Constantines / Broken Social Scene / Buck 65 / Arcade Fire / Death From Above 1979 Olympic Island, Toronto ON - August 7, 2004

Oh, if only it was more than once a year. Sloan followed Björk's example from last summer and brought a slew of indie rock buds to Toronto Island for an occasionally sunshiny day of rock'n'roll delight — and it's rapidly becoming the venue of choice for summertime music fans for whom the Molson Amphitheatre looked as far away as Iceland. Death From Above 1979 was a throbbing sore thumb as the first act of the day; although plagued with some sound problems, in a perfect environment, their sloppy blend of fuzzy stoner riffs and grungy hardcore-lite would still send me exploring the far corners of the island. But when the Pied Piper hit the stage in the form of ambitious Montreal art rockers Arcade Fire, it brought listeners from seemingly everywhere, drawn to their ambitious multi-part singing and bombastic stage presence. The collective murmurings of "who is this? They're great!" could be heard two football fields back. Many already knew how great Halifax MC Buck 65 is, but of all the afternoon acts his probably found the fewest new fans — although his intricate wordplay and elaborate storytelling connected with those who hung on every word in front of the stage. In contrast, Broken Social Scene spilled out all over the island; even if you weren't actively listening, their infectious pop groove brought island-wide smiles, especially with Metric singer Emily Haines subbing for the absent Leslie Feist in the dreamy vocal department. "This is better than Lollapalooza," BSS guru Kevin Drew offered at one point, reminding us that not only were the previous two days to be taken up at the Molson Bunker across the lake, but that BSS wouldn't be with us on this fine day's line-up had the ambitions of Perry Ferrell's alterna-fest not fallen on the sword of commerce. The Constantines wrapped up one of the best afternoons of music this summer with a typically powerful performance that was perhaps not as focussed and hard-driving as usual, probably because the vibe of Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene better suited the setting. Compared to the afternoon delights, the Radioplay/Coldhead offerings of Pilate provided nothing more than innocuous background music for the beer line — incidental music between the afternoon bands was more engaging. Importing the late afternoon crowd from the big city for the evening triumvirate of the Stills, Sam Roberts and Sloan necessitated a shift change, but we on the early shift wandered home content that with a string of independent-minded Canadian greatness all afternoon, we got the better half of the draw.