Published Aug 11, 2013Summer always calls for music festivals of all shapes and sizes, and nothing highlights local talent (and great sightseeing) quite like the ALL CAPS! Island Fest. The festival, which is in its fifth and final year, is organized by the longstanding patrons of the Toronto music scene, Wavelength, who have proven time and time again to be an integral and eclectic tastemaker for the city.
Held on Toronto Island, the festival grounds resembled a summer camp more than an actual festival. Tents were pitched, one small stage was set up in a corner and the beach was within walking distance; this is Coachella's little Torontonian baby in comparison and let's face it, gigantic festivals can often be overrated anyway.
Day one of ALL CAPS! kicked off with a bill that varied in genres and ages, from the all-girl pop-punk teens Unfinished Business to the Blow, whose career is older than the girls in the former band. The speed with which Unfinished Business, a product of Toronto's Girls Rock Camp, have learned to play, perform and write quick and crunchy pop songs is alarming, though. Already equipped with those developing musical skills and even some theatrics (confetti cannon!) to close their short set, this trio are primed to develop into the belles of any high school talent show.
Another act who succeeded in impressing the crowd, sans confetti, was Toronto's Most People. A multitasking duo onstage, Brandon Gibson-DeGroote and Paul McEachern produce dynamic harmonies and toe-tapping rhythms similar to Local Natives. Throw in a few sharp, slicing riffs, taken out of the pages of Brit-rockers Foals, and Most People have created an amalgamation of influences that result in something infectiously undeniable live; it's always commendable when such lush and layered music comes from just two people.
Shotgun Jimmie, who was worshipped by three enthusiastic fans at the front of the stage in matching band tees, charmed the audience with a set of pop-rock folk tales, which he often described as "lounge tune," whereas Ev Ree Wuhn literally performed the most lounge-worthy set of the day with their synth-driven, ambient rock. Vancouver's Beekeeper rocked an entire set of sing-along melodies that indisputably has commercial appeal in its catchiness and not just because they performed a cover of one of Canada's biggest pop stars, Alanis Morissette. And Hooded Fang continue to push their indie rock melodies away from their pop beginnings and into a riffed-out garage rock territory, which is proving to be just as enjoyable and explosive live.
Portland's the Blow were the only non-Canadian act of the evening, and the headliners to close the night. For those who were unfamiliar with the band's electro-bubble-gum pop discography, as well as their quirky live performances, the Blow's performance probably came off a little weird. Often breaking the barriers between banter and performance, lead singer Khaela Maricich blurs the lines between performance and conversation, with the crowd, with herself and with her musical partner, Melissa Dyne, who was stationed offstage, next to the sound guy.
Like watching a woman dance around to Grimes while narrating a story to herself, there's an allure and charisma to Maricich's approach. Debuting an entire set of new material, save for one song, the Blow's music has stayed true to their minimalistic beats and off-kilter storytelling. Definitely an ideal representation of how ALL CAPS! has also broken down our ideas of what a traditional music festival is and creating their own event, which has definitely won us over already on its first day.
To see more photos from ALL CAPS!, click to our gallery here.