Monday, June 21st, 2010
NXNE 2010 Day One
Warpaint, Free Energy, Anaïs Mitchell and more at NXNE
Frank YangNitpickers may choose to point out that this year’s edition of NXNE began on Wednesday with a handful of official shows, and even though I didn’t hit the streets until the following night, calling this post “NXNE Day 1” is factually incorrect. To those people, I say: silence, monkeys. Thursday was the first night of the festival with a full and proper schedule of events and, anticipating what would be my most intensive NXNE yet, not leaving the house until absolutely necessary seemed like a good idea.
But Thursday night eventually came as Thursday nights are wont to do and it was off to the first stop of the weekend, ye olde Legendary Horseshoe Tavern, where locals Dinosaur Bones were kicking off the evening’s programming. I’d seen them in Summer 2008 and while they were pretty raw then, I heard a lot of potential in their moody and atmospheric alt-rock sound. Fast forward a couple years and a goodly amount of local hype, and rather disappointingly that potential doesn’t seem to have been fulfilled. Their musicianship and on-stage presence is still commendable, but the songs just didn’t have the hooks or melodies to stand out. None of which is to say they couldn’t still come out and impress – they’ve still yet to release an album – but I didn’t come away with the same sense of anticipation that I did last time. Dinosaur Bones open for Plants & Animals at the Opera House on June 24.
Philadelphia’s Free Energy didn’t have any trouble bringing the hooks – their debut Stuck On Nothing is all about the vintage-hued power pop, and the energy of the record translates perfectly on stage. Led by lanky frontman Paul Spangers, the quintet wore their classic rock affections on their sleeves (which were attached to Neal Adams-art Batman and Styx tour t-shirts) with a set that was full of big riffs and solos and wholly dedicated to having a good time. They’re like the Hold Steady if they were more interested in actually partying instead of just documenting the party. All that said, I didn’t find it quite as exhilarating as when I saw them the last day of SxSW but they clearly won over the rapidly growing crowd.
Photos: Free Energy @ The Horseshoe – June 17, 2010
MP3: Free Energy – “Free Energy”
MP3: Free Energy – “Hope Child”
Video: Free Energy – “Bang Pop”
Video: Free Energy – “Free Energy”
MySpace: Free Energy
The ‘Shoe was pretty much jammed by the time Los Angeles’ Warpaint took the stage, proving that I wasn’t the only one fully excited to see them perform. While the one show of theirs I caught at SxSW was intriguing but inconclusive, I’ve no such ambiguity about their Exquisite Corpse EP. It’s a hypnotic blend of dreampop textures and grooves that comes with just the right amount of unsettling, and on this night – perhaps helpfully far from the bright Austin afternoon sun – Warpaint delivered a set that captured all of the magic of the record and then some. Vocalists Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman led things with their mesmerizing vocals and intertwined, dreamwalking guitars lines, but it was really the thundering rhythm section – Jenny Lee Lindberg on bass and Stella Mozgawa on drums – who propelled things ahead. Interestingly, their original drummer was actress Shannyn Sossamon (who is also Lindberg’s sister – double trivia!) and while her work on Exquisite Corpse was terrific, the sheer power of Mozgawa’s style brings so much more to the table. It’s as though the record floats on the surface of their sound, and the live show dives in deep. The result is intoxicating. After their set, anticipation for their full-length debut, due out this Fall, increased exponentially. Update: Warpaint will be back in town on August 11 at Wrongbar. Update 2: They will also be opening up for The xx at Massey Hall on September 29.
That marked the end of my tenure at the ‘Shoe, and then it was up to The Boat in Kensington for Sleepy Vikings. The six-piece arrived with practically no hype (except here) and played to maybe a dozen people but still made quite an impression. And not for their live show – it was sleepy to say the least, but they get a bye on account of having driven 26 hours straight from Tampa for the show – but for the strength of their songcraft and musicianship which even brink-of-death exhaustion couldn’t hide. They’re a big band but with a focused sound and sharp pop instincts that warrant dream, jangle and power descriptors and elicit comparisons to a moodier Velocity Girl (which explains my affection right there). They also gave away copies of their Ghost EP demo, which only contains three songs but more than confirms that these kids are on to something real and great.
It was obviously too much to hope that Anaïs Mitchell might bring along either Justin Vernon or Ani DiFranco along to support her live they way they did on her last studio record Hadestown, the post-apocalyptic folk opera retelling of the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice, but even solo Mitchell proved to be a more than captivating performer. Her set in the back room of Czehoski on Queen West only included a handful of songs from Hadestown but even without knowing the material, her delivery and charisma – not to mention the evocativeness of her songwriting – made it a wholly enjoyable performance. And a good way close out the night.
The itinerary for Teenage Fanclub’s Fall tour in support of Shadows has been made public and while the dream double-bill of them at Belle & Sebastian isn’t happening, Toronto still has plenty of reason to be excited – the tour kicks off here on September 22 and 23 with two dates at the Horseshoe! Spinner talks to Raymond McGinley about the band’s songwriting process.