Over 40 artists took the stage this weekend at Toronto’s Woodbine Park for the second annual Bestival Festival. Some thrived, some surprised, and some disappointed. Lotusland experienced it all, and are here to present five standout sets from the weekend:
The 30° weather and merciless humidity must have seemed a radical departure from the London of Rationale’s origin. Regardless, the Zimbabwe-born synthpop songwriter performed early on Saturday with vigour and aplomb. The crowd took to his catchy brand of electropop, and the sound quality of his performance remained unmatched throughout the weekend. His energy not only set the weekend off to a blazing start, but his presence demonstrated the lack of diversity within the Bestival lineup.
As Saturday headliners, Tame Impala delivered exactly what was expected of them: an exhibition of numbingly groovy psych rock. With a visual display resembling a dangerously intense acid experience, the Australian group worked through a set of fan-favourites. The young and enthusiastic crowd responded favourably, belting out renditions of “Let it Happen” and “The Less I Know The Better.” Although they stuck close to the recorded versions, moments of experimentation such as a punchy “Elephants” outro showed the true musical limits of the quintet. While remaining true to the “tame” in their name, the performance was nonetheless well-executed and energetic.
Although their set time was early, and their crowd slight, the Twilight Sad played as though they were headlining the festival. As the opening act for the Cure on their North American tour, the Scottish Post-Rock outfit arrived remarkably rehearsed. Dressed in matching black (blatantly disregarding the merciless humidity), the group played cuts from across their four-album discography, always leaving room for exploration and departures. Frontman James Graham channelled the spirit of Ian Curtis, writhing and contorting across the stage, delivering an impassioned vocal performance in his distinctive Scottish brogue. Between songs he jestingly bantered with the audience, creating an intimate and participatory environment.
Jamie xx dressed modestly in a button-up white shirt and black sunglasses. He seemed timid, addressing the crowd curtly and infrequently. Instead, he directed the entirety of his attention to a diverse and dynamic set. Standing behind a partition of boards and synths, the English DJ and member of the xx crafted an hour-long mélange of upbeat electronic tracks. Rather than recreating tracks from last year’s “In Colour” he drew from styles as disparate as raga and folk, even including a brief Rod Stewart sample. The crowd, arguably the liveliest of the weekend, offered a ceaseless energy, erupting in elation at the concluding performance of “Gosh.” Above all, the set was an unquestionable display of precocious ability, auguring well for the xx album currently in development.
In true Canadian fashion, Vancouver-born synthpop starlet Grimes apologized several times throughout her Sunday evening set for the illness that she was fighting; however, beyond sniffling and rubbing her runny nose, there was no other indication that the artist was performing at anything less than top form. Weaving between three accompanying dancers, Grimes sang, played guitar, operated a set of boards, pounded a drum pad and joined in on the choreography. It seemed tiring simply tracking her movement, yet she took the stage equipped with relentless energy. The crowd reciprocated every ounce of enthusiasm, making for a spirited and lively atmosphere. The set, comprised of 10 songs exclusively from her last two albums, provided the perfect warmup for The Cure to follow but as she bowed humbly and walked off the stage it was evident that Grimes had delivered the highlight of the weekend.