Virgin Festival, Day 2

Sunday called for some pretty heavy thunderstorms, and the weather didn’t disappoint. Early in the afternoon, at the Toronto Virgin Festival, the crowds were poncho-equipped and umbrella-bearing.

One of the impressive things about the Toronto Virgin Festival is their focus towards not harming the environment. Throughout the island, “Green Angels” were on hand to help festival-goers recycle. Solar-powered laptops and bicycle-powered cellphone chargers not only were handy, but likely instrumental to educating the masses about the availability of renewable energy. And it was good to know that carbon offsets were purchased on my behalf to offset what they couldn’t reduce!

Today, I’ll cover: Spiral Beach, Danko Jones, OPOPO, The Weakerthans, Arkells, Silversun Pickups, and Stereophonics.


Spiral Beach’s sunny pop was just what the doctor ordered for this drizzly and damp day. The Toronto band, featuring songwriting from brothers Daniel and Alrick Woodhead, kicked off the festival’s second day, performing for about 200 brave souls willing to stand in the pour rain. Some pretty interesting antics from the band that are fun to watch, with guitarist Alrick Woodhead standing out in enthusiasm and energy.


“You shouldn’t be happy the sun came up, you should be happy I’m here.” Danko Jones successfully scared the clouds away with his set. “Cheer for me like I’m Oasis,” Danko admonished the crowd between sets of his rock. This Toronto rocker and his band definitely have stage presence, with some tongue-wagging mixed in with the usual head-banging, while hammering on a sweet-looking black Gibson Explorer. The rock comes out hard and heavy, shouted lyrics on top of frenetic guitar and bass work.


I arrived at the Oh Henry! stage halfway through OPOPO’s set, just as they were playing “Computer Menace”, which was one of the songs that stood out from the Toronto house/punk band’s latest EP, Urbnet. Over the two festival days, everyone was talking OPOPO this, OPOPO that. Stories of equipment-smashing and head-gashing at previous shows reigned galore. That, and some pretty good recordings, made expectations high.

OPOPO didn’t disappoint. Their show featured some pretty frenetic action from guitarist and vocalist frontman Bryan Sutherland, as he bounces and crawls around the stage, kicking beers into the crowd, all the while layering some guitar over delicious synth beats. A war-painted drummer and a keyboard made for two round out this odd group.


Finally, a band not from Toronto. The Weakerthans hail from rather cold (even at this time of the year) Winnipeg, Manitoba. The band features the eclectic songwriting of frontman John K. Samson — who has the uncanny ability to write songs about just about anything. I do mean anything. In “Tournament of Hearts”, Samson masterfully weaves a deeper message into a song where every line relates to the great sport of Curling (including the catchy verse, “right off, no never ever”).

Opening the set with “a song about Bigfoot” (”Bigfoot!”), and “a song about Arctic exploration” (”Our Retired Explorer (Dines with Michel Foucault in Paris, 1961)”), I found the band a bit detached from the crowd, just doing their own thing, setting the same a tame pace to their set that’s not much unlike the easy going nature of their recordings. But by the time their recent hit “Civil Twilight” rolled around, I was more captivated — a bit surprising for a song about the time “between the sunset and certified darkness”.


The Arkells were the surprise set for me of the day. I only heard the last few songs, but this Hamilton band impressed me — most of their tunes are catchy, some bring a little folk-ish flavor, and the energy seemed to draw in and infect the large crowd that had gathered to watch them. It’s great to watch a band that looks like they’re having fun!



7 September 2008 | grc | Music | Comments

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