Matt Mays played Toronto Urban Roots Fest July 6. Photo: Tom Beedham
Walking onto the (west facing) east stage at TURF in the middle of the afternoon and dressed in a denim shirt layered over with a heavy looking leather vest – festival appropriateness aside – some of the audience might have wondered if Matt Mays knew what he was getting into under the hot plus-25 weather.
Any speculation was left reserved for his fashion choice and otherwise cast aside, however, when Mays and his band played to Fort York.
Serving up what could be described in simple terms as a physical performance, Matt Mays and his band rocked the crowd with plenty of spunk and gritty, unreserved duel guitar and wisdom-imparting vocals, contrasted by sentimental keyboard hooks. Mays might have paid for it with his sweat, but the crowd was all smiles by the end.
Celebrating 25 years as a band, Skydiggers performed at Fort York for TURF July 6. Photo: Tom Beedham
Celebrating 25 years as a band, with a sound and charisma falling somewhere between that of The Tragically Hip and Blue Rodeo, and having once shared a label with incendiary noise rock group Sonic Youth, when Toronto roots rock band Skydiggers played TURF it raised the question as to why the group never took off at quite the same rate as their contemporaries.
But the band’s foundation was disturbed early on; their eponymous debut released on Enigma in 1990, the label soon after filed for bankruptcy and the band was denied the opportunity to properly tour the LP. It was also forced to endure the bankruptcy of FRE Records (subsidiary of Capitol Records), subsequently denying the band the possibility to distribute its records as widely as, say, the more commercially successful Hip.
Still, the Skydiggers have managed to keep themselves busy: the group has released 13 full lengths (their most recent, No. 1 Covers, a cover album of Canadian tracks by the likes of Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, and Jason Collett, was released earlier this month); Toronto’s Legendary Horseshoe Tavern has built a tradition on hosting an annual Skydiggers Christmas show, as festival founder and Horseshoe owner Jeff Cohen mentioned before their set; frontman Andy Maize launched independent record label MapleMusic Recordings in 2002; and Maize also has a side project with Skydiggers guitarist Josh Finlayson, Finlayson/Maize, which released an LP, Dark Hollow in 2006. It only seemed fit that, with a bit of new blood in the lineup, Skydiggers performed their 1990 single, “I Will Give You Everything” to a captured audience at Fort York in the middle of the afternoon on July 6.