Toronto Urban Roots Festival (TURF) 2014 Recap

Earlier this month, I had my first ever experience shooting an outdoor music festival. The 2014 Toronto Urban Roots Festival (TURF) was held on July 4, 5, and 6 at The Garrison Commons at Fort York and featured 44 artists on three different stages. It was a huge privilege to be able to shoot dozens of musical acts from right in front of the stage, inside the fabled photo pit.

DAY 1 – Friday, July 4

I arrived at the festival site sometime after 2pm and picked up my two wristbands. One was an orange media pass and the other was a blue VIP Pass. I was inside the grounds by around 2:30pm, armed with my camera and a handy little TURF app on my iPod touch that listed all the performers, the set times, etc. which made managing my schedule really easy. The three song rule was in effect, meaning that photographers could only photograph the first three songs of each performance. After that, we were required to leave the photo pit. I’ve often heard photographers griping about this rule, but I found that three songs still gave me enough time to get plenty of good shots (in most cases).

Wristbands and TURF app

Tift Merritt (USA)
2:50pm-3:30pm
South Stage

My first “tough” decision of the day was deciding which performer to shoot first – Tift Merritt on the South Stage or The Weeks on the West Stage. Because the start times of their respective sets were only 10 minutes apart, there was no way I could make it from one end of the festival grounds to the other (about a 10-minute walk) in time to shoot both. I decided to go with The Weeks. Sorry, Tift!

The Weeks (USA)
3pm-3:50pm
West Stage

I flashed my wristbands to the security guard, who gave me the nod and let me go through to the front of the stage. It was pretty exciting, and a bit nerve-wracking, being in that photo pit with other photographers (though there were relatively few present compared to when some of the bigger acts would perform later on). I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The anticipation was building as we all waited for The Weeks, a five-piece from Jackson, Mississippi, to take the stage. Once they appeared and the show started, it was a mad flurry of button-pushing. There was a lot of room in the pit, so I was able to move around and get shots from different angles. The three songs zoomed by and we all put our cameras down and streamed out. I survived my first pit experience – woohoo!

London Souls (USA)
3:50pm-4:30pm
South Stage

Skipped this set because I didn’t think I’d be able to make it in time to photograph Born Ruffians. In hindsight, I probably could have gotten in a song or two.

Born Ruffians (Canada)
4pm-5pm
East Stage

Lucius (USA)
4:50pm-5:40pm
South Stage

Lucius was one of the performers on my “must-see” list. Visually, one of the more interesting bands to shoot during the festival. Unfortunately, they didn’t include the amazing “Turn It Around” in their first three songs. After that, I had to rush off to catch the next performer.

Andrew Bird and the Hands of Glory (USA)
5:10pm-6:20pm
West Stage

Willie Nile Band (USA)
6pm-7pm
South Stage

Gary Clark Jr. (USA)
6:30pm-7:50pm
East Stage

The Waco Brothers (USA)
7:20pm-8:20pm
South Stage

The first of their three festival performances at Fort York – the organizers really like these guys!

Local Natives (USA)
8pm-9:20pm
West Stage

Deer Tick (USA)
8:40pm-9:40pm
South Stage

Beirut (USA)
9:30pm-11:00pm
East Stage

Black Joe Lewis (USA)
10pm-11pm
South Stage

DAY 2 – Saturday, July 5

I was totally wiped out after Friday. Needed sleep, missed the first two scheduled performers of Day 2.

Caitlin Rose (USA)
1:10pm-1:50pm
South Stage

Slept in, no pics.

New Country Rehab (Canada)
1:30pm-2:20pm
East Stage

Slept in, no pics.

Old Man Markley (USA)
2:10pm-2:50pm
South Stage

Shovels and Rope (USA)
2:30pm-3:30pm
West Stage

Andrew Jackson Jihad (USA)
3:10pm-3:50pm
South Stage

Drive-By Truckers (USA)
3:40pm-4:50pm
East Stage

The Stanfields (Canada)
4:10pm-4:50pm
South Stage

Violent Femmes (USA)
5pm-6:20pm
West Stage

Classic band, classic songs. Notice the photographers in the pit – it’s like a bunch of baby birds at feeding time!

Pokey LaFarge (USA)
5:10pm-6pm
South Stage

Sam Cash and the Romantic Dogs (Canada)
6:20pm-7:10pm
South Stage

The Gaslight Anthem (USA)
6:30pm-7:50pm
East Stage

The Strumbellas (Canada)
7:30pm-8:20pm
South Stage

Hey Rosetta! (Canada)
8pm-9:20pm
West Stage

The Waco Brothers (USA)
8:40pm-9:40pm
South Stage

Sam Roberts Band (Canada)
9:30pm-11pm
East Stage

Joyce Manor (USA)
10pm-11pm
South Stage

The band still hadn’t taken the stage by 10:10pm. I got fed up with waiting and decided to call it a day.

DAY 3 – Sunday, July 6

Once again feeling completely spent, I opted to get some extra shut-eye. Missed the first two acts. (Obviously, if I had been getting paid to do this, you can bet your britches I would have been there.)

Jon-Boy Langford and the Burlington Men’s Welsh Chorus (Wales/USA, Canada)
12:45pm-2pm
East Stage

Slept in, no pics.

The Devin Cuddy Band (Canada)
12:50pm-1:30pm
South Stage

Slept in, no pics.

Ladies of the Canyon (Canada)
1:50pm-2:40pm
South Stage

Twin Forks (USA)
2:10pm-3:10pm
West Stage

The Paper Kites (Australia)
3pm-3:50pm
South Stage

July Talk (Canada)
3:20pm-4:20pm
East Stage

One of the few acts that really blew me away. I felt the adrenaline surge up inside me as soon as they started their set. Incidentally, singer/guitarist Peter Dreimanis was apparently not a fan of the giant beach ball making its way through the crowd – “I’m gonna rip that thing in half!” haha.

Noah Gundersen (USA)
4:10pm-5pm
South Stage

Skipped this set to photograph Jenny Lewis.

Jenny Lewis (USA)
4:10pm-5:20pm
West Stage

Joe Pug (USA)
5:20pm-6:10pm
South Stage

Gogol Bordello (USA)
5:30pm-6:50pm
East Stage

One of the highlights of the entire weekend. Nobody could match the energy, intensity, and showmanship of this band of crazy gypsy punks!

Bidini Band (Canada)
6:30pm-7:20pm
South Stage

Jeff Tweedy (USA)
7pm-8:20pm
West Stage

He’s apparently not a fan of photographers. After the first three songs were done, he told us all to “git!” and called us shutterbugs.

Man Man (USA)
7:40pm-8:40pm
South Stage

Photographing this oddball band was a real treat. The lead singer’s costume changes, bizarre posing, and weird facial expressions made it a hell of a spectacle.

Neutral Milk Hotel (USA)
8:30pm-10pm
East Stage

Neutral Milk Hotel was the only band that did not allow photographers to shoot their set. So, no pics.

Hollerado (Canada)
9pm-10pm
South Stage

Last set of the festival! Phew, that was an exhausting weekend. But loads of fun. Bring on the next one! As an added bonus, here are a few extra shots:

The South Stage

July Talk’s Leah Fay (wearing white sunglasses) takes in Jenny Lewis’ set

The West Stage

Special thanks to TURF and to Collective Concerts for granting me access – looking forward to TURF 2015! Follow the link to see the full set of my TURF 2014 concert pictures.