Monday, June 22nd, 2009
NXNE 2009 Day One
NXNE 2009 day one with No Age, Ume, Kittens Ablaze and The Darcys
Frank YangWith a lead-up week that had included rather insane shows from each of Patrick Wolf, Phoenix and The Dead Weather, it wasn’t surprising that I was half-dead before NXNE even began this year. I don’t even want to speculate what kind of shape I’d been in if I hadn’t taken the week off from work. But the will and energy to hit the clubs would be found. Somehow.
There were many options to kick things off, but I opted for the secret-but-not-really show at the Whipper Snapper Gallery featuring Los Angeles duo No Age. I wasn’t especially won over by last year’s Nouns but had heard good things about their live show and the venue’s location would allow me to grab a tasty panzerottti at Bitondo’s. I say the show was not really secret because though the festival tried to keep it under wraps, it had been listed on the band’s booking agency’s website for over a week. But considering the modest-sized turnout, maybe it had been kept under wraps better than I’d thought. As for the show, I found the duo more entertaining live than on record, exchanging their lo-fi white noise sonic signature for something louder and meatier. Song-wise, it all sounded a blur but it was fun to watch them revel in the noise as well as pull off one of the most seamless broken guitar string changes I’ve ever seen. Metro has an interview with the band.
Photos: No Age @ The Whipper Snapper Gallery – June 18, 2009
MP3: No Age – “Neck Escaper”
MP3: No Age – “Eraser”
Video: No Age – “Eraser”
Video: No Age – “Boy Void”
Video: No Age – “Goat Hurt”
MySpace: No Age
From the Whipper Snapper, it was a short jaunt over to Neutral to welcome Austin’s Ume to town. They were one of the best things I saw at SxSW this year and I was very pleased that they’d made the long trip up to Toronto. I was also pleased that a very good-sized crowd of people were there to greet them and that the band managed to get their A-game across the border. Just as in Austin, singer-guitarist Lauren Larson was a dervish, her voice ranging from a coo to a shriek and her guitar chops several degrees past ridiculous as the band powered through selections from their Sunshower EP and some new material. In the few instances I was able to tear my eyes from the stage, I saw that others in the audience with that same look of “holy shit” I’m sure I was wearing back in March – pure rock action. Pure Grain Audio has an interview.
There were a few options for the next show, but the mental coin flip came up Kittens Ablaze, a Brooklyn act slated to play the Rivoli. Between them and Finnish outfit Cats On Fire, I detect a disturbing trend in pop bands with feline immolation-themed names. This particular one was a six-piece ensemble whom it would be impossible not to compare to Ra Ra Riot thanks to their near-identical band makeups and penchant for dizzying, uptempo orch-pop. They didn’t have the same quality of tunes, but were able to convey the sense of fun they were obviously having to the audience and made for a good time. NOW talked to the outfit before the festival.
It’s not that long a haul from the Rivoli to Clinton’s by bike, but it certainly felt like it. I dragged my ass to basically the most northwest-located venue of the fest to see locals The Darcys, who’d been on my to-see list for a while. Now a lot of bands list Radiohead as an influence, which sadly usually means that the singer thinks that he’s got a great falsetto and some profound angst that needs to be expressed and thus, are generally meant to be given a wide berth. The Darcys do NOT list Radiohead as an influence (at least on their MySpace), but they were the first reference point I came up with. Not because singer Kirby Best has either a falsetto or angst (he may, I don’t know) but because of the the band’s innate creativity and their remarkably intricate arrangements of their three-guitar attack. I couldn’t help thinking that if the ‘Head had gone into their more introverted post-OK Computer phase with guitars still at the fore, The Darcys are the sort of band they’d have influenced. The recordings on their 2007 album Endless Water don’t really reflect what I heard on Thursday night – I very much look forward to what they’ll put out next.
Emmy The Great has re-recorded a batch of songs which had been kicking around for a while but didn’t make it onto First Love, including favourites “Canopies & Grapes” and “Two Steps Forward”. Edward EP (First Songs) is out July 27 digitally and on 12″ vinyl, and will also be added to all future copies of First Love.
Stream: Bloc Party – “One More Chance”
I can’t say as I’m that familiar with his works, but I do know that ’70s Detroit-based, psych/folk protest singer Sixto Rodriguez – who worked as just Rodriguez – is held in very high esteem by people whose opinions I respect. His two previously lost albums Cold Fact and Coming From Reality were reissued in super-deluxe format last year, and he’s been hitting the road to support – including a just-announced July 3 free show at Harbourfront Centre as part of their Hot Spot festival. I get the feeling that even if you don’t know his work, this is a show you will want to see.
Built To Spill return to Lee’s Palace for a two-night stand on October 6 and 7. Their new record There Is No Enemy is due out right about then as well.
The resurrected Jesus Lizard is coming to town – they’re at the Phoenix on November 9, tickets $20.