Bestival Toronto 2016 Event Recap
It’s called Bestival for a reason! Embrace, Sunday Best Records, and Rob Da Bank brought Toronto the best festival we could have every imagined. The weather gods also blessed us this year with no rain; it was hot and sunny on Saturday, and windy enough to cool off on Sunday. Although most single day tickets were purchased for Saturday’s wicked lineup, it was an amazing weekend filled with good vibes, culture, and talented musicians.
Rob Da Bank was the first act I caught at the Bollywood stage on Saturday. This was the stage where most of the people were at so early in the day, yet it was spacious enough to move from the back to the front in no time. The crowd was full of techno lovers and wicked shufflers. The Bollywood stage was just how I remembered from last year; colourful, loud, and pure fire. Although we didn’t stay for all of Rob Da Bank’s set, it was really respectable to see the artist who put on the festival at such an early point in the weekend. He could have made himself headline if he wanted to, but humbly played early in the day to kick off the weekend right.
After leaving Bollywood, we decided to explore. One of the unique things about Bestival is that unlike Veld or Digital Dreams, there are many activities, events, and interactive shenanigans taking place all throughout the day. For the people who get bored of the music or want to partake in a more socially driven interaction, Bestival is perfect.
We made our way to the inflatable church and I was able to witness 2 weddings! The weddings are not real of course, but the couples are and the celebrations are very inviting. We got to hear their stories while couples dress up and partake in one of the many themes of the festival: LOVE. After the I Do’s, the congregation goes wild and bouquets get thrown around and it turns into a dance party. The weddings were scheduled all weekend long to many lucky couples.
Another theme of the weekend was INCREASE THE PEACE. There were so many little things scattered around the festival that helped unify the crowd and turn strangers into friends. A giant tricycle contraption covered in drums, cymbals, pots and pans was sitting outside the Big Top tent for people to jump on and start jamming their own rhythms together. Every single time I went by it was full of different people vibing together and creating their own unique beat.
There were many booths for people to relax and explore, like knitting, face painting, jumbo jenga, and many artists selling jewelry, paintings, clothing, accessories and more. It was remarkable how positive and cultured the atmosphere was due to everyone’s artistic contributions.
The food was also amazing. I was able to try the chicken quesadilla from one of the food trucks, pierogies, mac n’ cheese, and poutine of course. I also tried one of the ciders from the bar and for someone who doesn’t drink I found it pretty tasty! The lines for water moved pretty quickly at both stations. Although my crew found a strategic time to go when headliners began their sets, resulting in no lines for water!
The venue was relatively empty when we first arrived on Saturday around 1pm. By 4pm the main stage area was noticeably fuller, and we looked to the 19+ wristband booth by the entrance and saw a huge line that wound its way down towards the food trucks. We were impressed on day 2 when we saw that problem had been taken care of by the organizers and staff, who incorporated that booth into an immediate line after security with several people to ID and put on wristbands.
The music is what made the festival, there’s no doubt about it. Most of the artists I saw were brief so that I could continue stage hopping and indulging in the festival itself.
On day 1 the first artist I saw for most of his set was Giraffage. He played his “Hotline Bling remix”, and dropped old favourites for the 90’s kids like “Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom!” by the VengaBoys and a remix of “Who let the Dogs out”. Most of his set was retro, vapor, future bass, and a bit of trap. The crowd in the tent loved it despite how hot it started to get midday.
We then headed back to Bollywood for a bit and caught some of Joris Voorn. Most of the acts at this stage were techno, tech house, and really progressive slow building beats. Most of the tracks were hard to name because they are generally so underground. But being at the stage was so visually and musically pleasing. The festival decorated the area with middle-eastern umbrellas for shade, and even put up some tipi tents for people to relax from the heat. There were also many trees in the park too, unlike Downsview Park where there’s zero shelter from the harsh sun or rain. The crowd at Bollywood never dwindled. I met a lot of people who were very content staying at this stage all weekend.
We then made out way back to the VIP area by the I <3 Bestival hill, where we could overlook Jamie XX on the main stage. The VIP area was very well organized and never overcrowded. It had a giant cabana with wooden cottage-looking chairs and its own bar. There was also a small trailer for a few bathroom stalls, although on the second day they also added a string of porta-potties beside the trailer to lessen the line even more. And there was also a huge tent providing shade and cushion seats. It was perfect for media to chill out, set up their gear, and take down notes before heading back into the festival. Watching Jamie XX from the hill briefly was relaxing. I had already seen him before, but it fit the main stage so well with his prominent mixing of percussion.
Off to the Big Top tent again, we caught half of Malaa’s set. It was very hype and the crowd loved it. To be honest, Malaa was probably the most underwhelming set of the weekend. He played a lot of trap and variations of house, but his transitions were too long followed by mediocre drops. I did think he redeemed himself towards the end when he played a remix of Disclosure’s “Fire starts to Burn”.
We then caught Odesza, which was amazing on the main stage. The duo was mixing and drumming live, and they brought a live trumpet player and trombone player too. The duo was extremely in sync and they fit the hippie/ bohemian atmosphere very well. They played “One day They’ll Know” by Pretty Lights and their original track “Sun Models” among many others.
