Toronto sparkles, like a city from the future that is somehow in the present. Glass skyscrapers refract sunlight to create an almost eerie brightness, and the CN Tower blooms from the center like a beacon for alien life forms (see: Americans) with subtle remnants of the past slipping away against the modern skyline.
Toronto is a true amalgamation of cosmopolitan culture, which makes it one of my favorite cities on earth. Every time I visit I fall in love with this place a little bit more; I feel like I'm cheating on America a little bit. This mistress is a tempting one, with her glistening architecture, serene lake fronts, stellar cuisine and vibrant music scene. It's easy to understand why so many people come here and end up staying forever.
I'm here to cover Time Festival. Put on by one of North America's top promoters, Embrace Presents, the boutique, one-day happening was held at Fort York, the supposedly haunted site of one of the great battles of the War of 1812.
One of the first things you notice about Time Festival is the vibe; it's calm and relaxed with hip patrons strewn about like lawn furniture, some entirely flat, just staring up at the vibey clouds. It's 3:00 PM, and the festival is just starting to warm up. The weather is balmy, and the clouds play peekaboo with the sun, providing the occasional respite from the scorch. It's a perfect balance, just like the lineup of the festival itself.
The first major stage you encounter is the Leafly Out Of Time stage, which focuses more on the electronic sounds. The artists on the stage's roster play infectiously danceable tunes - it's electronic dance music that makes you feel present and alive. The artists are actually doing something, crafting a set or performing live, unlike so many twits that headline the bigger festivals and do nothing but push a button and dance around.
The stage is a perfect size, and everyone there is just soaking it up like sonic sponges and feeling good. It's nice to see people at a festival engaged and connecting with the music, not just partying and roaming around aimlessly with blank stares on their faces. I managed to catch Tokimonsta, Jonas Rathsman, Kink, Chrome Sparks and Bob Moses, all of whom brought their own unique sound and energy to the stage.
Just to the left of the Leafly Out of Time stage was a smaller setup for the Panasonic To The Max stage, which hosted DJs who had won the chance to perform. Some great talent rocked a variety of styles throughout the day on a surprisingly pumping little Panasonic Max system (I kind of want one for my house now).
As you roam into the center the of the festival, you are flanked by food trucks, bars, vendors and sponsor tents, purveying everything you could want from mac and cheese to free high fives (yeah, there was a guy doing that, and he even had a sign). The food was top shelf as you would expect in a city that is so good at the whole food thing. It's nice to have options aside from shitty burgers, flaccid pizza, and other festival food offenders.
I could have just sat there eating all day under a tree and probably been fine; that's how good the food was. Even backstage the caterers were bringing the heat for the artists and staffers.
Just beyond the vendors was the main stage, which hosted an eclectic lineup of indie bands as well as R&B and hip-hop acts. Run The Jewels, Joey Bada$$, Everything Everything, Broods, Kehlani and others gave great performances as well. I must admit I spent more of my time at the second stage as it was more of my kind of sound but the performances I did catch on the main stage were enjoyable, especially Run The Jewels.
El-P has been at it for a long time, and it was nice to see him and Killer Mike met with such zeal - these guys just owned it like no one else. Good indie hip-hop is hard to beat, and these RTJ delivered for the fans in big way leaving a vacuum of energy in their wake. People just stood around hoping for more.
The day is almost over too quickly, making you wish that it was a two-day festival instead. Maybe that's the magic of it all, though; it allows you to be in the moment and focus rather than running around to catch acts at six stages or chase your lost friends down in a tidal wave of wasteoids.
You are actually spending time at the event doing what you are supposed to be doing, enjoying the music and the atmosphere.
Big festivals have their place, but for me, nothing beats a small, boutique festival where I feel relaxed - not overwhelmed by it all.
So, big props to the Time Festival/Embrace, Leafly, Panasonic and all the other sponsors who helped make this happen. I will definitely be back next year.
Some of my favorite acts from Time Festival 2016 are below. Take a listen: