Festival review and photos by Music Vice editor Brian Banks
Gig/Concert: Virgin Festival Toronto 2008 by Virgin Mobile
Venue: Toronto Island Park, Toronto, ON, Canada
Date: 9 September 2008
Headliners: Oasis, Paul Weller
In one word: Opopo
Alright, first things first… the whole world seems to be talking about THAT incident on the second day of Virgin Festival in Toronto, so let’s get that out of the way. Noel Gallagher, Oasis guitarist, and big brother of Liam, was attacked on stage by some guy who came from behind and pushed him over into his sound monitor. I’m sure you’ve seen the video on the TV, or maybe on YouTube. Maybe you thought it was funny enough to watch ten times. Anyway, yeah, I saw it happen. I also saw the band, security staff and management have what looked like a heated discussion right after the incident, as they talked at the bottom of the ramp and around the band’s wine-coloured van. I actually thought that Oasis would leave there and then, but after five minutes or so they were back on stage. You can forget about an encore though – it never happened. As soon as Oasis finished their set they drove off in that van and most likely made a quick getaway on a waiting private ferry.
So that was the big news story. Now, want to know about some of the music that happened that day? I mean, it was a music festival after all. Ok, read on…
My first stop was over to the second stage to catch a few songs from Paper Lions. However, I was soon drawn away to the nearby Oh Henry indie stage where I saw a band called Opopo. Now the thing is, I had checked out these guys’ music on MySpace before arriving at V Fest, and I was less than impressed by their rather overworked and over mixed electro synth tunes. Yet it was a completely different story when I saw these guys play live. Opopo were magic!
“The band’s look was also less than typical; with a drummer adorned in war paint providing some comedy and intrigue, while the singer lures you in with his leaping, swaggering, fall-on-the-floor performance.“
Watching Opopo live gives you a stripped down showcase of their music. The traditional rock instruments of guitar, drums and bass mix it up in frenetic harmony with some tasty synth beats, creating a live performance that is totally immersing. It’s a sound and show that is far from average. The band’s look was also less than typical; with a drummer adorned in war paint providing some comedy and intrigue, while the singer lures you in with his hopping, swaggering, fall-on-the-floor performance. Having a front man who is so genuinely into the music is something that the audience feeds off of and it’s what creates that fantastic atmosphere. Opopo put on the best live show of Virgin Fest on Sunday. It was a trip.
I ventured over to the main stage for the first time on Sunday and saw The Weakerthans. The Weakerthans are a Canadian band that exists in semi-obscurity both at home, and more so abroad. Every now and then they stick their heads above water and make themselves known, like when they pick up a Juno award, (the Canadian version of the UK’s Brit Awards), and also on days like this when the band take to the main stage at a big rock festival. The Weakerthans brought something a little different to that main stage audience. They’re not a mainstream band, not even in Canada, but boy do they deserve to be – their performance here put other bands to shame who had shared the same stage. For example, Stereophonics, that Welsh band who are somehow still around. Kelly Jones of the Stereophonics must dream he could write lyrics as good as John K. Samson, the introvert front man of The Weakerthans. The lyrics are the outstanding strong point of The Weakerthans, a band who have the narrative of a poet, an underdog… a normal guy. It was cool to zone out and listen to this music.
“And Stereophonics? Their performance was as stale as their music, and about as interesting as Kelly Jones’ tan leather jacket.“
As I alluded to in the previous paragraph, the next two bands that came on after the Weakerthans weren’t that great. Silversun Pickups, a band from Los Angeles, have a few good tunes, but as a performance it was instantly forgettable. And Stereophonics? Their performance was as stale as their music, and about as interesting as Kelly Jones’ tan leather jacket. I made a quick exit over to the TD stage to see Sons And Daughters.
Sons And Daughters were a real treat. Their set was totally enjoyable. The band comes from Glasgow, and they were a mile better than that of fellow weegies the Fratellis who had played the same stage on Saturday. Sons And Daughters had a genuine grittiness about them and a fantastic stage presence. The chemistry between the lead singer Adele Bethel and guitarist/back-up vocalist Scott Paterson was a real spectacle. It seemed like a battle for attention, with Bethel winning for the most part, as she looked out into the crowd with dark eyes and bright pink socks. It was interesting to observe this stage battle, because Bethel did take on a dominant role as lead vocalist on the latest Sons And Daughters record Gift. The interplay between Bethel and Paterson was something that had me and a few hundred other people mesmerised.
Back over at the main stage, the night was coming to an end. Before Oasis were on it was the turn of one of the Gallagher’s mates to take to the stage – The Modfather himself, Paul Weller. I’ll admit that I only really know the best known singles from Weller. It was clearly the same situation for most of the audience, but everyone cheered with respect after each song. For the real Weller fans in attendance it must have been a delight – the sound quality at all the stages at this festival was excellent, great job to the organisers on that.
And then the night ended with Oasis. I used to be a fan. Back in my early teenage years Britpop was the thing and I was happy to lap it up as an easily-influenced teenager. Then back in ’97 they released Be Here Now… which was pretty painful. I kept some kind of blind faith for this band and went on to purchase Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants, which was genuinely crap. So it’s been eight years since I listened to anything from Oasis, aside from the occasional public rants about people they dislike and anything to do with Man City football club, the team whom the Gallagher’s hold so dear.
“If that bloke hadn’t have pushed over Noel then there’d have been nothing much worth mentioning.“
Listening to Oasis play at Virgin Festival was nothing special. Yeah sure, most the crowd seemed to love it, but I was unmoved. If that bloke hadn’t have pushed over Noel then there’d have been nothing much worth mentioning. He has probably done them a favour, especially with the new album Dig Out Your Soul coming soon in October. There’s nothing like a bit of worldwide publicity to boost a band’s public profile.
© Brian Banks