Manifesto 11: The Rundown

Saturday, June 10, 2017.
Manifesto 11: Live At Echo Beach.
This is The Rundown by Jamaal Azeez & Ziyaad Haniff.
Photos by Ziyaad. Special thanks to friend of the site, Tejas Panchal for providing images of The Sorority and Derin Falana.

ZEE: Manifesto is an annual arts and culture festival in Toronto. They host parties, concerts, and artist talks, all of which are open to the public. Our first experience with Manifesto was a remarkable one. Manifesto 10 (2016) had us listening to  Adria Kain, Allie, BJ the Chicago Kid, Daniel Caesar, Kaytranada, and Anderson .Paak LIVE.

With the inception of Careful, our festival experience changed. Going out on a limb, I applied for a press pass. We were only 4 posts, 2 playlists, and a Vision Statement in but we scored a pair. Frankly, we don’t know how. I sent a heartfelt, and somewhat brash, email asking Manifesto to make a decision based on the quality of our content rather than our numbers. I don’t know if they read it, but here we are. Thanks again to the Manifesto team!

To attest to the little confidence we had regarding the press passes, I entered 2 contests to win tickets for Manifesto’s big Echo Beach Show. We won both. If you ever want to go to a concert and are low on cash, enter contests. We had to either give them away or decline them. Aaaaaaand, this bring us to festival day.

As the guys that are always first in line at shows, we always leave with stories to tell. However, that day, things played out a little differently. On our walk to Echo Beach I reminded Jamaal, “The world likes to screw with us”. And that it did. Jam, wanna start our rundown?


The Sorority photos courtesy of Tejas Panchal

JAM: Unfortunately we missed the sets of both Derin Falana and The Sorority, so that was pretty disappointing. I’ve often heard that Brampton has an incredibly vibrant arts community — of dancers in particular, though I’m not sure to what extent that might have been reflected by Derin’s performance. In a way, I was actually hoping he would bring to light the energy and flavour of an area I’m unfamiliar with. Or something like that. Is it fair for me to expect that he’d embody the creative spirit of his community? After typing it out, I’m not sure that it is.

When it comes to The Sorority, what can I say? Based on what I’ve heard, they’re very much part of the wave of exceptionally talented women who are directly combating the perception of female rappers as a monolith. They represent something important, something I hope to see much more of going forward, but that’s only going to happen if people do what we failed to: show up. When those who have been denied a platform throughout history are given a chance to make themselves heard, every body counts. Wish we could’ve been there.

The good thing is, more than a few people I spoke to throughout the day mentioned that they really enjoyed what The Sorority brought to the stage. And Derin too.


Derin Falana photos courtesy of Tejas Panchal

ZEE: It took us nearly 2 and a half hours to get to the venue because of a TTC closure. We missed out on The Sorority and Derin but we managed to hop on a shuttle bus scored by a fellow rider’s iPod Shuffle blaring The Sweet Escape on loop. Our experience with live music lead us to believe the show would start late. That was not the case. In fact, set times we’re scarily on time, nearly to the minute. When concert-goers figured this out,  it gave us a sense of relief. After hours of standing in the sun, Manifesto gave us something to belief in.

It really is a shame we missed the first 2 acts. I’ve always had a problem with the dwindling representation of women in hip hop, especially on the blogosphere. These women are prominent artists in Toronto’s thriving music community. I’m sad we didn’t get to show them our gratitude with our attendance and cheers. I’m not sure if you’re saying that knowing Derin could dance. I just saw his new video for N64 and he closes out the video with some tutting and body waves. I had such a great time discovering his music prior to attending Manifesto. We’ll just have to catch them all at the next show!

