Virgin Festival Toronto Island Park, Toronto, ON - September 9 to 10, 2006

Virgin Festival Toronto Island Park, Toronto, ON - September 9 to 10, 2006
The first of what organisers hope will be many Virgin Music Festivals held in Canada hardly got off to the most auspicious start. Day two headliners and trip-hop legends Massive Attack pulled out after running into visa troubles. Faced with a hard 11 p.m. curfew on day one, the festival organisers inexplicably let delayed sets and lengthy band changeovers abruptly and drastically shorten what was developing into a jubilant, celebratory set by the headlining Flaming Lips. Concertgoers were rendered aghast in disbelief before loudly expressing their displeasure, going home without having had their fill. Gallic phenoms Phoenix were among those who helped salvage some modicum of respectability, delivering one of the best sets of the festival, with front-man Thomas Mars proving himself an expert, debonair showman. The crowd seemed a little uncertain at first of what to do with Toronto’s favourite chamber pop combo the Hidden Cameras but perked up noticeably after the collective dispensed lollipops amongst the first few rows. Muse’s stadium sized prog metal picked up some of the slack created by the Dears, whose art rock histrionics fell a little flat. Spirited though they were, Gnarls Barkley’s neo-soul extravagance wasn’t enough to galvanise a lethargic audience, most of whom didn’t appear terribly interested in shaking booty. The sour taste that was lingering from the disastrous closing of day one seemed to have melted away in the blazing sunshine of day two, with Swedish troubadour José González winning hearts with gently plucked strings and sombre meditations. The rousing afro-hop of K’Naan, whose incisive lyricism only further highlighted his considerable MC skills, was a welcome change from the guitar-toting outfits that dominated the line-up. The Sam Roberts Band was accorded a genuinely warm reception by the crowd, which was already significantly larger than the previous day’s throng. NYC’s kings of cool the Strokes slayed with an energetic set accompanied by a stellar light show. The Raconteurs were more like "the Jack White Experience,” with White soloing and wailing away into rock’n’roll excess. Many of the festival patrons didn’t stick around for festival closers Broken Social Scene, but maybe more would have if they knew that onetime BSS collaborators Amy Millan, Emily Haines and Feist would be making appearances during their stirring, feel-good set. Even if it was by default, it was heartening to see a local band headline a major corporate-sponsored music festival. The Flaming Lips fiasco won’t be forgotten anytime soon, but at least things ended on somewhat of a positive note.