience excited for their hour and a half set, making it a great way to end off the first day of TURF.

Day two was kicked off with one of my personal favourites, Andrew Jackson Jihad, who had played the previous night at Lee’s Palace as a part of the Club Bonus Series. Next, over at the East Stage were the Drive-By Truckers, followed by veteran punk band, Violent Femmes, over at the West Stage. The Gaslight Anthem were up next, followed by The Strumbellas down at the South Stage. As 8:00 approached, a large crowd gathered for Newfoundland band, Hey Rosetta!, and not long after, fans crossed the grounds to catch Sam Roberts Band (with only ten minutes to spare in-between sets!). The last band to play that night was Joyce Manor, who put on a great set, and even treated the crowd to two of their latest releases off of their upcoming album, Never Hungover Again, accompanied by a group of dedicated fans who didn’t hesitate to yell along with them.

TURF was coming to an end, but not before we caught July Talk, who put on quite an eventful show that Sunday afternoon. Jenny Lewis was up next, but the act that really caught my attention that day was Gogol Bordello. Despite having so many people onstage, they kept things entertaining with their constant movement and ability to bring pure energy and excitement to match their their equally interesting music- their performance was one not to be missed. Jeff Tweedy of Wilco (and previously of Uncle Tupelo) was an act that I heard much anticipation for throughout the day; and their set definitely did not disappoint- they even featured Tweedy’s eighteen year old son on drums. Tweedy played much more than his solo work; he even included some of Wilco’s music as well, such as “Hummingbird”.

Finally, and arguably the largest act of that day (possibly even of the weekend), Neutral Milk Hotel, took the East Stage at 8:30. While playing fan favourites from their renowned album In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, they politely asked all fans to put away all cameras and cellphones during their performance. While many complied, those who did not were reprimanded by fans around them, and it certainly didn’t stop the band from playing a 90-minute set. Hearing fans collectively belt out the lyrics to Neutral Milk Hotel’s “King of Carrot Flowers” (Pts. 2 & 3) was one of the highlights of that weekend. Hollerado, who took the smaller South Stage 30 minutes after Neutral Milk Hotel started playing, expressed their surprise and gratitude at those who came to their set rather than Neutral Milk Hotel’s. The band played an energetic set to dancing fans. As their set came to a close, they asked a fan to get on stage and play Menno Versteeg‘s guitar during “Do The Doot Da Doot Doo” to allow Versteeg to get closer to the crowd. Fans were chanting at the band for an encore, but sadly they weren’t allowed to perform more songs. Luckily, to the crowd’s amusement, they were able to come back and sing Canada’s national anthem together to end the perfect night.

Because it featured so many great artists, Toronto Urban Roots Festival provided an exciting weekend to many Toronto music fans; the festival was carefully planned and executed, with wonderful music, food and even weather. TURF is one of the best music festivals in Toronto, and we’re already looking forward to the announcement of  next year’s line-up, coming this fall!


The Weeks by Marisa Martel

Born Ruffians by Winnie Surya

Local Natives by Winnie Surya

Deertick by Marisa Martel

Beirut by Marisa Martel


DAY 2 by Marisa Martel
Andrew Jackson Jihad

Drive-By Truckers

Violent Femmes

The Gaslight Anthem

The Strumbellas

Hey Rosetta!

Sam Roberts Band

Joyce Manor

July Talk by Marisa Martel

Jenny Lewis by Marisa Martel

Gogol Bordello by Marisa Martel

Jeff Tweedy by Winnie Surya

Hollerado by Winnie Surya



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