(The Belle Game @ Live in Bellwoods 2012)
There’s so much going on during NXNE that even the most skillful triage wouldn’t help you see everything you want, and the plethora of unofficial or unrelated events makes it even harder. Thankfully, the best non-NXNE event of all takes place in the afternoon, when most other venues have gone quiet. The Great Hearts Festival, which is the third annual installment of the Live in Bellwoods Festival (so named for the fact that these phenomenal musicians play out of the greatness of the hearts), was the highlight of my NXNE experience… and it’s not even and NXNE event!
Live in Bellwoods is a magnificent gathering of musical talent in the heart of Trinity Bellwoods park. Throughout the course of four afternoons, dozens of visiting and local musicians took time from their days to play acoustic sets in the park, dazzling audiences of a couple hundred lucky Torontonians who were either ‘in the know’, or who happened to be in the right place at the right time. For hardcore NXNE-goers, who were undoubtedly suffering from horrendous hangovers, this was the best place to nurse our headaches, and imbibe some much-needed hair of the dog.
Luckily for those who weren’t fortunate enough see these acts play live, the Humble Empire crew (Kyle and Mike), were there to record the sessions for posterity, and many are now available to be watched and heard online. For a more experiential viewing, check out HumbleMania, a bi-monthly event on the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month hosted at The Ossington, where these fine gentlemen screen their videos, including the Live in Bellwoods sessions.
Ryan O’Reilly – Portobello Road
This act, which crossed the pond from London to join us in the park, came equipped with a poignant political message. During last year’s riots in London, they were busking in front of George Orwell’s old house on Portobello Road, where police smashed their guitars, stole their CD’s, and broke Ryan’s hand – all before throwing them in jail. This truly Orwellian experience inspired this song, and a performance so emotionally charged that all of us in the audience felt the electricity lifting the hairs on our necks.
Ben Caplan – Drift Apart
Ben Caplan, from Halifax, is a must see act whenever he returns to Toronto. This guy has a truly shocking voice, and lyrics that stir up deep emotional revelations. This song inspired some major changes in my life, and will speak to anyone who has ever known epic love. Alas, this year’s video is not up yet, but he’s a repeat offender and we have last year’s performance to enjoy online.
The Belle Game – Wasted Light
My heart always skips when I see an oboe and a French horn. This band from Vancouver rode the rails across a continent to be with us in the park, and for that we thank them. They kicked off the festival on Thursday, and set the tone for an amazing four days.
Lastly, I would like to thank Young Lions Music Club for all of the hard work they put into planning this amazing event. There really is nothing quite like chilling the park with your friends and some cold beverages, enjoying live music, the sun, fresh air, and the best that this city has to offer.