There were two main stages at this year’s Field Trip music festival at Fort York and Garrison Common in Toronto, but the one that may have mattered the most was the small, bicycle-powered one in between, right next to the bouncy castle. It was the Kids’ Camp stage, and it was where, on Saturday, Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew sang a fairly impromptu song he called We Like to Party. “When you’re partying with your friends, it’s the best thing, it should never end.”
I spoke with him afterward. He laughed off the song, saying that he had written the sing-along just 30 minutes before. I disagreed; I heard it as an anthem, one that the adults in the crowd probably understood better than the children.
Neil Young once sang that you “can’t be 20 on Sugar Mountain,” but, really, you can be – for a weekend at least. At the kids’ stage, the great singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith joined in for a Sesame Street number, and Andy Kim offered one originally written for a Saturday-morning cartoon – his old Archies’ hit Sugar, Sugar – though his line “pour a little sugar on me, baby,” is open to interpretation. Drew later dedicated a song “for innocence,” and sang one inspired by a Willie the Whale children’s book. “It’s a big ocean,” he advised warmly, “and it’s okay to be scared sometimes.”
It is a big ocean – absolutely scary sometimes. And so we seek escape, with music festivals like Field Trip being a sort of safe harbour and playground.
On one of the adult stages, on a blazing Saturday afternoon, Katie Stelmanis of the Canadian electro-rockers Austra encouraged her audience. “You guys can dance if you want to,” she advised. “It’s not too hot – ever.” Let it all out, she was meaning, and that nothing should ever keep anyone from the groove. It can get too hot, though, Monday to Friday anyway.
There were adult moments at Field Trip, sure, including the reunion of the roaring Constantines and serious sets from the Kills and Interpol on Saturday, and a sendoff from Drew and the hiatus-breaking Broken Social Scene on Sunday.
But there was also Torquil Campbell of the indie-pop troupe Stars, handing out kazoos on Sunday at the kids’ stage. “Sing from your childhood,” he implored the grown-ups at one point. But when he added something about adults enjoying themselves less than the kids, I’m not sure he had that right. Generally yes, less fun for the adults, but not this weekend – and not for the festivals to come this summer. These park-set musical events are about freedom and being marvelled. One kid’s bouncy castle is another man’s Austra or Broken Social Scene. How high can you get?