Friday, September 23, 2016

The Hives stole the show on TURF’s first day

 
The Toronto Urban Roots Fest (TURF) has established itself as one of the highlights of an already impressive local live music scene over its first three years, and this relatively new yet proud tradition continued at Fort York from Sept. 16 to 18.

TURF 2016 began for me with the last part of Margo Price’s energetic honky tonk set at the West Stage. Her Midwest Farmer’s Daughter debut solo album created a buzz when it was released in March by Jack White’s Third Man Records, and Price’s sassy performance with her five-piece band brought the LP’s songs into vivid life. The 33-year-old is based in Nashville and reflects more Grand Ole Opry legacy than most country artists making the rounds these days. That’s good for fans of rootsy Americana, but it’s not likely to get her a lot of exposure on mainstream country radio.

Price’s Nashville and White connection was evident in her cover of Loretta Lynn’s “Rated X,” while other highlights included “This Town Gets Around” and a closing rendition of the single “Hurtin’ (On the Bottle).”

For pure showmanship, The Hives had it over everyone else who played TURF on Friday. The Swedish garage punk band was preceded on the East Stage by two roadies dressed in respective black and white ninja outfits, and the group followed a Dave Hodge introduction by making the scene decked out in eye-catching black and white suits. After seeing The Specials on Tuesday, I guess I was catching my second 2 Tone act of the week. If I ever get invited to another wedding, I’d like to wear a Hives suit to it.


The Hives
Things got off to a bang with “Come On!” and a slew of high-octane, hook-filled songs followed. These included perhaps the group’s biggest North American hit, “Hate to Say I Told You So,” as well as “Abra Cadaver,” a crowd participatory “Go Right Ahead,” “Bigger Hole To Fill,” “Main Offender,” “Won’t Be Long” and set-closer “Tick Tick Boom.”

The Hives
Lead singer Howling’ Pelle Almvqvist went into the photo pit and crowd a few times to engage the fans and addressed them frequently between songs, including declaring “I’m your favourite rock and roll asshole” before launching into “Main Offender.”

The Hives
The Hives drew a healthy-sized audience to its 4 p.m. set but, judging by its performance and the enthusiastic response to it, these rockers deserved a later time slot so more people could have felt the joy.

The Hives
London, England sextet Skinny Lister plays Celtic-infused folk music with punk rock spirit, and I was happy to share in the spirits when singer Lorna Thomas passed a jug of whiskey around to those of us at the front of the Rebellion Stage. I thoroughly enjoyed the band’s set at the Horseshoe Tavern earlier this year and the subsequently released The Devil, The Heart and the Fight seems destined to be among my 20 favourite albums of the year. The set was heavy on songs from the new record but also included such older numbers as “John Kanaka,” personal favourite “Trouble on Oxford Street” and “This is War.”

Skinny Lister
Skinny Lister
I arrived at the West Stage just in time to catch the end of Jake Bugg and his three-piece band’s set. The young British musician impressed me with his guitar playing and the influence of Donovan and Bob Dylan are ensconced in his songs and delivery. The new “Gimme The Love” was solid and the set-closing “Lightning Bolt” from his self-titled 2012 album had me beaming.

Jake Bugg
I used Explosions In The Sky’s 6:40 p.m. set on the East Stage as an opportunity to check out TURF’s large selection of food trucks and made good choices with a jerk chicken sandwich and Sichuan French fries. The Texas post-rock band’s instrumental drone served as background music while I ate, drank and chatted with friends at the Bricks & Sticks Lounge.

I’ve seen Boston Celtic punk sextet Dropkick Murphys a handful of times in the past and, while I don’t think this performance was quite at the level of those occasions, the group still delivered a rollicking good time. The fans right in front of the West Stage with me certainly got into it, fist-pumping, singing along and generally getting their butts kicked to such anthemically catchy numbers as “The Boys Are Back,” “Which Side Are You On?,” “Famous For Nothing,” “Sunshine Highway,” “Bastards On Parade,” an extra fast version of “The Irish Rover,” “Rose Tattoo” and “Going Out In Style.”


Dropkick Murphys
The Murphys paid homage to another Boston band by covering The Cars’ “Just What I Needed.” Despite being adopted as a signature song by the Toronto Blue Jays’ American League East rival the Boston Red Sox, baseball hatred took a back seat to band idolatry as the crowd exploded and eagerly sang along to “I’m Shipping Up To Boston.”

Dropkick Murphys
I listened to Drive-By Truckers’ new American Band album the day before TURF began and, while I don’t think it reaches the high water mark of the group's early 2000s output with Jason Isbell, it solidly ranks ahead of 2014’s English Oceans. There was a mix of old and new coming from the Rebellion Stage, with “3 Dimes Down” and “A Ghost To Most” among those representing the former, and “Baggage,” “Ramon Casiano” and “Ever South” introducing people to some of the latest politically charged repertoire.

Drive-By Truckers
Drive-By Truckers’ brand of well-played Americana and southern rock combined with Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley’s insightful lyrics have created a dedicated and long-term group of followers despite a band lineup that has undergone several changes over the years. While I’ve enjoyed other Truckers’ performances more than this one, this was a step up from the group’s afternoon set at TURF 2014

Drive-By Truckers

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