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Thursday, June 21st, 2012

NXNE 2012 Day Four

Of Montreal, The Deer Tracks, and Brasstronaut at NXNE

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangJune 16 had been circled on many calendars of Toronto music-goers for months, thanks to the intersection of Radiohead, The Flaming Lips’ free headlining set at NXNE, and LuminaTO events. So, of course, I ended up doing none of the above and even only hit three NXNE-related shows… but at least they were good ones?

And I got started early; Vancouver’s Brasstronaut were on early at Yonge-Dundas Square, auspiciously following a 14-year old cover band. That was just a circumstance of scheduling, though, as there was little in common between the tweens reinterpreting Guns’N’Roses and the sophisticated six-piece jazz-pop ensemble. It’s no small thing to make an argument for the clarinet as a rock instrument, but they managed to do just that with a set drawn from 2010’s Mount Chimaera and their just-released Mean Sun that sounded simultaneously driving and mellow, a good match for the prevailing festival-goer’s mood of being both exhausted and excited. Or maybe just mine.

The Vancouver Sun, The Ottawa Citizen, The Georgia Straight, Pique, and Uptown have features on the band while Exclaim talks to frontman Edo Van Breeman about his upcoming Swiss prison sentence. No, that’s not a metaphor.

Photos: Brasstronaut @ Yonge-Dundas Square – June 16, 2012
MP3: Brasstronaut – “Hollow Trees”
Video: Brasstronaut – “Requiem For A Scene”
Video: Brasstronaut – “Old World Lies”

After an afternoon of record shopping, sweaty bike rides and general hangs, it was back to Yonge-Dundas for the start of the evening’s main programme and Of Montreal. When the original NXNE lineup was announced, it seemed like a no-brainer that Of Montreal would lead into The Flaming Lips and the combined psych-rock impact would result in Guinness record for spontaneous simultaneous lobotomies. No such luck – Portugal. The Man were inserted in between to mitigate the effects – but Kevin Barnes and company certainly set the tone for what the headliners would be offering.

This was actually my first time properly seeing Of Montreal since SXSW 2006; technically I saw them at Primavera Sound last year – where they were also on several hours before The Flaming Lips – but only sort-of paid attention on account of the “holy shit I’m in Spain” thing. There had been opportunities since then but I just hadn’t taken them, what with the band’s albums over that time becoming increasingly strange and patchy and despite the promise of over the top visuals, not enticing me to check it out. As such it was interesting to see them again up close and note that rather than the ringleader of the shenanigans, Barnes now looked a bit nonplussed about it all – as though he’d accepted that his lot was to be the epicentre of it all, and that he was mostly okay with it. I certainly remember him seeming more engaged before.

And there was plenty to be engaged in, what with the band’s performance being augmented with technicolour dancers in outrageous costumes, but all of it also a good reminder that with the likes of the giant breasts hidden under the glittery capes of the dancers’ first costume change, they really weren’t so family friendly but more subversive – like a musical Ralph Bakshi cartoon, but so ridiculous that it was unlikely that anyone would legitimately take offense. And for as difficult as some of their recent albums have gotten, they were able to cherry pick enough perfect disco-pop to make up a set that was nigh-impossible to not dance to. And if someone’s kid got an eyeful of some giant, shiny fake breasts, what of it?

Spinner, The National Post, and Paste have feature pieces on Of Montreal.

Photos: Of Montreal @ Yonge-Dundas Square – June 16, 2012
MP3: Of Montreal – “Wintered Debts”
MP3: Of Montreal – “Dour Percentage”
MP3: Of Montreal – “Coquet Coquette”
MP3: Of Montreal – “Famine Affair”
MP3: Of Montreal – “Id Engager”
MP3: Of Montreal – “An Eluardian Instance”
MP3: Of Montreal – “Heimdalsgate Like A Promethean Curse”
MP3: Of Montreal – “The Party’s Crashing Us”
MP3: Of Montreal – “So Begins Our Alabee”
MP3: Of Montreal – “Rapture Rapes The Muses”
MP3: Of Montreal – “Disconnect The Dots”
MP3: Of Montreal – “A Question For Emily Foreman”
MP3: Of Montreal – “Pancakes For One”
MP3: Of Montreal – “Penelope”
MP3: Of Montreal – “One Of A Very Few Of A Kind”
MP3: Of Montreal – “Dustin Hoffman Gets A Bath”
MP3: Of Montreal – “Dustin Hoffman Thinks About Eating The Soap”
MP3: Of Montreal – “Spoonful Of Sugar”
Video: Of Montreal – “Spiteful Intervention”
Video: Of Montreal – “L’age D’or”
Video: Of Montreal – “Famine Affair”
Video: Of Montreal – “Coquet Coquette”
Video: Of Montreal – “Mingusings”
Video: Of Montreal – “An Eluardian Instance”
Video: Of Montreal – “Id Engager”
Video: Of Montreal – “Gronlandic Edit”
Video: Of Montreal – “Heimdalsgate Like A Promethean Curse”
Video: Of Montreal – “Suffer For Fashion”
Video: Of Montreal – “Wraith Pinned To The Mist And Other Games”
Video: Of Montreal – “So Begins Our Alabee”
Video: Of Montreal – “Requiem For OMM2″
Video: Of Montreal – “Disconnect The Dots”