Next up we saw Matthew Progress. This might be the artist I was most excited to see. Not because I was familiar with his work, but because I had no idea what he would do. I’ve heard him as a guest artist on Brendan Phillip’s ROW, a favourite of mine. I’ve also heard his single Le Fog, which left me guessing what his next official release would sound like. I’m just a sucker for mysterious musical acts. When Matthew started performing music off his upcoming project, he reinforced himself as a staple in my summer music rotation. There’s just so much going on in his music and yet it’s all tied together perfectly with his unique voice. I can’t wait to hear more of his gravelly vocals and wide-ranging melodies. If you ask me, he’s gradually securing his spot as one of Toronto’s brightest stars.


JAM: I was similarly excited to see Matthew Progress. I’d heard two songs of his (Le Fog and Oxygen) prior to Manifesto, and I think both are incredible. You briefly touched on why. His production of choice is this grimy, densely layered dance music that’s ridiculously absorbing. But Matthew’s vocals are never overshadowed by his beats, because as wild as they are, he has even more to offer as an orator. Neither his lyrics nor his vocals feel extraneous to the hyperactivity of his instrumentals; they’re equally and unabashedly hard-hitting. And that’s what his performance was like in a nutshell. At the end of his set, he mentioned that he has a project dropping very soon. It just might be one of my most anticipated releases of the summer.

Following Matthew, we were graced with a set by the supremely talented Tika. It was quite the change of pace, but am I wrong in saying it also felt kinda right? I’m reluctant to throw the phrase “palate cleanser” around,  as that makes it sound like I think her music is plain and that couldn’t be farther from the truth. While TIKA’s discography is mellow, it is most definitely not low energy. It’s fantastically uplifting. She performed a song that I believe was called “My Friend,” preceded by a sweet speech on the sometimes turbulent relationship between generations. “It’s about how disconnected we are from our parents, when in reality we’re not much different at all,” she explained before the saxophones kicked in. I love moments like that.


ZEE: Tika is like a beacon of light. Similarly to how Daniel Caesar parted the rain clouds to reveal the sun at Manifesto 10 (true story), Tika brightened up the mood with her set. It definitely was a jump from Matthew’s work, but I found them quite complimentary. Tika’s smooth, lofty vibes was a great change in energy from Matthew’s complex compositions and harsh transitions. I thought it was a great idea to juxtapose these two. Backed by The Modest Few, Tika and her friends illuminated Echo Beach with songs of encouragement and empowerment. It was a great reprieve from the grimier, more raw acts that bookended her performance.

After a brief intermission, during which Big Norm repeatedly taunted the crowd with a chicken wing, Sean Leon blessed the stage. Since I was armed with my camera, the first thing I noticed was his energy and the challenge of capturing it. Are you usually worried about musical acts catatonically hugging the mic stand in the middle of the stage, not giving you much of a good view? That’s not a problem with Maui Slim. It was as if a director told him to run from downstage left to downstage right for his entire set. Everyone got a close-up look at the rapper as he performed cuts from his project, I Think You’ve Gone Mad (Or the Sins Of the Father). And if that wasn’t enough, he hopped off stage to get a closer look at his fans. Sean effortlessly slung around bars, all while balancing his unmoving self-confidence and sense of humour. We all laughed when he pointed out a fan that was high, right around the same time he reminded us why he’s our fave rapper. It’s great to witness all facets of an artists outside of their music.


JAM: Sean’s something else, man. There was an intensity to his set from the moment he first stepped — or more accurately, sprinted — through the curtain, an immediacy that had everyone equal parts bewildered and emboldened. “Wake the fuck up, Toronto!” He repeatedly growled at the audience. And so, we did. But like you said, that aggressive excitability was balanced out by some unexpected (and very welcome) moments of levity. It takes a certain calibre of performer to juggle those moods, and Sean somehow managed to be both abrasive and personable. His music, of course, operates in much the same way; an unpredictable mixture of bone-shaking soundscapes and incisive storytelling. The biggest treat for me was Sean performing some new tracks off an upcoming project, one of which had a major presence in his recent short film, “Life When You’re The Movie.” 2017 is shaping up to be one hell of a year for Maui.

