July was a fun time in Toronto, as we covered concerts by ¡Mayday!, Naughty by Nature, GZA, Kanye West, and Kendrick Lamar (among others). While some may not like the summer heat, many are looking for ways to enjoy themselves before the winter comes and forces us to all bundle up. I’ve put together a top 5 list of Hip-Hop shows happening in the GTA before the snow comes, and while it’s yet to be determined whether or not I can review them all, they are definitely worth checking out. These are in chronological order:
1. The Cookout Festival at Club Absinthe, Hamilton – August 8
The Cookout is a beautiful summer event that combines the feel of a family barbeque with the energy of a Hip-Hop concert. Several local MCs will perform on Club Absinthe’s patio, where you can enjoy a cold drink under the sun and eat some freshly cooked food (the burgers last year were amazing). When the sun sets, the party moves inside where performers take the stage in the actual nightclub, while the barbeque continues outside on the patio for those who want to take a break. Not only is the indoor/outdoor concept dope, but the headliners are some world-class talent.
The 2015 edition of the festival will feature Raz Fresco, an MC from Brampton who I’ve seen open at several Wu-Tang concerts, Bobbito Garcia a/k/a DJ Cucumber Slice doing his first ever DJ set in Canada, and a couple Hip-Hop legends whose names speak for themselves: Lord Finesse of D.I.T.C., and Buckshot of Black Moon (for the younger heads, Eminem remixed one of Black Moon’s tracks on his MMLP2 album). The Cookout Festival lets you see some all-time Hip-Hop legends and some great local artists in a casual, up-close setting, and Hamilton concerts almost always have cheaper tickets than the extravagant Toronto. Check out my review of last year’s festival if you need more proof that this is a dope event.
Tickets are available for purchase here, OR you can keep reading and find some information about a free giveaway I’m having below!
2. The Roots at PANAMANIA Live at Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto – August 8
The Legendary Roots Crew are returning to Toronto, and this time it’s a free, outdoor show as part of the Parapan Am Games celebrations. Nathan Phillips Square has been full of energy over the past month for the Pan Am Games, with several free concerts happening almost every night while the games were on. With the Parapan Am Games coming in August, The Roots are one of several artists who will be hitting the stage throughout the month. The Roots should be a must-see, bucket list item for everyone on Earth. Whether you’ve seen them do covers on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and want to experience their own music, or you’re already aware of their legendary track record, this is your chance to make it happen for free.
I’ve seen The Roots perform twice, the most recent being at the 2014 Luminato Festival. They ended up topping my list for the best concerts I attended last year, and there’s no reason not to expect another great show from Hip-Hop’s greatest band. I’ve never been to a concert at Nathan Phillips Square before, so I can’t speak on the location, but there’s been nothing but good things spreading through word-of-mouth throughout the Pan Am Games. I may have had a bad experience at their closing ceremonies featuring Kanye West, but you can never go wrong with The Roots.
Info for this free event can be found here.
3. Earl Sweatshirt at The Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto – August 16
Odd Future’s Earl Sweatshirt released his sophomore album I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside back in April of this year, and was supposed to perform at the Opera House around then too. The tickets quickly sold out, and they were going up on secondary markets like Stubhub and Kijiji for more than quadruple the face value – and they were selling through! Earl unfortunately became sick and had to postpone the show until August. Due to the high demand to see Earl perform, the venue was changed to the larger Phoenix Concert Theatre, with the original Opera House tickets being honoured and a new batch of tickets going on sale.
If my memory serves correctly, Earl’s last show in Toronto was in 2013, when he opened for Kendrick Lamar at the Sound Academy. That would make this his first time ever headlining his own show in Toronto. He’s gone from being the mysterious Odd Future member who had fans chanting “free Earl!” years ago to now being a prominent force in Hip-Hop’s underground scene. With two studio albums and an independent mixtape, Earl has a good amount of material to put on a dope live show.
General admission tickets are sold out, but tickets for the 19+ section on the balcony in The Phoenix can be purchased here.
4. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony at The Danforth Music Hall, Toronto – September 12-13
Bone Thugs-N-Harmony are celebrating the 20th anniversary of their classic, most successful album, E 1999 Eternal. All five members are reunited, and this will be their first tour where they perform the entire album from beginning to end. I’ve been going to concerts for years and have never had the opportunity to see Bone Thugs perform; this is a rare chance to see them in Toronto. With this being such a unique show and Toronto being such a large market, they’ve decided to do two shows; one on September 12 and another on September 13.
While I’ve never seen Bone Thugs perform live before, I’ve been to the Danforth Music Hall several times, and it’s one of the best venues in Toronto. The general admission floor is sloped so people in the back can still see over the people up front, and there is a balcony with assigned seating for those who want to rest their legs. This is however the most expensive concert I’ve seen the DMH host, with general admission tickets selling at around $55.
5. Riot Fest & Exposition at Downsview Park, Toronto – September 19-20
Yes, the Riot Festival is supposed to be a Punk Rock show, but there are plenty of Hip-Hop acts to enjoy. If you’re completely opposed to Rock, Punk and Metal music, the good news is that all of the Hip-Hop acts have been scheduled for the same day, and single-day tickets to the festival have recently been made available. The great news is who these Hip-Hop acts are. The legendary Wu-Tang Clan are slated to headline the September 20 show, although last time they were in Toronto only 6 of them showed up. Tyler, The Creator will also be performing, fresh off his Cherry Bomb album, as well as Atmosphere who released Southsiders last year, and Yelawolf, who recently released Love Story on Shady Records.
Besides the great Hip-Hop acts on the bill, Weezer will also be performing their entire Blue Album on Sunday, after performing their debut Pinkerton album on Saturday. One other key factor to this event is the location – Downsview Park. The only other time I saw a concert here, it was extremely muddy, to the point where it was a struggle standing up straight. Definitely expect to get your shoes and your clothes dirty, and be prepared to participate in mosh pits and possibly mud fights. I’d say Wu-Tang is easily worth it if you’ve never seen them all together before (they should be on your bucket list if you’re a Hip-Hop head), and they’ll still put on a dope show even if two or three of them are missing.
Tickets for the Riot Fest (both single and 2-day passes) can be purchased here.
I’m giving away one FREE ticket to The Cookout Festival in Hamilton. Here’s what you have to do in order to have a chance at winning:
A winner will be selected by August 5th and will be contacted directly through either Facebook or Twitter!
Remember to check out the SYpherSights Youtube channel for more concert videos.