For many festival-goers, if you weren’t at Yonge-Dundas Square for The Flaming Lips on Saturday night then you were doing it wrong. Perfectly fair, but as I’d said since my festival preview, my one must-see band for the weekend was Sweden’s Deer Tracks and if it came down to a conflict with Wayne Coyne bubblewalking over the gathered throngs, then Wayne was going to lose out. And it did and he did.

The decision was certainly helped along by reports from earlier dates on the tour that confirmed that their live show was great; if there was a question, it was whether there’d be many people there to see it. They were clearly the odd band out in the lineup at The Rivoli, amidst singer-songwriters and following a blues trio to say nothing of being on at the same time as The Lips, so I expected that it would be lightly attended and whomever was there probably wouldn’t be their audience. And who was? Well, anyone who liked gorgeous electro-pop that was simultaneously dancey, demure, and dramatic and unabashedly arty without any of the attendant aloofness. With two-thirds of their Archer Trilogy released – the third instalment is due this Fall – David Lehnberg and Elin Lindfors (and their keyboardist and drummer) crammed what seemed like an epic tale into just over 30 minutes, rendered with synths, guitars, bowed saw, glockenspiels, clarinet (again!) and both Lehnberg and Lindfors’ soaring, emotive voices.

It was a more than welcome set of otherworldly beauty in a festival too easily described by adjectives like “garage”, and when the show was over and I turned around to hightail it to my next stop, it was more than gratifying to see that a good-sized crowd had gathered and looked to have enjoyed the show as much as I had. It deserved an audience.

NOW talked to The Deer Tracks ahead of their festival appearance.

Photos: The Deer Tracks @ The Rivoli – June 16, 2012
MP3: The Deer Tracks – “W”
MP3: The Deer Tracks – “Dark Passenger”
Video: The Deer Tracks – “Meant To Be”
Video: The Deer Tracks – “Tiger”
Video: The Deer Tracks – “Fall With Me”
Video: The Deer Tracks – “Fra Ro Raa / Ro Ra Fraa”
Video: The Deer Tracks – “Ram Ram”
Video: The Deer Tracks – “Slow Collision”
Video: The Deer Tracks – “12sxfrya”

That wasn’t the final stop of the night – more on that tomorrow – but it was the last NXNE 2012 showcase; a great end to another great fest, though despite being as exhausted or moreso than I normally am, I didn’t actually see as many showcases as I typically do. Not sure how that happened, exactly. But as we wrap things up, for more festival-y things check out this oral history of NXNE as told to aux.tv and this conversation with festival found Andy McLean at Billboard.

Since Spinner footed the bill for the big Flaming Lips show, they get the big interview with Wayne Coyne. Them’s the rules.

The Toronto Star and Toronto Sun chat with Janelle Monáe, who kicks off the Toronto Jazz Festival at Nathan Philips Square tomorrow night.

Clash talks to Kristian Mattson about what it’s like being The Tallest Man On Earth.

PopMatters asks 20 questions of We Are Serenades.

First Aid Kit have released a new video from The Lion’s Roar. They’re at The Danforth Music Hall on September 26.

Video: First Aid Kit – “Blue”

Swedish punk rock newcomers Holograms have made a date at The Shop Under Parts & Labour for September 11, tickets $10.50 in advance. Their self-titled debut is out July 10. Tupac does not make an appearance.

MP3: Holograms – “Chasing My Mind”
MP3: Holograms – “ABC City”
Stream: Holograms – “Monolith”

The Line Of Best Fit has premiered the new single from El Perro Del Mar, which is also available to download. It comes from her new album Pale Fire, due out later this year.

M4A: El Perro Del Mar – “Innocence Is Sense”
Video: El Perro Del Mar – “Innocence Is Sense”

Sigur Rós has rolled out another video from Valtari, though this one comes with a warning that it may not be suitable for people with good taste as it contains Shia Labeouf. No, it really doesn’t matter that he’s naked – that he’s in it is bad enough.

Video: Sigur Rós – “Fjögur píanó”

NPR has a World Cafe session with Of Monsters & Men.

By : Frank Yang at 8:33 am
Category: Concert Reviews

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RSS Feed for this postOne Response.
  1. David says:

    Ha, I I was gonna make that hologram joke in reply to your tweet but then figured it was too easy.