Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010
NXNE 2010 Day Three
Iggy & The Stooges, Avi Buffalo, Wavves and more at NXNE
Frank YangThe demise – for this year, at least – of Toronto’s Virgin Festival had one positive side effect, in that the corporate title sponsor found themselves with some budget to spend on a music event and nowhere to throw it… and so they threw it at NXNE. This not only gave the festival the means to land a bona fide, big time headliner to build things around, but they were able to present said act for free on a big stage in the heart of the city. No question, Iggy & The Stooges was going to be an event.
But not the only event. The Yonge-Dundas mainstage had a full slate of acts leading up to the big show, including a number of acts who were significant draws unto themselves. My evening started with Florida’s Surfer Blood, who came into the fest as one of the bigger buzz bands and with a number of showcases on the schedule in addition to this one. And it’s a good thing they did, because if this were their only chance to impress, it’d have been a mighty flop. Presumably through no fault of their own, the young quintet’s equipment began self-destructing just a few songs into their set, causing extended delays on stage, clearly frustrating the band, boring the audience and killing any momentum they’d have hoped to build. They finally did manage to get it together to close their set out strongly, but this performance would almost certainly have to go in the better-forgotten pile. And even without the technical difficulties, I wasn’t especially impressed with what I heard. Decent guitar pop, but not really anything worth getting so excited over. Go figure. Clash and Spinner have features on the band.
Photos: Surfer Blood @ Yonge-Dundas Square – June 19, 2010
MP3: Surfer Blood – “Swim”
Video: Surfer Blood – “Swim”
MySpace: Surfer Blood
Though San Diego’s Wavves made headlines a year ago for an on-stage meltdown by frontman Nathan Williams, he was the model of composure this time out. Previewing material from his forthcoming sophomore album King Of The Beach, out August 3, Williams was chatty and good humoured on stage, if a bit odd and manifesting a Paulie Shore fixation. But no meltdowns and without the benefit of a home studio with which to layer on the lo-fi fuzz onto their songs, the sounded much more melodic and comprehensible than on records. Still fast and loud, but tuneful. A pleasant surprise. Yours Truly and PitchforkTV have video sessions with Wavves.
An outdoor stage in the daylight isn’t the first place you’d expect to find Denmark’s Raveonettes, but as much as you’d think their bubble-gaze aesthetic best suited for dark clubs, it proved to work surprisingly well out in the open air. Assisted by copious amounts of reverb, Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo – accompanied by a full rhythm section – filled the square with the loud yet airy sounds of their latest album In And Out Of Control. As ever, they weren’t the most animated performers on stage, but their distinct look and sound – and hooks aplenty – would be enough to keep all eyes on them. They’re currently preparing a b-sides compilation and will have a new album ready in the new year.
Photos: The Raveonettes @ Yonge-Dundas Square – June 19, 2010
MP3: The Raveonettes – “Last Dance”
MP3: The Raveonettes – “Suicide”
MP3: The Raveonettes – “The Chosen One”
MP3: The Raveonettes – “Dead Sound”
MP3: The Raveonettes – “Aly, Walk With Me”
MP3: The Raveonettes – “Attack Of The Ghost Riders”
Video: The Raveonettes – “Heart Of Stone”
Video: The Raveonettes – “Boys Who Rape (Should All Be Destroyed)”
Video: The Raveonettes – “Last Dance”
Video: The Raveonettes – “Dead Sound”
Video: The Raveonettes – “You Want The Candy”
Video: The Raveonettes – “Aly, Walk With Me”
Video: The Raveonettes – “Attack Of The Ghost Riders”
Video: The Raveonettes – “That Great Love Sound”
MySpace: The Raveonettes
As the evening progressed, it was interesting to see the composition of the audience change. Earlier on, it was the kids more interested in the hot new acts than the veterans and keener fans, diligently arriving early to score a spot up front to get the best view of the rock legends. But as the hour of the show drew closer, a more… shall we say “punk correct” element began to make up a larger percentage of the audience and by show time, the Square and adjoining streets – they wisely closed off Yonge St between Queen and Dundas for the event – were jammed and teeming with representatives from every imaginable cross-section of society, including the crustier ones.