At this point the sun was beginning to go down, so we headed to the Big Top tent again to catch most of Madeon’s set. I had already seen him at the Hoxton years ago, and again in Veld 2013. He was pretty disappointing at Veld due to his banger set, catering to that demographic. But Bestival was a whole other story. He played “Pop Culture” live on 3 sample pads and had them tilted facing the audience so we could see every button being pushed. He also dropped originals “Imperium”, “Finale”, and “The City”. The entire crowd in the tent screamed the words to his anthems. His mixing was smooth and he added new layers onto old tracks. His longer hair, perfected mixing, and mostly original set proved to me he has matured a lot as an artist since the last time I saw him. One of the best sets of the entire weekend, for sure.
We headed back to Bollywood to catch Maya Jane Coles who headlined for a 2 hour set. The sun was mostly gone at this point and the stage was lit up so beautifully. The smoke surrounding the stage gave this mystical affect that really added to the vibe and complimented the acts. The lights shined through the smoke to the crowd and everyone lit up on the dance floor. The flame-throwers at random drops were also a huge feature to the stage, especially at night. The flames were so big they actually kept patrons warm into the evening. It was really challenging to leave.
We headed back to the Big Top tent to catch Porter Robinson. We actually got there a few minutes early and decided to run to the water station and found zero people in line again. The second we got back to the tent again, Porter’s introduction to his set began. He opened with “Sad Machine” and teased old favourties like “Easy” and “Spitfire” but never dropped them. He also played a live edit of “Fresh Static Snow” which is the very track that proves Porter Robinson isn’t all mushy gushy after the worlds album. The visuals were incredible, the bass rumbled in my chest, and his set was everything I needed to hear this summer.
I was incredibly lucky when I left Porter’s set briefly to catch Tame Impala. Although I’m not the most familiar with them, they did play their hit single “Elephant” as I was making my way through the crowd. I thought that was a sign from the Bestival gods that I was right where I needed to be. Rumours circulated around the crowd that the lead singer admitted he was on LSD during their set, which wouldn’t surprise me with their trippy acid visuals complimenting the alternative rock. The main stage area was extremely full for their set, and it was really cool to see more of the older crowd enjoying their time and children dancing in the grass.
We arrived a little later the second day knowing there would be less of a crowd and less lines to get in. The first artist we caught was Skylar Spence. He was really enthusiastic while mixing. He played a lot of house and funk but it was very retro sounding. It was great to hear while the tent was empty early on in the day. We were just there hours ago for a full tent when Porter Robinson played. It was cool to see the crowd progression from day to night.
Then we were off to the main stage and I watched most of Grimes’ set on the last stop of her Art Angels tour. She opened with “Realiti”, and played originals “Flesh without Blood”, “Art Angels”, “Easily”, “Scream”, “kill vs Maim”, and her biggest electronic hit “Go” featuring Blood Diamonds. The best way to describe Grimes live is that she’s very theatrical, energetic, and spunky. She did all her vocals live, while dancing and mixing. She’s a well-rounded artist, who takes pride in producing and mastering her own work. She’s also Canadian blood, and told the crowd it felt so good to be back in Canada.
Thomas Jack had began in the Big Top tent at this point, and I unexpectedly enjoyed his set a lot. He played a bit of tropical, but it was nothing like Kygo. He dropped “Land Down Under” by Men at Work, although it was more electronic than the original. He also mixed some Bob Marley, and a remix of “You Were Right” by Rufus. I was really impressed with the diverse tracklist that fit the festival season; playing old favourites mixed with new EDM songs is not an easy task. It also made it more inviting for those who came to the festival for the rock acts but wanted to explore the electronic.
We made our way back to Bollywood and caught Lee Foss who dropped Green Velvet’s track “Shake and Pop” as well as “Reverse Skydiving (Deetron remix)” by Hot Natured feat. Anabel Englund. That last track was extremely memorably and brought magic in the air.
Back to the Big Top tent, we caught the beginning of Tchami’s set. He opened with his track with Aluna George “You know You like it”, and dropped “Wait” by Dombresky, “Renegade Master” by Wildchild, “Scrub the Ground” by Chocolate Puma & Tommie Sunshine, and Tchami’s original track “Shot Caller”. His set moved through a lot of deep house and bass house. It was a fun set and fitting in the tent with the church visuals.
We ended our night at the Bollywood stage again, this time catching Dubfire. The Bollywood stage was in its prime and so was the tunes. Everyone was reluctant to leave but also tired from dancing all weekend.
I am very thankful for attending Bestival this summer. The organizers are some of the best this city has ever seen in regards to a festival. Everyone was very relieved after a long day of dancing in the sun that we did not have to wait 4 hours for a ferry to get off Toronto Island like last year. The organizers listened to the patrons and it surely paid off. Woodbine Park served as a great venue with paved paths to get around, lots of hills to sit on with a fantastic view, and none of the sound from the stages conflicted with others. Everything was organized and smooth. I already can’t wait for next year!
Increase the peace!
Serafina Thoma – Euphoradio