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Friday, August 14th, 2009

The Downward Spiral

Virgin Festival Ontario scales down, heads downtown

Photo By Rob Sheridan & Tamar LevineRob Sheridan & Tamar LevineThey do try their best, I believe that, but it might be time to declare any Virgin Festival in Canada to be well and truly cursed. Don’t get me wrong, despite everything, I’ve always had a great time at the three in Toronto thus far, but you can’t really say they’ve gone smoothly. In 2006, they lost one headliner in Massive Attack (Broken Social Scene wasn’t a bad pinch hitter at all, but that it was necessary was unfortunate) and then there was the infamous 15-minute set from The Flaming Lips. The 2007 edition fared a bit better but still lost Amy Winehouse and Peter Bjorn & John without equal calibre replacements. Last year saw the the headliner famously assaulted onstage.

And that’s just the Toronto editions. As the rumour goes, last year’s Vancouver edition was cancelled outright after Pemberton poached Coldplay as headliner. And this year, after keeping silent well into the Spring as to whether there’d even be a festival this year, they came out and announced five across the country, most of which befell some sort of calamity. Vancouver was struck by lightning and had to cancel the headline set by The Roots. Halifax lost headliners The Tragically Hip at the 11th hour and had to make up for it by making the whole event free. Montreal headliners New Kids On The Block failed to contract food poisoning before their set and were able to perform. I think Calgary managed to avoid any sort of disaster their two years running – good on them.

Which left Ontario. Though still the subject of many complaints, I thought the 2009 lineup was pretty solid – but the decision to hold it an hour north of the city at Burl’s Creek in Oro was met with howls of protest from the 416. And it wasn’t just whinging from those who didn’t like going north of Bloor – there were genuine logistical concerns about transportation, traffic, accommodations and whatnot. But I guess the assumption was that the absence of those who didn’t want to leave the city would be made up for by others in southern Ontario who would find it easier to not drive downtown and a lovely time would be had by all.

Not so much.

An unexpected press release showed up yesterday around noon declaring that due to slow ticket sales and protests about the location, Virgin Festival Ontario had been moved from Burl’s Creek to the Molson Amphitheatre in downtown Toronto, barely two weeks before the event was scheduled to happen. Considering that many/most who had decided to go had already made travel and lodging arrangements, myself included, this wasn’t as much of the gift as it may have been intended to be. For example, I was able to get a full refund on my hotel room (I don’t camp) – I know others had booked non-refundable rooms. They’re now out a couple hundred dollars. Others who bought tickets early at full price will be justifiably upset that the new pricing structure offers much cheaper options, though refunds for tickets are available so you could trade those in and buy the cheaper Amphitheatre lawns if you just want to grab a piece of sod and chill out for a couple days. Mind you, those already holding tickets have been promised to be given first crack at the Amphitheatre’s floors and 200-level seats, though that may give you an idea of how many tickets were sold in the first place. I can’t say exactly how assignments will go, but it seems that those first in line will get wristbands granting GA floors and then everyone else will get assigned 200-level seating.

And while the festival organizers are assuring that all the announced acts will still perform, there’s other questions, like how the stages will be set up – the Amphitheatre itself can’t easily accommodate a second stage, particularly not one big enough to handle Pet Shop Boys or Pixies, who I would assume would be closing that one out on their respective nights. Which means that the second stage would have to go outside the Amphitheatre grounds and somewhere else in Ontario Place. Looking at the satellite imagery, the spot south of the Amphitheatre is the only logical place it could go but I have no idea what’s there and what might get mangled by a big stage and thousands of concert goers, never mind the fact that this is all going down when the CNE is on and Ontario Place will already be lousy with non-V Fest visitors.

So how will it all end up going down? Will the V Fest brand be able to recover from this year and convince people to return in the future? Will they even try? I have no idea, but am very curious to see. And while I really was warming to the idea of the Burl’s Creek experience (if not the insect bites that would ensue), I can’t say I’m not pleased that like past years, I’ll be able to get there by bike and be able to sleep in my own bed.

Anyways.

They were just here last month opening for Frightened Rabbit but The Antlers have since garnered their own immense buzz for their new album Hospiceand so are are coming back for their own show at the Horseshoe on September 24.

Speaking of shows, after Wilco’s October 14 show at Massey Hall sells out minutes after tickets go on sale this morning at 10AM, look for a second show to be announced for October 15. This comes from a press release for opener Liam Finn which lists both dates at Massey Hall and considering how Wilco have been playing the same venue since 2004 while their fanbase has arguably grown considerably, and the idea of a multi-night stand seems eminently logical though it makes my eight-year streak of seeing every Wilco appearance in Toronto considerably more difficult to maintain. LiveDaily has an interview with Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche.

