Billed as “Toronto’s Pedal Powered Mobile Music Festival”, around 100 cyclists traversed the streets and parks of the city serenading those along their route on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Originally scheduled for Saturday, but postponed due to the rain, the impromptu group gathered at David Crombie Park shortly after noon to begin their three stop musical jaunt. Kae Sun performed a set of acoustic soulful tunes before the group packed up and headed north to Grange Park for stage number two.
The music continued between stops by way of the mobile bike-trailer stage, hooked up and pulled through the city streets on the back of a bike, that included a solo set by "James, from the songs", as well as members from Choir Choir Choir. At each stop the tech crew would set up the sound equipment, connect to the two power sourcing bikes, and then performers would take “the stage”. Quique Escamilla started things off at Grange Park with a fusion of traditional Mexican musical styles with modern sounds of rock, reggae, pop, and ska. The Rucksack Willies wrapped things up with a 30 minute set of old-time country tunes that had a few toes a tapping.
Meandering over to Trinity-Bellwoods Park for the final installment was “one of the most amazing cycling experiences ever”, emcee Murray Foster proclaimed. “It’s not only a day of great music, but also a day of cycling activism”, he continued before introducing The Wilderness of Manitoba. As the name might allude to this four-piece act sounds very Canadiana, with vocalist Amanda Balsys reminiscent of Joni Mitchell. Playing mostly original material, the biggest crowd reaction came when the band performed a cover of Melanie’s 1971 hit “Brand New Key”, beginning with the lyrics “I rode my bicycle past your window last night”. Balsys admitted it was a bit surreal playing this bike infused festival given that they just got back from a gig in Las Vegas earlier in the week. If you missed them at this intimate gig, the band is playing a fully amped up gig at Yonge-Dundas Square on September 16th where they’ll be playing more songs from their new “Island of Echoes” release.
The Strumbellas took “the stage” shortly after 6pm, and joked they were “happy to be headlining the Festival” once again. It’s actually their third consecutive year, and after being relegated to an earlier time slot last year, they joshed organizer James Davis enough to let them close out the festivities again this year. Their hillbilly look and honky-tonk bluegrass tinged tunes had more than a few in the crowd up dancing and twirling about. Their 30 minute set included several songs off last year’s debut release “My Father and The Hunter”.
Abigail Lapell, Dana Sipos and Jessica Moore are collectively known as Tune Your Ride, and provided the interlude musical musings while the changeover in acts was happening. These three independent Canadian folk musicians took to the roadways of Ontario biking from Toronto to Ottawa by bicycle this past August. Along the way they set up and played ten bike-powered gigs in towns along the route, the first tour of its kind in Canada. All in all it was a very good day of music and pedaling.
Advocacy group Cycle Toronto was along for the ride, and garnering a few new members to their already 2,000 plus database. Let’s see what the 5th edition of the Toronto Bicycle Music Festival offers up next year.