There’s a day in June that occupies a special place in Torontonians hearts every year. Originally known as the Olympic Island Festival, the recently re-named Toronto Island Concert, is what many of my friends call their “favourite day of the summer”. Curated by Broken Social Scene and their label Arts&Crafts, the day-long mini-fest takes place South of the city, just a few kilometres off-shore from Toronto’s modest and un-scenic harbourfront, on one of the city’s most heavily protected natural gems, Olympic Island. With only a community in the hundreds that inhabits the Toronto Islands, their parks are some of the city’s most beautiful, their few domiciles are some of the city’s most demanded and their concert is one of the city’s most memorable.
After a two-year break from any performances on the island, one because of an unfortunate scheduling conflict last year, and the other unexplained the year previous, the memories of the day are starting to get fuzzy. Remember the year when Feist opened and played all of ‘The Reminder’ before anyone knew that ‘1,2,3,4’ would be a Sesame Street jam? Or how about that year when Canada’s music scene was finally en vogue internationally, after over a decade of indie rock triumphs domestically? Remember how this celebration was marked by Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene being on the same bill, collectively shouting back at the world “the kings are taking back their throne,” a phrase which packed so much punch, years before it found its home on Neon Bible’s ‘Intervention’? Oh, and then there was the time that J. Mascis joined a stage ramshackled-full of 8 electric guitarists and three drummers, spilling out into the audience, and played a song to close the night called ‘Guitar Symphony’ which has never seen the light of day, but was perhaps the strongest reminder of the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll the city has ever seen.
Indeed, the day-long festival has been home to some of the most memorable and important moments in Toronto’s music history. It’s also been home to some of the most memorable and important moments for this writer, personally. One way or another, the Island Concert marks a moment in the Summer around which old friends plan trips back to the city and everyone finds each other, ready to celebrate anything they can. The reunions start early in the day over beers and hugs, and end with the back-drop of a lit-up city, slow-dancing as long as you can before running to make the last ferry back to mainland.
Earlier this year, I moved away from Toronto to Western-Canada, which was an exciting move, tainted only by the idea that I would be missing out on my home city’s life. I decided a trip back was warranted, and when better to make a return than on the weekend of the summer that has most dependably provided lasting memories in the past.
With the pressure riding on the festival to deliver, this year’s line-up has done nothing but leave me faithful. The Toronto Revue, including Zeus, will kick off the day, followed by Timber Timbre, Beach House, Band of Horses, hometown heroes Broken Social Scene and fresh-on-their-comeback-tour, the fathers of BSS’ sound, Pavement. Almost the entire Ca Va Cool writing staff will be on-site for the day, and you better believe we’ll have four-dimensional coverage of the festival (the fourth dimension is James Cameron), front-to-back, next week. More than just a concert, this day marks an annual celebration of the evolution of Toronto’s music culture, and to Broken Social Scene’s credit, yet another landmark addition to the identity they’ve played so heavily into building for the city’s scene.
The show is tomorrow, but it’s not too late for all you punk-rawk late-buyers – get your tickets at Soundscapes, Rotate This, the Horseshoe Tavern, or Ticketmaster. We’ll see you there!