Celebrating its ten-year anniversary, Manifesto Festival is doing it big for 2016. Over the past decade, the festival has brought the Toronto community together, giving young local artists a platform to both develop and showcase their skills. The festival typically consists of art exhibitions, mentorship workshops for young artists, and is wrapped up with a free concert in Dundas Square. In past years I’ve attended workshops hosted by Shad and Jully Black, and concerts headlined by Pharaohe Monch and Souls of Mischief. While earlier years were Hip-Hop heavy, the festival has seen a shift towards more RnB, with Ryan Leslie and Melanie Fiona headlining the 2014 and 2015 concerts respectively.
The 2016 edition of Manifesto would involve ten days of celebrations for its ten years. There have been parties, club shows, summits, mentorship workshops, a collaboration with the Toronto International Film Festival, and it’s all being capped off on Sunday with another free concert in Dundas Square, headlined by A Tribe Called Red. For the Saturday night prior though, Manifesto would hold their first large, ticketed concert at Echo Beach. This one would feature Canadian artists Daniel Caesar and Kaytranada, and would be headlined by California’s own Anderson .Paak.
To be perfectly honest, I’m not the biggest Anderson .Paak fan (or really an RnB fan in general), but I’ve come to respect his work recently. I first heard him featured on Dr. Dre’s 2015 album, Compton, and felt that his contributions tarnished the sound of the album. I realize it’s an unpopular opinion, as Anderson’s career has gone to new heights since his collaborations with Dre. It took some convincing, but I’ve since checked out his critically acclaimed 2016 album, Malibu, and found that his voice is a lot more tolerable on his own projects. The music is much more cheerful too, and I can see why it’s getting the widespread praise. I also got to briefly check out his 2014 album Venice just days before the concert.
Before Anderson .Paak’s set though, there were some Canadian artists. Due to delays in the transit system, I got to Echo Beach later than intended and missed Toronto’s own Daniel Caesar. Similar to how I heard his set in the background while getting a meal at NXNE Port Lands Festival back in June, I heard him wrap up his Manifesto set as I was going through security. It had been raining all day, but the rain had just stopped for the rest of the evening and the sun was setting in the distance. Next up would be my first time seeing a full live set by an EDM DJ with Montreal’s Kaytranada.
I had actually never heard of Kaytranada before this concert, but after doing some research realized that he produced one of my favourite songs off of Talib Kweli’s 2015 album, Fuck The Money. He also produced one of my favourites off of Malibu too, and his new album 99.9% is pretty groovy. He got his set started with the first song off that album, “Track Uno,” and I learned quickly that there’s not much to see at EDM shows, as he pretty much just stayed behind the DJ booth. His first remarks on the mic were “what the fuck, y’all ain’t dancing??”, which is really the main appeal of these shows, is to take in the sound and move to it. The crowd quickly caught on.
Kaytra remixed some songs by Missy Elliott and Michael Jackson, and also did some cuts off of his 99.9% album including “Together” and “One Too Many.” He eventually got to the single “Glowed Up,” which features Anderson .Paak, and the headliner himself came out early to perform the track with Kaytra! While sometimes opening acts may come back on stage during the headliner’s set for collaborative tracks, it’s very rare to see the headliner of a show come out during the opener’s set, and this effectively cranked the energy up with the crowd.
After Anderson .Paak returned backstage, Kaytranada kept the party rocking with some more favourites off his new album like “Got It Good” and “Lite Spots.” The crowd was hype, as they tossed around beach balls, blew bubbles (which Kaytra popped when they floated on stage), and crowd surfed. Kaytra played some songs I was unfamiliar with before thanking the crowd and wrapping up his set. There would be some time for equipment to be set up before Anderson .Paak came back on stage, this time with his band, The Free Nationals.
The band got started with “Come Down,” with a groovy bassline to get the crowd moving again. Anderson hopped right up on top of a crate at the front of the stage and engaged the crowd, performing another Malibu cut with “The Season/Carry Me.” He started as the frontman for the band, but during the song sat down behind the drum set and started playing while singing. This had to be the first time I’ve seen the lead singer of a band also play drums simultaneously, and Anderson made the transition seamlessly. The live instrumentation also gave these songs greater energy.
They continued with some more Malibu tracks, with the guitarist shining on “Put Me Thru.” They also did the more romantic tracks off the album, “Heart Don’t Stand A Chance” and “Room In Here” before performing a new, unreleased song. Anderson came back to the front of the stage and got everyone dancing with the Kayranada-produced “Lite Weight.” He had the crowd in the palm of his hand, controlling the energy to match the instrumentation. Just watch the video:
Anderson mellowed down the crowd with the first song off of Malibu, “The Bird,” before getting everyone turned up again with “Am I Wrong.” While Schoolboy Q wasn’t there to perform his guest verse, Anderson took over the drum set again and performed a drum solo during that part of the song. Next was another new song (I think) off of Anderson’s upcoming album with NxWorries called Yes Lawd. Someone from the crowd threw a bouquet of roses on stage, which Anderson shared with his bandmates, and they then wrapped up their set with an old Venice track, “Luh You,” getting the crowd to sing along. The set was far from over through, as the crowd chanted for an encore, and Anderson returned with the last song off of Malibu, “The Dreamer.”
The crowd enjoyed the set so much that they chanted for a second encore, and the band actually obliged! Anderson returned again with a second performance of “Glowed Up,” this time with his band playing the instrumental instead of Kaytranada. They then proceeded to perform several songs off of Venice, including “Milk N’ Honey” and “Might Be,” with Anderson stage diving and singing while being carried by the crowd. The band eventually wrapped up the set (for real this time) after Anderson performed a long drum solo.
This was surprisingly an awesome show! Not being a fan or deeply familiar with either artist, I came in with no expectations and got blown away by the showmanship. Anderson .Paak is a pro when it comes to engaging the crowd and getting the right energy out of them. He put an emphasis on getting people to dance, and everyone was with it. I also didn’t expect to see him singing while playing drums, which is a unique talent to have on stage. Manifesto has outdone themselves this year; this party at Echo Beach was an epic way to celebrate ten years.
Be sure to catch the free show in Dundas Square on Sunday (today as of this posting)!
Remember to check out the SYpherSights Youtube channel for more concert videos.