Phillips Backyard was once again host to a sea of music-lovers who ditched work early to get there and see the beginnings of a weekend sure to be rife with fun, beer and some of the best musical artists in the world.
Gates opened at 3 p.m. and right away guests noticed that the space is now much bigger than last year.
The empty lot across Pembroke Street which typically gets used by Rifflandia and film crews was utilized as a ‘fun zone’ filled with giant games of checkers, giant Jenga and normal sized cornhole for any and all to enjoy between bands.
That area is also stuffed to the brim with food trucks and tents for people to get easy access to first aid, the merchandise tent, a harm reduction space or a chill zone with local radio hosts from the Zone @ 91-3.
Skye Wallace came all the way out from Toronto to kick things off! She brought a great energy for being the first band up and sucked the crowd in from the get-go.
Her music is fast and fun with a foundation in rock and roll. It’s tough to be first up on the first day of any music festival but she didn’t waver, she came in ready to party and proved it by ending her set with one for all the folks who still cherish their “inner emo” — Sweetness by Jimmy Eat World.
The crowd screamed back the “whooa ohhh”s with all the breath in their lungs to show Wallace and her band their appreciation.
Local legends and Talking Heads enthusiasts Pastel Blank took to the stage next and kept the good energy Skye Wallace started going.
They played a mix of new songs and old with their six-piece outfit and danced their hearts out to every song like “toddlers throwing tantrums”.
Crowd favourites of their set were Shopkeeper and Goomba Stomp which everyone danced to and sang along with, but their new stuff also had people bopping — maybe more than any other band of the day!
One moment that stood out for Pastel Blank was when their singer, Angus, had the massive crowd singing along with one of their new songs.
The entire Phillips Backyard was singing “sound, light, stimuli” along with the band with their arms in the air and their booties bopping with a mind of their own.
Neal Francis made his way to the island from Chicago… and perhaps even another decade?
He and his band were all clad in 70s outfits that they’ve become known for which makes sense because their sound is straight out of that time.
Neal is a prodigy on piano and his band members are no slouches either. Their New Orleans R&B sound surprised and delighted the backyard as they kept the very good and well established vibes going.
During their set, a fire erupted in the nearby Ellice Recycling Depot which completely destroyed the clamshell-like structure in their yard and the smoke aggressively, yet briefly distracted some of the crowd.
However, just as quickly as the fire erupted, it was extinguished, and people easily switched gears back to boogieing down with Neal Francis and his band.
Any musician in the audience and across the globe can take a lesson from JJ Wilde in what ‘main character energy’ is.
JJ commanded the stage and the audience like a true professional while also allowing herself to seem so approachable, which is a tough line to tow in the music business.
She played all the hits and the crowd loved her country-rock vibe that her band helped her bring to life. Her bassist and keyboard player was especially fun to watch as he played his bass rig overtop of his head while holding down the rhythm on his keyboard.
JJ Wilde’s show brought the crowd together for a couple singalongs as well. She taught the crowd her chorus and had everybody singing along before she brought out the big guns — a cover of Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around by Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks.
All the way from Los Angeles, Lord Huron came out last as the headliner just as the sun set behind the powerhouse and put on one of the most theatrical, engaging and unforgettable performances the Phillips Backyard has ever seen.
Their stage setup had a Stonehenge, druid graveyard vibe and it was near magical watching the band explore that space like no band ever has before.
They played a ton of older songs and some new ones to give their sea of fans the hit of nostalgia they were there for while showing them they still got it.
They came out with a strong energy and a team of stagehands and guitar techs that kept them playing, allowing their fans to hear as many Lord Huron tunes as possible.
The bassist, Miguel Briseño, had a whopping six basses, chimes and even a theremin while their singer and the band’s founder Ben Schneider ran around the stage, jamming with every member of his band and serenading the Backyard.
Every member of the band was amazing and incredible to watch in an outdoor festival setting.
Their performance had fans screaming with every one, but there were a few notable moments in their set.
At one point Schneider disappeared from the stage while his band held things down with some ambient, suspense building music only for him to explode onto the stage wearing a hyper-realistic skull mask topped with a cowboy hat.
Strobe lights were blasting and the band went into playing a couple of their higher energy tracks, The World Ender and Ancient Times Pt. II.
Following the rise and fall of the skull mask, pianist and backup singer Misty Boyce came up to the front of the stage to join Schneider in singing the duet I Lied and to say the crowd was in love with her voice would be the understatement of the night.
They closed the night out with two encores in which they made sure to play their biggest hit, The Night We Met, which has garnered more than 1.3 billion streams on Spotify in a moment that can only be described as magical.
Everyone sang along as Schneider took a step back from the mic and let the crowd’s chorus take over the night.
If you missed out on day one of the Phillips Backyard Tilt music series, there is good news…There’s still two more nights!
Get a ticket because on Saturday, July 8th, none other than Anderson .Paak will be headlining as his alter ego, DJ PEE WEE. Before he closes out the night, Snotty Nose Rez Kids, Fleece, Nudah, Missy D and Nicky Mackenzie will be there.
See you there!