This year’s NXNE was an unabashed great success. From killer free lineups in Yonge-Dundas Square to a massive collection of international music, film and interactive talents converging on our already fantastic city to the unofficial parties that pop-up because everyone is in town, it was almost too easy to have a good time. As is the basis of the NXNE schedule, our focus was music this year. Making a concerted effort to diversify 5 days of journalism and debauchery, Danny DeVito and I attempted to seek out the most gratifying live performances. We discovered random sets in vintage stores (Of a Kind), art galleries (Hashtag), parks (namely 4 days of Live in Bellwoods – Danny D’s article to follow soon), and got to see some of our favourite acts while discovering new ones. It was exactly what an urban music festival should be.
There are few things sexier than a girl who can play guitar well. Carmelle Elle, of Toronto two-piece Army Girls, is a 23-year old who does just that. When I suggested seeing them in our roundup for last Wednesday, I had no idea how apt my statement “they may be going somewhere” was. Carmen and drummer Andy Smith are a tight pair whose shows are filled with a surprising amount of energy and joie de vivre. They only have one more gig before they take a break for the summer at The Silver Dollar on June 29th and I’d say it’s in any local lover of rock n’ roll’s interest to go check them out.
Thursday’s best show was less of a surprise. Hometown surf rockers, Hooded Fang played to a packed crowd at The Horseshoe. A crowd of people that reacted to lead singer Daniel Lee’s comment “It’s true when they say people in Toronto move to live music the least” by turning the rest of the set into a dance-along. The very next act, Kington’s super-hyped PS I Love You managed to live up to their rep and kick everyone in the ears with some high-octane face melting that can only be described as “Yes.”
Speaking of high-octane, Friday’s greatest concert success was assuredly Art Vs. Science. The trio from down-under wore quasi-futuristic jumpsuits and managed to get everyone to hop, cheer and sway along for almost an hour. Having listened to their first LP, The Experiment, prior to seeing them live, I will say that these guys are most certainly proof that the album does not make the band. Meaning, definitely see them if you get the chance, but wait for their next release before signing into your iTunes account to gobble up their ironically kitschy tracks. They do have one great recorded song, tho.
Also noteworthy Friday was Seattle’s Super Geek Squad. I would ordinarily never recommend a band that includes Slipknot under their influences, but these guys were completely enjoyable in their theatrics; blending ska, metal, soul, synchronized multi-colour lightup headbands and sexy dancers into a show to remember.
(Enjoy Your Pumas @ Thursday’s Live in Bellwoods)
Saturday was gorgeous in Trinity-Bellwoods Park for the third day of the Live in Bellwoods, a recording of acoustic sets by Canadian bands every year that is unofficially tied to NXNE. East coaster’s Paper Lions shared an acoustic album they’d recently recorded while Ben Caplan blew everyone away with his soaring vocals and touching lyrics. During our time in the park, the terrible news of the stage collapse for Radiohead’s show in Downsview Park spread through the crowd like wildfire. We knew then that it was probably best to make it to Yonge-Dundas early if we wanted a decent spot to see Of Montreal and the Flaming Lips. While OM was fantastic, half of our group were bored to death by Portugal, The Man and decided to hoof it to another venue rather than wait for the festival’s headliner. That was probably a tad hasty as according to Danny, Flaming Lips cover of Knives Out was fantastic. We ended up being 4 of 8 people at The Gladstone enjoying the sweet pop tunes of The Elwins .
I’m not going to lie, after 4 days of drinking all day and night, things can start to get a little hazy, but I apparently danced my ass off during Meanwood at Rancho later that eve. Provocative Penguin has loved Meanwood from the get go. Not only did they rock our party last year, but we were eager to interview them for the EP release this year. You can read more [here]
To finish off the festival Sunday, it was some more relaxing to acoustic sets in Bellwoods then off to see Laugh Sabbath’s strongest lineup of comedy in a while at the Rivoli.
– Special (priority, media, artist) passes are great to have as conversation starters, but there are rarely lines to skip.
– Drink lots and lots of water. Especially if you’re boozing during the day. I suffered severe dehydration after this year’s festivities.
– It is possible to lose weight while drinking your face off. This probably has something to do with walking everywhere. Or perhaps with forgetting to eat. I’m not sure which.
– Diverge from your “scheduled” activities as much as possible. Even if you don’t end up experiencing a band you already know you love, at least you’ve tried to discover something new. In fact, exploring is the best thing you can do at an event like North By Northeast.