And if that’s not enough Liam Finn for you, Bumpershine reports that he’ll play his own headlining show at Lee’s Palace on October 29 with Miracle Fortress as support. Finn’s new EP with Eliza Jane Champagne in Seashells is out September 1.

MP3: Liam Finn with Eliza Jane – “Plane Crash”
Stream: Liam Finn & Eliza Jane / Champagne In Seashells

Those waiting for Sufjan Stevens ticket information for the October 1 show, looks like Ticketmaster is your only option. Face value is $17.50 so you’ll be lucky to come away a ducat for under $30, all said and done. Also note: “Tickets cannot be picked up at the outlet. They must be picked by the cardholder, with credit card in hand and photo identification at the venue by the cardholder ONLY”. So there you go.

And Cryptacize, who are touring with Stevens, are the subject of a feature video/audio session over at Luxury Wafers.

MP3: Cryptacize – “Blue Tears” (live on Luxury Wafers)

Antony & The Johnsons have not only covered Beyonce, but they’ve made a video. No Jay-Z, though.

Video: Antony & The Johnsons – “Crazy In Love”

Previously venue-less, the August 30 Throw Me The Statue show will now be happening at The Boat with support from The Brunettes and Nurses. And if you dig on Nurses, they’re back in town on October 15 at the Drake Underground with Le Loup.

MP3: Throw Me The Statue – “Ancestors”
MP3: Nurses – “Caterpillar Playground”
MP3: The Brunettes – “Small Town Crew”
MP3: Le Loup – “Beach Town”

Deerhoof will be doing a free show at Yonge-Dundas Square on September 17, somehow related to TIFF. Is there a Deerhoof documentary premiering that I don’t know about?

MP3: Deerhoof – “+81″

The Flaming Lips have set an October 13 release date for their next album Embryonic. Rolling Stone has details and Pitchfork is streaming a song from the record, and early response to new material from those who’ve lost interest in the band nearly as much as I have is quite positive.

Spinner and Billboard talk to Death Cab’s Ben Gibbard and Son Volt’s Jay Farrar about their work on One Fast Move or I’m Gone, the soundtrack album for a documentary on Jack Kerouac by the same name. The album will be out October 20 and there are plans for a tour to follow.

Video: Jay Farrar – “San Francisco”
Trailer: One Fast Move or I’m Gone: Kerouac’s Big Sur

Laura Marling discusses her plans for album number two with BBC.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette talks to Decemberists guitarist Chris Funk and The Philadelphia Inquirer to Colin Meloy.

The Dan Deacon show at Sneaky Dee’s on November 3 isn’t his only local date – he’s also at the Great Hall on November 4.

Luxury Wafers talks to Oliver Ackermann of A Place To Bury Strangers. Their new one Exploding Head is out October 6 and they’re at the Mod Club on October 27.

By : Frank Yang at 8:19 am
Category: General

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

RSS Feed for this post5 Responses.
  1. Mike says:

    I saw the Cure festival about 5 years ago at Molson Amphitheatre. There was a 2nd stage (and conveniently staggered sets, so you could catch virtually all the acts if you were quick enough), erected in the playground are that usually houses the punching bag playground across from the venue and still on the grounds.

    But if the Ex is on, you’re right, everything is up in the air.

  2. Frank Yang says:

    Pet Shop Boys in Children’s Village! That’d be awesome – too bad the playground is gone now. But yeah, the question is how much of Ontario Place can a ticketed festival commandeer?

  3. Frank Yang says:

    actually now that I think about it, that area already is a second stage – or it was last time I was at Ontario PLace (last august for Radiohead). there was some dance troupe or something on it. Question is, how many people can fit there? Can they do proper sound and lights there?

  4. Bruce says:

    Not to mention, would the second stage be sufficiently removed from the sound generated by the Amphitheatre? If they can pull off the staggered set times (always a challenge given the vagaries of roadies) it might be doable.

    The Antlers were indeed impressive opening for Frightened Rabbit, as is their Hospice album (although from what I witnessed, the studio versions of the songs, good as they are, are outshone by their live counterparts). Recommended.

    By the way, looks like Patrick Wolf has been up to his old shenanigans again: http://pitchfork.com/news/36226-video-patrick-wolf-attacks-woman-onstage-in-germany/
    We weren’t the only lucky ones!

  5. FrostBiteBoy says:

    Who knew that moving a festival more than an hour north of the city, packing it with bands that have never been played on any radio station within 100 miles of the event, and waiting until the last minute to announce the lienup could hurt ticket sales?

    Good job Virgin, and your crack team of Promoters and Marketing Experts…
    Guess we won’t be seeing you around next year.

    Bring on Chromewaves Festival 2010!!!!!