Island Concert A Homerun

Souleyman NXNE Toronto 2014 Chris Dart

Omar Souleyman transported the audience to the deserts of Syria on Toronto Island as part of the 2014 NXNE Festival. Photo by Chris Dart.

By Andrew J Stephen – Special to The Square

(TORONTO, ON) – You might know Vice Media as the controversial and provocative media outlet, but did you also know they throw parties? On June 19 they collaborated with Vans and the NXNE festival to host a crazy open bar party on Toronto Island.

Besides the free alcohol, the party also featured free skateboards that were laser etched onsite with “Vice Island” logos. Vans also set up a half pipe and had their skateboard and BMX team perform daring stunts to entertain the crowd.

The eclectic music line-up included reggae artist Mikey Dangerous, disco and house dj’ing from Jonathan Toubin, gothy synth-rock by Cell Phone, punk in the form of Mean Jeans, stoner hip-hop courtesy of The Posterz, Syrian wedding singing by Omar Souleyman, an openly gay rapper with the moniker Le1F, 80’s influenced synth pop from Future Islands, and mainstream rap superstar Pusha T.

NXNE prides itself on having a diverse line-up but to see all such disparate artists at the same show was surreal.

A highlight of the night was headliner Pusha T who brought his 21 years of experience to the stage with the elegance and grace one would expect from a seasoned veteran. One surprise he had up his sleeve was performing his verses off Kanye West’s highly acclaimed 2010 album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The crowd’s roar overpowered the speakers when people recognized these songs from the first beat.

While Pusha T felt rehearsed and polished, Future Islands felt passionate and spontaneous.

You may not have heard about them before this year’s infamous David Letterman performance or their singing to hugely popular indie label 4AD, but they’ve been at it for eight years now. All the mannerisms that were such a hit on Letterman were out in full force on the Island.

Lead singer Samuel Herring moved around the stage like a maniac, pounding his chest and dancing with this bizarre side to side bobbing motion which can only be described as something your drunken uncle would do at a family wedding. With so many bands today trying so hard to be aloof, it’s great to see someone just letting go and begging for your attention.

Future Islands inspired the most audience dancing of any act the whole day. Another larger than life stage presence was Le1f, who subverted stereotypes with a flamboyant performance full of vouging and twerking; something you might not expect from the macho world of rap music.

Some more highlights included Omar Souleyman who transported the audience to the deserts of Syria with an authoritative performance of traditional Syrian music, mixed with electronics which sounded like nothing I’d ever heard before. Also, Posterz who’s youthful antics and great sense of humour got everyone in a good mood.

Overall this was one of the best events of the festival this year and proves that taking chances can pay off big time if you do it right. And Vice, Vans, and NXNE certainly hit it out of the park with this one.

Le1f, who subverted stereotypes with a flamboyant performance full of vouging and twerking; something you might not expect from the macho world of rap music.

Le1f, subverted stereotypes by transcending macho hip hop with a flamboyant performance full of vouging and twerking. Photo by Chris Dart.

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About the Author

Ian Shalapata
Ian Shalapata is the owner and publisher of Square Media Group. He covers politics, the police beat, community events, the arts, sports, and everything in between. His imagery and freelance contributions have appeared in select publications and for organizations in Canada and the United States. Contact Ian with story ideas.
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