While Canadian heavyweights Sam Roberts and Hey Rosetta headlined two of the three stages at Toronto's Urban Roots Festival, it was the third stage that piqued my interest with the odd choice of closer. On the festival's South stage, by far the smallest of the three, Torrance, California's Joyce Manor and their A.D.D brand of catchy punk rock capped a day that almost exclusively featured folk music. Yeah, Gorgol Bordello, July Talk and Hollerado all played Sunday, and Andrew Jackson Jihad has their punk side, but no other artist, of the 44 at TURF, is in the same niche as Joyce Manor.
So as the outcasts of the weekend, Barry, Chase, Kurt and Matt took to the stage with a crowd of maybe 50 people and delivered an impassioned set with banter, song-requests, beer-breaks and a resolute dedication to their high-octane, short-runtime setlist. The levels were off, meaning frontman Barry Johnson's vocals were barely audible, which took some serious punch out of the band's delivery but the loyal crowd didn't seem to mind and the band certainly didn't let it hold them back. The set list relied heavily on the first album, with 2012's Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired only represented with one song. "Catalina Fight Song," "Schley," and "Heart Tattoo" off of the upcoming Never Hungover Again were well received and a handful of older songs such as "Housewarming Party" and "Five Beer Plan" made their rounds as well.
As the night closed on the hill of TURF's South Stage we felt privileged to have seen the weekend's outlier put on a tight set. In the realm of melodic punk, Joyce Manor stand a head above the rest and with their new album due out in a week along with a headlining North American tour this Californian quartet seems poised to step above "just another revival pop-punk band" and make a definitive statement.