New Friends Fest [Day 2] - Live in Toronto (Cover Artwork)

New Friends Fest [Day 2]

Live in Toronto (2023)

live show

The second day of New Friends Fest is known for having an awesome pool party during the afternoon before doors open. We were super stoked but due to a prior commitment, we were unable to attend. We were able to get there in time to see Piper Maru open the festival and thank god we made it in time. I found out about Piper Maru because of New Friends Fest and listened to their EP Most of My Friends Died in Space and their single “enough” on repeat for weeks before the festival started. They kick so much ass and the songs have even more bite live. It is impossible not to headbang along to their furious hardcore punk and just try not to sing along with lead vocalist Beef Puff. Beef Puff’s vocal delivery is full of ferocity but retains a touch of humour that makes you pay that much more attention to the lyrics. At one point, Beef Puff jumped off the stage and into the crowd where she moved around the outside of the pit, moshed and danced, and sang her heart out. Along with playing their ridiculously good original songs, Piper Maru also played a very cool cover of “Uncontrollable Urge” by Devo. They were an incredible way to start the night.

Heavenly Blue was up next in the Death Room. Before the festival the Michigan-based screamo band only had one recorded song called “Certain Distance” which is on the recently released Balladeers Redefined comp so I only knew one of their songs going in. What followed absolutely blew me away. The six-piece band created a tornado of glorious noise that filled my heart. I absolutely loved their set. The dual vocalists sounded amazing together and at one point, one of them jumped into the crowd and whipped the pit into a frenzy before jumping back on stage. Needless to say, they didn’t miss a single note. The band matched the crowd’s energy and cranked it up. They were moving around the stage, dancing, head banging, screaming, and loving every minute of it. I am eagerly anticipating the day when they have more recorded music out and the day when I can see them again.

Mexican metallic screamo band Satón came on next in the Main Hall. They had lights set up on their amps that were flickering like lit candles, adding an air of mystery and mysticism to the stage. The lights also flashed in time to the beat of whatever song was being played and would behave like strobes flashing on and off to mimic what was going on musically. The songs were full of fast and intricate picking techniques, some guttural screams, and face-melting solos. There was a slightly ominous yet undeniably hopeful feeling to the set and they ended it with a single perfect scream before the stage went completely dark.

After that wonderful heaviness, we went into the Death Room to check out some experimental comedy by The Disaster. The show was co-created by Toronto-based writer and comedian Alex Kolanko who also serves as the host. He came on stage and said right off the bat, “If you aren’t going to get into it then fuck off. We’re in a basement listening to screamo which is the nerdiest thing we could do besides play D&D”. He then started a competition with the crowd to see who had the worst high school hardcore band name and the person who had the worst one would win a crisp ten dollars. Midway through this, he was interrupted by two classic hardcore dudes who berated him for not holding the microphone right, constantly tried to get people to open the pit, and jumped around behind him while he was talking. He introduced a handful of comedians including some guy from Chicago (who had the best mustache I’ve ever seen), a comedian named Kenley (who had a great theory about the JFK assassination), and Mike Korosa with his dummy Kyle (I hope he didn’t leave a stain). In between acts, Alex continued the search for the worst high school hardcore band name and was constantly heckled by the classic hardcore dudes. The name that won was the extremely classy, “I Fucked Your Grandma”. We laughed harder than we thought we were going to and would go see the Disaster again in a heartbeat.

We ran upstairs to catch New York-based emotional post-hardcore band Stay Inside after we collected our asses that had been laughed off. The band said that they were one of the softest bands on the bill but they proved themselves wrong with the intensity of their set. Their three vocalists sounded superb, bringing both harmony and dissonance into play and making sure everyone in the room felt the emotions that they were feeling. There were moments of crushing hardcore that turned into slow and tender instrumentation that built back up. There were heavy hardcore breakdowns in slower songs and slower, more melodic breakdowns in faster songs. The balance between hard and soft that they were able to achieve was astounding. When they launched into “Void” the pit erupted and when they ended with “Verdict” everyone was shocked that their set was over.

