Published Sep 20, 2015Somewhere around 3 p.m. the sky opened up over the little snatch of grass down at Toronto's Fort York and it looked like the rest of the day could be a wash out. Late season festivals are a tough call to begin with — warm days become cold-ass nights pretty quickly, and unless you're smart with layers you're a goner by headliner time. But here we were with a rainstorm that hit like, to borrow a (pretty yucky) phrase, a cow pissing on a flat rock. People started streaming out of the venue, seeking shelter, a cab, a hot shower, a change of clothes, a whole new plan. While Toronto's Strumbellas admirably slogged it out in front of their stalwart fans in the downpour, over on the East Stage the crew battled to keep the equipment dry.
I turned to the promoter. His expression was ashen. If we see lightning, he said, we're fucked.
And then, improbably, the rain just stopped. Americana superhero Lucinda Williams and her latest band Buick 6 emerged to a smattering of applause from the much-diminished crowd. Not that she seemed to mind. Snarling and drawling her way through a set that peppered her new material with modern classics ("Drunken Angel", "Essence", "Joy") from her millennial heyday, alt-country's Keith Richards injected just the right amount of salty danger into the set.
Somewhere around the midway point, the sun came out and lit everything up, including her performance. Suddenly energized, she saluted the welcome warmth with her great recent song "Foolishness" before segueing into a lengthy speech about fairness, equality, progressivism and supporting Bernie Sanders' bid for the U.S. presidency.
Though the set featured some overlong prog-y workouts by Buick 6 ("How badass are these guys?" she asked after a long outro jam, to middling acknowledgment), and a pair of cover songs that felt plain unnecessary coming from one of the best songwriters of her (any?) generation, it was a pleasure to see her rocking in the free world with such palpable joy.