Tag Archives: She and Him

TURF reviews: She & Him at Fort York – July 4, 2013

She & Him's strict no camera policy at TURF placed audience members in a sour state, and for many, one that wouldn’t be cured by the band’s set. Photo: Frank Yang/TURF

She & Him’s strict no camera policy at TURF placed audience members in a sour state, and for many, one that wouldn’t be cured by the band’s set. Photo: Frank Yang/TURF

Zooey Deschanel is still the new girl.

What was at first perceived as an innocent request to curb the over-documenting culture that concert-goers have become hyper aware of in recent years soon revealed itself to be a draconian approach to image control when a strict no camera policy demanded by Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward’s group was (passive-) aggressively enforced by a pre-recorded message, flyers posted earlier in the day, and then security guards accosting any front row listeners lifting LED-bejeweled smart phones into the air (and all of the people immediately surrounding them) with flashlights and wagged fingers.

It placed She & Him audience members in a sour state, and for many, one that wouldn’t be cured by the band’s set.

While M. Ward and his backing band are exceptional musicians seasoned to the stage, for an actor whose quirky onscreen qualities are (if polarized) celebrated and whose album work with M. Ward is the stuff of sugary charm, Zooey Deschanel’s performance at Toronto Urban Roots Fest revealed that the actress hasn’t taken to the stage quite as comfortably.

Talented no doubt, Deschanel played song portions on piano, tambourine, and miniature guitar throughout the night, but to say that She & Him made up for the root assault on its fans’ freedoms with its stage show would be an exaggeration.

And that’s what was irritating about She & Him’s set at TURF. While their self-aware camera policy could be appreciated in an age where people go to concerts recording endless video that nobody asked for anyway, it ended up merely magnifying the circumstance of Deschanel’s lack of nonchalance. Appearing for most of the set as a deer in the headlights at the mic, Deschanel’s most crowd-engaging comport was her steering of a call and response rendering of “In The Sun.”

Just a suggestion: maybe it would’ve looked better from behind 3.5-inch screens. Also, if you’re demanding no cameras to keep your live show off the Internet, make it a good show.

Stray observations:
-M. Ward and Deschanel performed a duet performance of Smokey Robinson’s “You Really Got A Hold On Me”
-Guitarist/bassist Mike Coykendall performed a whistle solo that got the most deservedly applauded reception I’ve ever witnessed a whistle solo receive at a concert
-Deschanel’s set banter suggesting that someone in the audience should drink the oversized blowup Molson Canadian beer can promoting the “Molson Canadian Live” elevated listening area was just the “adorkable” humour fans love her for
-The francophone “Sunday Girl,” and “Dear Diary,” which ended in an Ward/Deschanel shared piano jam made for encores worth sticking around for

Originally published by The Ontarion.

TURF war

Four-day music festival supports city as facility for live music

Toronto Urban Roots Festival (TURF) is attempting to act as harbinger for a new time in Toronto's history of live music. (Photo courtesy of TURF)

Toronto Urban Roots Festival (TURF) is attempting to act as harbinger for a new time in Toronto’s history of live music. (Photo courtesy of TURF)

That Toronto Urban Roots Fest is being marketed under the abbreviated “TURF” title is probably no coincidence.

The premiere of the multi-day outdoor music festival comes to the city July 4 through 7, and features headlining acts like Belle and Sebastian, She & Him, Neko Case, Joel Plaskett, and The Arkells. But beyond a concert event, in words that forgo exaggeration, TURF is a political battle cry championing the city’s place in North America’s music scene.

According to Jeff Cohen, the festival’s founder, TURF and multi-day festivals like it coming to the city mark a victory for the city’s music scene.

And Cohen should know. He was appointed Chair of the City of Toronto Music Advisory Council after consultee work he did with music lobbying organization Music Canada on a report comparing the music scene in Austin, Tex. to that of Toronto.

“Toronto City Council has some policies in place and some rules in the city books that are not conducive to people wanting to do outdoor summer events in downtown Toronto,” Cohen says he told Nikki Rowling, the author of the report, in 2012. “They have allowed the residents’ associations to rule the roost, and it’s time for politicians to rethink this and start having the business associations get in there with the residents’ associations and explain to the residents that one of the wonderful things about living in downtown Toronto is summer events.”

“Toronto is the third-largest music market in North America, yet it has very few outdoor concerts, and it does not have a multi-day festival. There’s something wrong there,” Cohen said. Before TURF, he saw a need for someone to step up and create a business environment that would allow private enterprise entrepreneurs to feel that they could back festivals without the anxiety that they would be entering money pits and logistical nightmares. TURF is his way of putting money where his mouth is.

But even with someone to act as harbinger for the festival scene in downtown Toronto, what if the residents’ associations still oppose the prospect of having more live music?

“Why don’t they move to Barrie or Dundas?” Cohen said over the phone on July 2, just as setup for festivities were getting underway to set up two stages at Fort York, the centre of TURF’s action. It’s tough love, but Cohen insists the tax base generated from the newly created jobs and ticket sales revenues, as well as the more simple appeal of easy access to live entertainment, are benefits reciprocated to area residents that outweigh things like noise complaints and other negative concert fallout.

In the same spirit, Cohen said that after some initial hesitation, Fort York saw hosting concerts as an opportunity to improve their revenues otherwise left dependent on the City of Toronto, as well as a promotional strategy that would bring approximately 15,000 people on site that had potentially never visited before, encouraging new repeat visitors in between concert dates. It also hosted Field Trip – the celebration of Toronto label Arts & Crafts’ 10-year anniversary – in June this year, and in August it will open its gates to a two-day presentation of touring punk festival Riot Fest.

The two stages at Fort York will allow for staggered performances and a seamless concert experience. Also on site will be local independent food vendors and a children’s area (access to the festival is free for children 10 and under).

After things wrap up at the fort, other TURF events will take place at Cohen’s bars, popular Toronto concert venues The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern and Lee’s Palace.

As TURF approaches and more outdoor venues and music events are finding their place in the city (Cohen is quick to namedrop Live Nation’s new Echo Beach venue and festivals such as Field Trip), Cohen’s attitude – although already passionate – is markedly more electrified speaking on the present state of music in the city, saying that the atmosphere of communication between the music industry and City Council has undergone “a total change,” something he credits to new councillors Gary Crawford, Josh Colle, who – informed by the report Cohen was involved with – travelled to Austin during South by Southwest this past March to propose a musical alliance with Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell, as well as Mike Layton.

“Instead of finding reasons not to have outdoor shows at Fort York, they’re finding reasons financially and spiritually and emotionally why we need those shows.”

Meanwhile, Austin evinced its support of Toronto on June 27 when its city council passed a resolution to begin a “Music City Alliance” to encourage tourism and general, cross-cultural exchange between itself and the City of Toronto once the latter passes similar legislation.

Originally published by The Ontarion on July 4, 2013.