Given the highly competitive nature of the summer music festival scene these days, survival as a top-line fest for even five years is a milestone worth celebrating.
This is certainly the sentiment of the organisers (and many participating artists) of Toronto's annual Field Trip event.
It returns to its home of Fort York in downtown Hogtown this weekend, June 3-4, with a performance lineup being hailed as its strongest yet. Notable imports featured are Phoenix (Sunday night headliners), hip-hop legends The Pharcyde, Irish songsmith James Vincent McMorrow, Alaskan rockers Portugal, The Man, and Thundercat.
The core of Field Trip, however, comprises Canadian acts, ranging from well-established stars to a fresh crop of young talents. Critical favourites BadBadNotGood and A Tribe Called Red are both appearing this year.
Field Trip was created by powerhouse independent label Arts & Crafts in 2013, in part as a way of celebrating its 10th anniversary. Acts on the A&C label and management rosters remain well-represented at Field Trip, led this year by A&C stalwarts Broken Social Scene (Saturday night headliners) and Feist, both of whom performed at the inaugural FT.
Whether it by careful strategising or happy coincidence, the fact that they're both able to perform new material at Field Trip is a major boost for the fest.
East Coast rocker Matt Mays is a Field Trip novice as a performer, and he tells FYI he's eagerly awaiting his Saturday set. "The bill is killer this year," he enthuses. "It was pretty rad getting the phone call to get to play."
Mays has played at Fort York before though, as part of the TURF festival on two occasions. "It's a remarkable location for a music event," he notes.
Giving Mays appearance extra resonance is the fact he recently moved to Toronto. "It's gonna be nice getting to cruise down to the show on a bicycle. My love of Toronto has grown rapidly over the past year so the vibe up there on stage is going to be pretty thick."
Look for Mays to preview some material off an upcoming album. He's also keen to plug a set by some fellow Maritimers. "I'm a big fan of Walrus. They rule and are hilarious. They play at 1:30 on Saturday."
A look at some of the acts to have played Field Trip in past years shows that the fest has an enviable track record of booking artists destined for bigger things as well as already-established draws.. Aside from Feist and BSS, that list includes Robyn, Alabama Shakes, The National, My Morning Jacket, Interpol, The War On Drugs, Gord Downie, Constantines, Arkells, July Talk, Father John Misty, De La Soul, Hayden, The Kills, Vance Joy, Jazz Cartier, Santigold, Sharon & Bram, and Charles Bradley.
Field Trip has always exuded an indie vibe, so it might surprise to some to learn that it has always been produced in tandem with live music behemoth Live Nation. "The company was always a partner, from year one," a Live Nation spokesperson tells FYI.
He won't divulge the full nature of that partnership, but explains that "the festival is booked by Arts & Crafts’ Aaron Miller and Live Nation’s Erik Hoffman, collaboratively."
In a press release, Field Trip Co-Director Miller states “Toronto is truly one of the world’s great homes to diversity and the intersection of creativity and community is alive in countless forms. The last five years have been a steady reminder of the festival’s opportunity to bring people together. We take great pride in the intimacy and variety of Field Trip and a deep connection with the City of Toronto.”
“Field Trip holds a special place in the hearts of the many contributors who work on the festival every year,” adds Hoffman, Live Nation’s Toronto president. “This year's festival lineup tips its hat to founding artists who graced our stage in Year One while highlighting some of this year’s most exciting new artists from around the planet. A true urban event, Field Trip has grown into one of Toronto’s flagship festivals and we couldn’t be more proud of it.”
Full lineup details for Field Trip here