Published Jun 10, 2013As Schmidt would tell you, 10th anniversaries are a big deal. Celebrating a decade in business, Toronto record label Arts & Crafts pulled together a taster-plate of acts from its ever-growing roster for a convivial day in an idyllic setting. Recent A&C signee Hayden began with a sleepy take on "Motel," all measured keys and a bottom-heavy, sparse guitar. What could have been a laidback affair suddenly morphed into a rock show with a scorching "The Hazards of Sitting Beneath Palm Trees" and a similarly grand "Trees Lounge." The singer scored biggest with recent highlight, "Blurry Nights," which got a strong assist from Lou Canon on vocals and keys.
Orch-pop outfit Ra Ra Riot, whose second-stage show climaxed with a stunning version of "Can You Tell," were another standout. Ditto Stars, who had the best melodica work of the day. Nevertheless, it was London quartet Bloc Party that stole the afternoon. Bookending the gig with a pair of gorgeous growers — "So Here We Are" and "This Modern Love" — and kicking off a dance party with a truncated version of Rihanna's "We Found Love" followed by the jerky electro of "Flux," Bloc Party delivered a rousing and affecting performance. Later, co-headliner and the label's biggest star, Feist, turned up for a similarly eclectic slot. Over the years, she has gotten continually better at commanding a big crowd and her ability to blend tone and genre into a cohesive whole proved invaluable. Thus: an assured "Undiscovered First" flirted with folk revival; "Circle Married the Line" was a slow-jam charmer; and a guitar-driven "Feel It All" was bombastic.
Broken Social Scene's seminal record, You Forgot it in People, came out in 2002, helping launch its members' — including Feist — careers, create a slew of incestuous offshoots, and bring Arts & Crafts into existence. It was fitting that BSS chose to play it front-to-back for the anniversary. The album's track-listing is laid out like a concert, so supercharged takes on "KC Accidental" and "Almost Crimes" — a guitar solo extravaganza — set a brisk pace, while "Looks Just Like the Sun," offered a perfectly-timed respite. "Pacific Theme" gave the rhythm section a chance to show off. Unsurprisingly, "Anthems for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl" offered the evening's prettiest moment, despite a missing Emily Haines, while a late-act "Fire Eye'd Boy" provided its most stirring.
Broken Social Scene and the label they birthed have always worn their communist leanings proudly. Unsurprisingly, the latter's tin anniversary was an all-in affair that was aided by grownup liquor laws — wait, adults can drink outside of pens? — food trucks, and a field of hula hoops. As with all good anniversaries, embraces ensued.