None of which was of immediate concern to me, as I had arguably the best seat in the house for at least the first couple songs of the set, right up front in the photo pit. And there was no doubt as to when the show began, as James Newell Osterberg, Jr – Iggy Pop to his friends – bounded out on stage and clad only in a pair of jeans and in both great and grotesque shape for his 63 years, wasted no time in letting everyone know that The Stooges’ advance billing as one of the greatest rock bands ever was far from just hyperbole. And seriously, he was amazing to watch as he danced, posed, raced around the stage and climbed into the audience while singing the never more appropriate “Raw Power”, delivered with righteous fury by a Stooges lineup composed of Scott Asheton on drums, James Williamson on guitar, Steve Mackay on saxophone and Mike Watt on bass – not period correct, but seriously heavyweight nonetheless. It was truly something to behold, if for only six or seven minutes until we had to vacate the pit. At that point, it became less a concert than a soundtrack for fascinating people watching since there was no way to see the stage for the sea of humanity spilling over the edges of the Square. I heard there was a stage invasion during “Search & Destroy” but couldn’t tell you for sure. What I can tell you is that I saw the people who had waited at the front all day getting pulled out and over the barricade by security because there was no other way out, I saw people drunk and stoned out of their minds freaking out, either from Iggy or whatever they were on, I’m not sure, I saw a kid punch a cop (that didn’t end well), all to the sound of The Stooges sounding pulverizing and vital. The vibe was suitably dark and on the edge of violent, with Iggy right on the edge of inciting more chaos, but as far as I know no one was hurt, and so it can go down in the books as a pretty remarkable milestone in NXNE and Toronto concert history. I do challenge the assertion that it was the biggest free concert in the city ever – the free R.E.M. show in 2001 was pretty freaking massive and stretched all the way down Yonge St… but I digress. Iggy. Stooges. Epic. Spinner also has a review of their show.
Clearly, this would have been a logical time to call it a night – there was no way to be topping Iggy – but fact is it wasn’t even 11PM and there was still plenty to see, so after a breather at home, it was back out to see Avi Buffalo at Lee’s Palace. The California quartet led by Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg just released their self-titled debut, and it featured the right balance of unusual and accessible, thanks largely to Zahner-Isenberg’s warbly indie-pop vocals and songwriting and searing jazzy-prog guitar chops, reminiscent of Nels Cline. Their live show wasn’t far off from their recorded work, with Zahner-Isenberg indulging in more than a little guitar face during instrumental excursions, and punctuated with some odd banter, though that may have just been a consequence of the band being excited to be somewhere they were of legal to drink.
The last stop of the night was the El Mocambo, where London’s The Gin Riots would fulfill my British rock quota for the festival. I’d likened their sound to that of The Libertines and Arctic Monkeys, but watching them perform I was reminded more of The Rumble Strips, albeit more country inflected and less idiosyncratic. They were entertaining and engaging performers with a brace of energetic and songs, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that everything they do has been done before and done better. But considering how solid and fully realized they are without even having released an album yet, there’s still plenty of time for them to find their own niche.
U2’s ($150,000,000) loss is Interpol fans’ gain – with the cancellation of the U2 Summer tour and Interpol’s opening slots on it, they’ve assembled their own Summer tour which includes a date at the Kool Haus on August 10. Tickets are $30 and go on sale Thursday – it’s been a while since they’ve been here, but that’s surely an undersized venue for the band so expect it to sell out fast. Their fourth, self-titled album is out September 7 and the new video is available to watch over at Stereogum.
Video: Interpol – “Lights”
Here just a couple weeks ago, Jamie Lidell will be back on September 14 for a show at the Opera House.
Video: Jamie Lidell – “The Ring”
The Walkmen will release their new record Lisbon on September 14 and be at the Opera House on October 9 to support.