Thundercat, The Pharcyde and more dominate Field Trip Festival
Toronto music and arts festival boasts world-class acts
A historic Canadian fort transformed into a musical arsenal this past weekend as artists performed at Field Trip Music and Arts festival.
Field Trip, which took place at Toronto’s Fort York site on Saturday and Sunday, failed to disappoint the thousands in attendance. The festival turned five years old this year and blessed concertgoers with the likes of rock group Phoenix, indie band Broken Social Scene, jazz-hop group BADBADNOTGOOD (BBNG) and others.
The first day of the festival brought joy as indie pop singer Tei Shi performed at the Fort York stage. The singer boasted dreamy cuts as her angelic voice echoed over liquid bass, electric snaps and smooth audio effects.
At the Garrison stage, American rockers Portugal. The Man captured the crowd with their rigid and electrified sound. The Alaskan band glistened over fruitful keys and harsh tunes alike, joining together with submarine-filtered vocals that delighted fans.
Elsewhere at the fest, Cleveland indie act Cloud Nothings shone with both lo-fi-ness and intense rock tracks at the Fork York stage. The band’s lead, Dylan Baldi, ranged from chill to harsh as he ripped his ’60s style Gibson Reverse Firebird guitar.
Lights variously danced on stage as Cloud Nothings played nerving songs like “Psychic Trauma” and other tracks with surfing guitars as well as ridiculous rudiments.
Each member had his own moment of stardom as well, with bassist TJ Duke soloing with ease and drummer Jayson Gerycz boasting an intense arrangement best suited for the movie “Whiplash.”
Cloud Nothings wrapped things up with 2017’s “Realize My Fate” as Baldi’s hoarse vocals and the band’s instruments collided in roughness.
The Pharcyde followed Cloud Nothings, bringing their signature boom bap to reverberate off of Fort York’s barracks.
The group drew immense support from the crowd as it involved them at every corner of their hour-long set. Group members Bootie Brown and Imani revved things up and brought fun to the stage, performing songs like “Ya Mama” and the melodious “Y?”
At one moment during their set, the group asked the audience to throw one finger in the air to honor late hip-hop producer J Dilla. The Pharcyde followed the tribute with the Dilla-produced song “Drop” as the two MCs snapped over a reversed beat and humming chorus.
Between songs, the rappers’ backing DJ and drummer gleamed through spins and rhythms that made attendees bob their heads. Tracks like “Runnin’” and “Bullsh*t” eased ears as the two MCs gleefully vibed over the soulful tracks.
The Pharcyde ended their set with swagger, playing their hit song “Passin’ Me By” and an impressive rendition of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy,” crooned by the group’s drummer.
Imani, a founding member of The Pharcyde, told The Spectrum that Toronto music fans always give the group love whenever they come to the city.
“Last time we were here was at the NXNE festival, it was in the middle of the city and it was all the way live,” Imani said. “So I had a lot of fun and it’s the energy [of the crowd], we got here and it’s like the fans told us, ‘Look, we’ve been waiting, see!’”
The first day came to a close with supergroup Broken Social Scene, a performance that saw artists like Feist and Kevin Drew with moments of pure individuality on-stage.
Lindsey Omelon and James Norris, two concertgoers from Toronto, attended both days of the festival together, hoping to hear what The Pharcyde and Broken Social Scene had in store.
“I didn’t think I would ever see The Pharcyde in my entire life, so I was super pumped to see a hip-hop band from the ’90s do their thing in Toronto,” Omelon said.
Norris attended Field Trip for the first time and said the festival hosts the upper echelon of musicians, such as Broken Social Scene.
“Back in the day, when Broken Social Scene put out ‘Cause=Time,’ no one else was doing music like them,” Norris said. “It opens you up to this whole idea that musicians are out there doing something totally different. I’ve seen them live [multiple] times so I’m obsessed with them.”
On Sunday, forecasted rain was nowhere in sight as acts like James Vincent McMorrow made noise. McMorrow performed with heart, stylishly exhibiting his soft voice and contemporary soulful sound to the Toronto crowd.
At the Fort York stage, Grammy-winning bassist Thundercat plucked metal with mastery. The bassist, known for his collaborative work with Kendrick Lamar and producer Flying Lotus, flexed his heavenly vocals over harmonious pieces like “Jethro” and the dirty chord-filled track “Heartbreaks + Setbacks.”
The artist, along with his drummer and keyboardist, hosted lengthy jam sessions through their funky musicality.
Thundercat dominated the fest’s speakers, especially with his heavy song “Them Changes” featuring wonky keys and cymbal crashes. His fingers swam around his bass guitar on other songs like “Friend Zone” and “DUI,” matching well with wooing pianos and a potpourri of tempos.
Spencer Allen, a concertgoer from Rochester, anticipated seeing Thundercat, last seeing him at 2016’s Rochester jazz festival when he performed with Erykah Badu.
“I got to meet him after the show. He signed everything and was really cool with me,” Allen said. “This time around I looked forward to seeing him play his own stuff. I’ve seen videos online and he does a couple of mash-ups like he did with ‘These Walls’ with another song he has but most of all, his new album is really dope.”
Allen appreciated when Thundercat performed “A Fan’s Mail (Tron Song Suite II)” as well as “Uh Uh,” two cuts off his album Drunk.
BBNG followed Thundercat’s wonky style with a jazz and hip-hop infused set in their home city. The band’s soulfully-driven instrumentals featured multi-instrumentalist Leland Whitty and drummer Alexander Sowinski taking precedence on-stage.
The band performed numbers like “Lavender,” “Confessions Pt. I & II” and other tracks with singer Charlotte Day Wilson, who made a guest appearance at the festival. BBNG remedied fans with a brilliant mix of jazziness, playing around with electric pianos and furious rudiments alike.
At times, Whitty clicked cowbells and tambourines along with his superb saxophone skills. Toward the set’s end, the crowd got involved as keyboardist Matthew Tavares smoothly carried his fingers on his scales by the side of Sowinski’s mindful kicks and snares.
Field Trip closed Sunday night when Phoenix rocked the Garrison stage one last time, greeting fans with a warm light show as they commanded alt jams such as “Entertainment” and “Rome.”
Benjamin Blanchet is a co-senior arts editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org