TURF…the little festival that could.


In 2013, TURF founder Jeff Cohen pulled off a major coup for live music in Toronto.  He successful parlayed a great idea into a functioning, stand-alone weekend music festival in the heart of the city in a way that had bedeviled many other of the GTA’s live music promoters.  He wanted a family friendly vibe that would be welcoming to anyone…from teenagers and families to senior citizens who had long since stopped going to shows at bars, but still loved live music.

With the crumbling hot mess of the Gardiner Expressway hanging over the 10,000 person field allotted at Fort York, Turf has turned into the perfect wind down for the music lover over stimulated by the monstrosity that has become festival culture.   You don’t need to bring a tent.  You don’t need to fear the elements(though there are some still drying out their bluntstones from Saturday who may angrily disagree with me). And you don’t need to worry about missing a band by having to choose between two great acts on at once since there is very little crossover of bands playing at the same time.

What TURF is, in the simplest terms, is a music festival boiled down to the bare bones.  There are food vendors but used as more of a sound baffle than a marketing ploy, set up between the East Stage and the West stage to create an edible barrier between acts.  There are sponsors…but not enough that you feel like you’re walking through a mall.  They’ve either been curated to reflect the values of the festival, or companies have yet to figure out after 4 years that they’re leaving money on the table by not being there.  And there are great bands…but not the type designed to attract the masses & swell the ticket price(Though…I mean…can I really make that claim when LCD Soundsystem was the headliner for seemingly every other festival this summer??  Yes…yes I can).

If Toronto truly does have eyes set on becoming the sort of musical Mecca that Austin, Texas has become (and there is still a long way to go) TURF is an excellent move in that direction.   The aspiration of becoming a showcase for homegrown talent (The Barenaked Ladies, The Rheostatics, The Sadies, Dwayne Gretzky & Modern Space) to play alongside international draws (Ween, Death Cab for Cutie, The Hives & Dropkick Murphys) they’re heading in the right direction.  Toronto the Good may be inching closer to becoming Toronto the Hip.

– photos and review by Ryan Lalonde



2016 Toronto Urban Roots Festival