Photo by Zoë Metz
Toronto’s Arts & Crafts label has proven its worth as a tastemaker and permanent fixture of the music community, to which the curated care of its latest Field Trip festival was a strong testament. Over two days at the lakeside heritage property of Fort York, a family-friendly atmosphere played host to some finely-programmed artists. For the quality of the production and ease of the concert-going experience, a scant few events have rivaled this latest success.
In an ingenious bit of booking, Canadian legends Sharon & Bram played a pair of shows on Saturday for the stroller set, joyfully leading young parents and their headphoned tots through a slew of children’s classics. With Lois Lilienstein conspicuously absent from what was a trio dating back to the late 70s, due to her recent passing, her bandmates offered a heartfelt memorial en route to a spirited version of “Skinnamarink” that had fans of all ages singing and smiling along.
The rest of day one played out in fluid fashion under clear skies, as De La Soul brought humour and head-bobbing hip hop classics to the main stage before a trifecta of bands closed things out. The War On Drugs continued an endless victory lap in the wake of 2014’s monumental Lost in the Dream LP, with Adam Granduciel’s hypnotic guitar and possessed yelps soaring as the sun began to dip in the sky. The Arkells then whipped the crowd into a frenzy with their sturdy homespun radio-rock, before Alabama Shakes dazzled via Brittany Howard’s captivating leadership and a gritty batch of southern-fried tunes.
On Sunday, stormy weather and diminished vocal chords couldn’t hinder Jim James, as My Morning Jacket capped off another slate of fine artists with the best set of the weekend. While Hayden and Father John Misty had both shone in their daytime slots, it was James and his Kentuckian cohorts who justified their festival-closing position with brilliant renditions of songs new and old. “Spring (Among the Living)” and “Tropics (Erase Traces)” were the highlights from the just-released The Waterfall, while dependable standbys like “Worldess Chorus” and “Victory Dance” kept the rain-soaked crowd fully satisfied.
James appeared to control the weather – which never became unbearably wet – at will, notably during the title track from The Waterfall. His psych-rock-shaman routine was as commanding as ever, and he gave an enthusiastic salute to the fest and its spirited federation before his razor-sharp band added a tripped-out slowdown epilogue to “Touch Me I’m Going To Scream Pt. 2.” MMJ saw to it that Arts & Crafts delivered yet another stellar jubilee, with anticipation already building for the next go-round.