Moving on to the headlining acts, I’ll be the first to say that I don’t know much about Jidenna. But of the things I do know, I’m most confident in saying that he fancies himself a classic man. And apparently, I could be mean that if looked that clean. But I can’t, because I don’t. ‘Cause he’s a classic man. Is that a fair assessment?


ZEE: We weren’t nearly as familiar with Jidenna as we were with the rest of the bill. But when this man took the stage, boy did everyone get excited. What won me over was his endearing charisma. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an artist who was happier to be on stage than him. Between songs, Jidenna would speak with the audience as if they were old friends. It felt casual and full of warmth. He also shared some anecdotes about his Nigerian heritage and upbringing, my favourite of which focused on some of the sayings his father would drop during Jidenna’s youth. You know it’s a highly personal concert experience when a man can talk about his deep respect for his father and imbue that in his performance. When his set concluded I couldn’t help but feel happy for Jidenna. From the fans to the music to performing, he loves it all. More than a classic man, Jidenna looks like a happy man, because he’s doing the things he absolutely loves. Evidently, I couldn’t find a more cheesy way to end this.

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It was by this time when we realized just how supportive the Toronto arts community is. After Jidenna’s set we ran into a dude who, earlier in the day, Jamaal mentioned looked like Shad. Turned out it was actually Shad. He was one of the many artists not on the bill who came out to celebrate the culture regardless. It became a sort of game. I can’t remember everyone we saw but some names include Kardinal Offishall, Charlotte Day Wilson, and Allie. Not to mention many celebrated photographers we’re familiar with. And probably an innumerable amount of talented artists in different disciplines we’ve yet to discover. Maybe I should’ve saved this heartwarming section for the end? I guess our ending will have to be heartwarming-er. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

 


JAM: Jidenna’s anecdotes! He said one thing in particular that I’ve thought about like every other day since his performance. I can’t remember the exact words, but it was something to the effect of, “Real passion is having a chip on your shoulder and being inspired at the same time.” I didn’t expect to walk away from his performance — or any performance, really — with the kernel of an existential crisis lodged deep in my brain. That’s what made the next act so great.

Isaiah Rashad has always struck me as a guy who’s desperately trying to figure out how to move forward in life; past addiction, past ex flames, past financial woes — Cilvia Demo and The Sun’s Tirade are both grand testaments to this. He’s constantly in flux, in longing pursuit of the “right” path for him and his son. In keeping with that spirit, his performance seemed totally off the cuff. After each song, he would walk over to his DJ and try to figure out what to play next. When fans in the crowd figured this out, they started shouting out song names, which Isaiah (mostly) obliged — some say that on particularly quiet nights, you can still hear the cries of those fiending for Park. I thought it was super endearing. I love that Isaiah admitted to having messed up the lyrics to his first song, and I love that he confessed to still feeling uncomfortable when performing at festivals. It’s things like that that make him the most instantly relatable member of the TDE family, at least to me.


ZEE: IS THAT WHAT THEY WERE DOING??? I was so focused on getting shots that I must have been oblivious to those behind-the-scenes transactions. That makes so much sense now. Near the beginning of Isaiah’s set, I remember these dudes screaming out a particular song name. I’m not familiar enough with Isaiah’s work to know what song that was or understand its significance in his discography, but Isaiah performed that song. They then questioned why he would play that song so early in his set. Being an enthusiastic fan at a concert usually has its downfalls. One of them is pleading for your favourite song only to be turned down time and time again. Isaiah, however, gave the fans exactly what they wanted, and it left them perplexed. My favourite moment was when the TDE rapper admitted to screwing up a song. I thought that was admirable, especially considering the stereotype of rappers as overwhelmingly confident and unwavering. It’s these moments of vulnerability that resonate with us on a personal level.