When we came back into the Death Room, we were relieved to see someone had cleaned Kyle up and were stoked to see that Richmond, Virginia’s .gif from god was getting ready to play. From the moment the first note was struck the pit exploded. People were moshing, people were windmilling, people were picking up change, people were crowdsurfing, and people jumped up on stage and sang along with the band. Their screams were deep and guttural, the blend of both vocalists was delicious, and the instrumentation was punishingly heavy. Their energy was off the charts and while we had seen some big pits up to this point, this one took the cake. They played a mixture of old and new songs including some off their recently released EP Digital Red. It was a set filled with all bangers and I hope they come up to Canada more often.

We untangled ourselves from the pit and made our way upstairs to see Hundreds of AU. They came out of the gate swinging. Every song was full of thrashy moments, weighty riffs and drums, outstanding screams, and undeniable punk energy. They filled the room with sound and were forced to stop only once due to technical issues. While we were waiting for them to be fixed, the band talked about how they played the first New Friends Fest and how grateful they are that this festival exists. The crowd “WOOOOO”’ed in response and the band continued their set. It is impossible not to headbang when you listen to Hundreds of AU and seeing them live only intensified that feeling.

Madrid, Spain’s Boneflower was up next in the Death Room. Stay Inside was hyping them up during their set so we were very excited to check them out. Before their set, I only knew a handful of songs and afterward, I had the urge to listen to everything they’ve ever released. Their mix of clean and harsh vocals was punctuated by some perfect screams and during one song they turned a slower instrumental opening into one of the hardest riffs of the weekend. They were head-banging at each other and at the crowd throughout the set without pause which resulted in some of the sweatiest (but happiest) looking people I have ever seen.

Illinois-based Joie De Vivre took the Main Hall stage to cheers as they launched into their set of classic emo tunes. The crowd was singing along from the first song and were very stoked to see them. The band was playing with their original guitarist and kicked out some nostalgic tracks like the second song they’d ever written and the crowd favourite “That dude leads a depressing life”. They had some fun stage banter between tracks and expressed their gratitude for being a part of the festival.

Then it was time to go back down to the Death Room to see Montreal-based mathy emo rocks Gulfer. I love Gulfer. I have seen Gulfer many times and every time I see them they somehow get even better. The fretwork that they are able to do is amazing and the energy they bring to every show is through the roof. They played songs from all of their albums including a few off of What Gives which was the album that got me into the band. You can always count on Gulfer to deliver that mathy goodness.

Before the HIRS Collective came on Egin got on stage and spoke a bit about how much the DIY community means to everyone and how important it is to keep it strong. He also spoke about how New Friends Fest started and how grateful he was that they were able to continue to grow the festival. We all gathered together for a group photo (taken by photographer extraordinaire Riley Taylor) and then it was time for HIRS to hit the stage. Before Jenna Pup even set foot on stage, a chant of “Jenna” echoed throughout the room. When she came out on stage she explained that Scott wouldn’t be able to make it and asked us all to say, “We miss you Scott, and hope you get better soon!” while she recorded it on her phone and sent it to him. Jenna set up an additional mic stand on the stage and told us that the microphone was for us if any of us wanted to jump on stage and join the collective. She called for any oppressed people to take up space and come to the front before dedicating the set to “Any trans woman who has existed, is currently existing, and will exist in the future”. She found a tom drum, hurled it into the crowd and then we all descended into love-filled chaos. People were dancing, people were moshing, and people were crowdsurfing left, right, and centre including Jenna who dove into the crowd twice within the first few minutes. People were jumping on stage and screaming along. There were a few dance party breaks during the set including “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”, “Groove Is In The Heart”, “and “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”. They played “Judgement Night” and I lost my mind. That is one of my favourite songs off of their new album and I danced as hard as I could. At one point, a crowd surfer went down and took me with them. The crowd wasted no time scooping us up and getting us back on our feet. Then we could all hear Jenna but couldn’t see her then SHE APPEARED ON THE BALCONY. She stood up on the balcony and dove into the crowd as “We’re Still Here” played. Everyone rushed forward to catch her and crowdsurfed her back to the stage. A true moment of the community lifts each other up. Every person in the crowd and on stage had the biggest smile on their face. The replacement guitarist was incredible and did an outstanding job and ended the night being crowdsurfed around the floor. I cannot accurately put into words what seeing HIRS meant to me. It felt like everything was right with the world and I felt so much lighter afterward. I am so grateful that I was able to have this opportunity and that this band exists. I am still talking about this set. I will never stop.

Day 1 was amazing. Day 2 restored my faith in humanity. What would day 3 have in store?