All photos by: Anders Marshall
I want my $70 bucks back how are you gonna hype an entire event on special guests and not bring any of them #6fest
— ♡ (@alduhhh) October 11, 2016
Entire #6Fest crowd was just 6000 crying jordan memes
— rodas (@rodastbh) October 11, 2016
#6fest special guest was the drone flying on top of us smh
— K∃VIN (@KevintheStan) October 11, 2016
Even if Drake had a good reason to sit this one out, their frustrations have some merit.
RSU, Ryerson’s student union and festival organizers, originally promised four A-list headliners on top of surprise guests for their two-day, OVO Fest-inspired outing. They even held a vote on the festival’s website to give concert-goers a say on who they’d most like to see. Among the options were Rihanna, The Weeknd, and Kanye West.
There were promises of rides, games, plenty of food options, and all the other glitzy attractions of the big music festivals across Ontario. Instead, the festival was in a half-full gravel pit in the Portlands, similar to what we saw at this year’s NXNE festival. A handful of food trucks, a beanbag toss, and Budweiser’s beer garden served as the off-stage entertainment.
6Fest was pushed back from late September to early Thanksgiving weekend, allegedly due to scheduling conflicts with performers.
Diplo and Big Sean (who were not on the “A-list” list) were announced as the headliners just days before the Thanksgiving weekend festival was set to begin. Big Sean cancelled days later, with Pusha T lined up as his replacement. Other performers were announced late as well, but the real rain cloud was the due to the absence of Ryerson’s favourite “special guest.”
Back in May, we stumbled upon Drizzy’s second surprise appearance in front of thousands of rabid Ryerson students. The 6 branding all over a DJ Esco performance cried out for a glimpse of The Boi. Our hunch was right, as Drake’s right hand man Chubbs sauntered on stage in a white hoodie, "VIEWS" emblazoned on his chest. It was happening, everybody knew right then. Drake came out to face-melting shrieks, promised that any time Ryerson calls him to perform, he’d be there.
Around 10:30pm (outdoor shows in Toronto like 6fest are under an 11pm noise curfew) Chubbs wandered off, and appeared backstage. Fans in the front where tense, chattering among themselves, exchanging hopeful glances between French Montana’s interactions with the crowd. They knew it was now or never for Drake to come out.
Around 10:40pm, a stage hand told Frenchie and his DJ that they had time for one more song; the entire front row noticed her extended index finger, telling him to wrap it up.
Eventually, Montana’s single “No Shopping,” featuring Drake himself, blasted through the speakers. Everybody knew the words; the time came for Drake’s verse, an opportunity for Drake to once again “touch the stage” as he’d promised. Anxiousness set in as the song faded out. French Montana thanked the crowd for their energy, and left.
Still, there was a glimmer of hope. The lights were still on full blast. Music played with no DJ present. Were they just setting up? Where did Chubbs and the rest of the OVO crew go?
“I swear he’s back there, man. I saw him pull up,” said a fan, clutching the RSU-branded t-shirt he scored hours earlier. "He can’t do us like that.”
Photographers exchanged confused looks, too. Whispers of Drake’s presence were swirling for hours. Surely it wasn’t all hot air?
Stage hands confirmed that the show was indeed over as they began packing up the set; turntables and laptops unplugged, speakers whisked away, cables wound around arms. It was over, not far from over.
Turns out third time isn’t the charm.
Still, it seems unfair to say Drake disappointed [editor's note: since this show, Drake has announced he's cancelling the rest of his tour due to injury]. He’s crashed the party twice. This time he let his crew do the work. OVO and friends made a strong showing on Sunday as newly free man Baka, dvsn and Roy Wood$ rapped and crooned long into the night.
Even French Montana had a great reception, despite performing for the same student body at a free pop up concert just weeks ago.
No festival organized solely by students is perfect, but to showcase that amount of local talent with big ticket names mixed into just two days is a feat that deserves recognition, Drake or no Drake. Let’s run through the highlights.
Diplo may have breathed new life into calisthenics. He told the crowd of twenty-somethings — already feeling the bass in their throat, let alone their heartbeat — to do jumping jacks to the beat. His pyrotechnics were excellent, his nods via remixes to the 6God were plentiful, and despite leaning on songs at the top of the charts to fill out his time on stage, the set felt fresh. Plenty of hip-hop, but remixed in unexpected ways. Have you heard "Panda" with a flipped bass line? Of course you have, but Diplo does it better.
The president of G.O.O.D Music stepped in for the much-hyped Big Sean to pump up the Portlands on Sunday.
Roy Wood$ was the sleeper hit of the festival, switching back and forth from soft and smooth under low lights to wildin’ out in his reflective silver bomber, going east-west on stage freaking out. He had a great time, and his level of polish and great stage presence shows potential for exponential growth at just 20 years of age.
The crowd seemed split between dvsn diehards and those who recognized Scarborough native Daniel Daley’s caramel-coated voice on the outro of Drake’s “Faithful” from VIEWS. Those who were unfamiliar quickly warmed to the Daley and producer Nineteen85’s boom-bap flavoured neo-soul. dvsn was a hit, and rightly so. Having spent years behind the curtain, Daley and Nineteen85 are ready to shine, and shine they did.
Baka is back on road, and performed on a holiday in his home city. Are we sure Drake can’t see the future? He had the crowd on edge. Kids were moshing, tossing elbows, swaying side to side. He came and went too quickly to sustain the hype.
Smoke Dawg and Puffy L’z
Smoke Dawg and Puffy L’z were very welcome surprise guests — representing Regent Park’s 878/Halal Gang — given Ryerson’s large Somali community, and love for the crew from all sides.
The head of the Coke Boys was overshadowed by the 6 God’s absence, which was unfair. Frenchie gave his all, steam and sweat escaping from his body in single digit weather. The crowd appreciated his efforts, but interest waned as it became clear that Drake wasn’t coming.