Next up is the band who I repeatedly claimed had one of my top 5 albums of all time, The Internet. Hearing Ego Death live was such a treat for me. Hearing Dark Red, the best song of 2017 (don’t @ me), was an added bonus. I had a fun time watching their chemistry play out on stage. On their show, OTHERtone, Pharrell and Scott Vener once mentioned that The Internet has no dominating personality. Everyone occupies the same space in the band without stepping on each other’s toes. I thought it was beautiful that such close friends could surprise one another on stage with their jokes and witticisms. They also made sure there was room to perform music from their solo projects AS A BAND. The solo projects were described as an outlet to do whatever they wanted so that their individual ambitions wouldn’t conflict with the goals of a new Internet project. Sharing that piece of yourself with your friends is a selfless act. It’s the embodiment of trust. I’m glad we got to see that.


JAM: I’d be ecstatic to see any one member of The Internet perform solo. To watch them do their thing together, and like you said, collectively celebrate their individual achievements was…well, it sort of defies hyperbole. Throughout the day, I remember us sporadically turning to one another and asking, “Do we really get to see The Internet tonight?” I don’t think I actually believed it myself until I heard the opening notes of Special Affair echo across the beach. It’s one of those things where, as I get older, I think I’ll continue to look back on that performance with an intense, growing fondness. We got Girl. We got Palace/Curse. We got Just Sayin/I Tried. And for the finale, we got Get Away, a song I’ve probably listened to every single day since I first queued up Ego Death. And while that song serves as the album’s opener, its live rendition is so powerful, so infused with the overflowing emotions of each band member — you could see it in their body language, feel it in their voices, and hear it in their instruments — that it’s hard to see it fitting anywhere but the very end of their set.

With that, we were now five or so hours into Manifesto 11, with each performer effectively managing to bring something completely new to the table. And yet, there were still a few surprises in store. How cool was the backdrop for Majid Jordan’s performance? I thought it was a perfect visual representation of their sound: spacey and ethereal at times, rosy and radiant at others. I’m sure it was no coincidence that their set only began after the sun had set.


ZEE: By this time, the accumulated events of the day were taking their toll on our bodies. We sat atop one of the surrounding hills before Majid Jordan’s set, a decision that paid off heavenly. We made our way back over to the stage after the hosts introduced them. By this time, everyone at Echo Beach flocked as close to the stage as possible. Without much space to move, we stood alongside the tech booth towards the back of the crowd. It was here we saw the brilliant visual component of the R&B duo’s set. It was also here where we saw the people of Toronto celebrate music, culture, and life. As I maneuvered through the crowd in search of shots, I found friends huddled together with smiles on their faces, having the times of their lives. I’m hesitant to use the word “magical” considering my streak of cheesiness throughout this thread but how else could I explain the trance the crowd was in?

If it wasn’t enough of a celebration of Toronto, the duo brought out fellow locals Roy Woods and DVSN. OVO came out in full force that night. I think this is what Manifesto is all about. People converging through the arts, ultimately to uplift and empower each other. In the 8 or so hours we were there, we didn’t encounter any problems between patrons. Manifesto threw a day-long show, with lines, waits, alcohol, and crowds, and yet it was such a peaceful, positive night. I don’t think anyone left Echo Beach that night thinking they were never going to attend Manifesto again. That certainly wasn’t us last year. Manifesto 11 reminded people that there are more ways to support artists than buying music. Sometimes, you could be doing more than you’d ever know by just being in the crowd, being at the show. And Toronto definitely showed up.

Huge thank you to Manifesto for having us there. We think you did a fantastic job. I’m giving you 11 Manifesto 11 promotional images out of 11. (Do I need to photoshop a visual for this or does it paint enough of a mental image?). Looking forward to everything 2017 has in store for you. We hope you enjoyed this email thread. We are so sorry. This is probably crazy long.

Let us know what you think! How was your Manifesto 11 experience? Who was your favourite act? What was your favourite moment? Respond to the tweet below to get the conversation started:

 

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