Accepting candy from a stranger and spending time below an underpass were two things I was told not to do as a child.
Yet, here I am, under the Rosemount-Van Horne overpass for the 2nd Mile Ex End Festival.
Although this year, the festival is smaller in size but longer by adding a 3rd day which will feature comedy.
Whenever I hear “Mile End”, I can’t help but think it would make an excellent title for an Eminem life story: “From 8 Mile to Mile End.”
Slim Shady will most likely not make an appearance, but the cloud covering gave us a respite from the hot sun with our own shady spot under the bridge.
Elodie & Hadrien make up the Electro Pop band Holy Two, which started us off today. The pair met at Architecture school in Lyon (France), but they decided to pursue building soundscapes surrounding Elodie’s French tinted voice. A great song to hear that cute little accent spilling through is “Misunderstood” from their latest album Invisible Matters.
The only thing that disappointed me with this band is that they didn’t get a later slot on the bill. Great stage presence and sound, it would have been a crowd pleaser, had there been more people to welcome them.
Vinyl Vaudeville with Kid Koala
The smile on his face is infectious. This Turntable Genius is still very much a kid, and his show entertained very young and old alike. Kid Koala creates music using 3 Technics SL 1200 (I’m jealous…I only have two) and scratches and samples using his eclectic vinyl collection to create songs from “Moon River” (1961) to blues, Beastie Boys, all the way to heavy metal.
Add some quirky puppet characters, vaudeville showgirls, 100s of paper airplanes and throw Kazoos in the audience and you will have one strange and wonderful party.
As Eric San says himself: “Ceci est le show le plus idiot du monde.” Yes, Kid Koala…but idiot in a good way.
Nakhane (South Africa) comes on stage sporting a red silk suit that looked like it was borrowed from Bowie’s wardrobe and red sunglasses to match.
The only thing that is more striking that his outfit is his falsetto. What a voice!
It’s not just the voice…it’s the performance where Nakhane draws from a very deep well of emotions, buried deep and let loose.
Not only does he wear his heart on his sleeve, but our photographer showed me a close-up of his face, and you can see the tear that he let escape to empower the performance.
Tire Le Coyote
Benoit Pinette (Quebec) who performs under the name Tire Le Coyote is a talented singer songwriter. The crowds were starting to stream in, so I felt this was a good time to hit the food trucks that each seemed to feature some sort of Poutine.
Timing is everything when at an event that features food trucks. I had only a short wait to get my Poutine with Chicken Schnitzel + Polish Sausage to fill my belly, as I heard Benoit play his set.
Sorry Benoit…but from my vantage point, looks like the crowd appreciated your performance, while I ingested calories I will need to burn off before going to bed.
Charlotte Day Wilson
Charlotte (Toronto) had quite the crowd gathered before she even started. Both Tire le Coyote and Charlotte had this mellow vibe, that I felt brought a lull to the day.
We do need these time outs, so we can catch a breath, albeit a humid and hot one.
PUP, who would play the same stage later, admired her performance and I could tell the crowd gathered did as well.
That’s cool…but it wasn’t enough to hold my attention, so I instead went exploring the grounds and found a nice large lounge chair, so I could appreciate her music in a more horizontal position, as my feet were needing a break.
The Barr Brothers
I was relieved to find out that the woman who gave birth to the members of the band that call themselves The Barr Brothers was not as fruitful as I was led to believe. With ten brothers and two sisters on stage, only Andrew Barr (Drums) and Brad Barr (Guitar & Vocals) are the real brothers, the rest, I guess are the extended family.
Mom is a cookbook writer, but her sons have found the recipe to create a rich ambiance of sound, mixing a multitude of musical ingredients.
I wonder if their dentist dad’s influence is the cause of the best use of Dental Floss on a guitar. Brad using it, tied to one of the strings, as a weird 7th string that opens up another dimension of sound.
Brad told us the story of his first times in Montreal and he heard music as he was walking in the field near this very spot. He climbed over a fence, across the train track and over a second fence, only to find 3 musicians, one of whom was on a slide guitar, playing under the very same bridge we were under. Their audience went from zero to 1, as Brad found them, and he vowed he would play this venue one day.
They played some fan favorites such as “Even the Darkness Has Arms” and “Maybe Someday”.
Such a rich sound, by this mixed family of musical geniuses, creating a great vibe as the day turned to night under the overpass.
When it comes to fans, PUP has the most passionate and active tonight, winning by a landslide. This Toronto band was welcomed with open arms and stomping feet and of course every song is a scream-along that the crowd participated in.
A friendly mosh pit created the perfect waves for body surfing and a few partook, including Stefan Babcock who made it to the large rock formation in the middle of the grounds. Helped onto the rock by a fan, they both sang at the top of their lungs.
Full of raw energy, the band feeding off the crowd and vice-versa gave us a very spirited performance that had everyone dancing. Well…everyone but me. Don’t get me wrong…the performance was spectacular and energetic, but it’s pop punk. But…it’s not about me…it’s about the fans, and they were just as spectacular as the band…both having the time of their life.
Although the posters feature The Barr Brothers as headliners tonight, PUP and Hubert Lenoir would follow their performance.
Hubert was featured on “La Voix” and I was surprised that a crowd waited to see this artist. I don’t watch Reality TV, much less French Reality TV, although my blood runs 50% Dion grade French. I’m not sure how closely related I am to Celine Dion, but I don’t feel the urge to beat my chest, so it must be distant.
As our photographer left the pit after two songs (we guess the vocal intro counted as 1 song)…he told me how Hubert almost kicked a photographer. Here is a photographer, just doing his job…and a boot comes flying towards your head. It’s the last thing they need.
I called it a job, but truth is, it’s not a job. Neither I or our photographer get paid for our work. It’s a passion. We do this because we love live music and we donate our talent (hopefully we have some to donate) to further the artist’s career. We try to show the energy of a live show to those who preferred the mindless streams of reality TV over live music tonight. We want them to read the review and see the pictures and say: “I really missed something. Next time…I will be there.”
We also let those that attended an event, relive the memories, cementing the good times we all had. Freezing one point in time, a shot, one that only a professional photographer can capture, we can feel the energy and it comes alive before our eyes. Our visual cortex sends a jolt of energy to our brain to retrieve the memories stored within. Our brain fills the image with the sound that is missing, the one that only we can hear, and a memory is cemented in our library of good times.
So, as the photographers streamed out of the pit, I followed them out of earshot from Hubert and made my way to the Metro. I had seen enough.
That’s the thing about Mile Ex End Festival. At $35 for a day pass ($25 for comedy) or $60 for all three days…even if you only like ONE band, it is still worth the price of admission.
The curation of acts always surprises me, like Holy Two and Nakhane, two bands I had never heard of, but were quite impressive. Some of the bands were not my thing, but that’s OK. There is something for everyone, and then some.
Kids are welcome, and it was nice to see the little hipster kids soaking in this music. I honestly can’t wait to hear what their little minds will do with this abundance of influential sounds that are seemingly without limits. When I was young, I had to discover music from the old 45s my parents kept. Unfortunately for me, their tastes were quite tame and more fit to put you to sleep than make you dance.
That is until my cool uncle came along and showed me Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Heart, Queen and many other Rock bands. My ears were opened and my curiosity for finding new music was born.
Mile Ex End Festival did just that…it satisfied my hunger to uncover new artists and sounds in an urban setting that is the oasis of live music in Mile End.
Alas, the night did end, but another day awaits.
Review – Randal Wark
Photo – Kieron Yates