Death Trap PhotographyIf it’s mid-June and my lanyard collection has grown by one, it can only mean one thing – NXNE is again upon us. And that means this is yet another weekend I won’t get to indulge my fondest fantasy – to sit around and do nothing – and that it’s time for another dog’s breakfast of a festival preview post. It’s a little bit of my own schedule, a bit of what my schedule might be if not for what my schedule actually is, a bit of what’s piqued my curiosity and a bit of what I know will be worth seeing. Some of the more obvious big names are omitted – I am assuming everyone’s aware of the super-stacked, old school punk free shows at the Yonge-Dundas Square – so hopefully there’ll be something that people attending the festival might feel compelled to check out and people who aren’t going to be at the festival might also investigate.
Note that I didn’t include Wednesday or Sunday, which despite now feeling more like proper days of the festival rather than prologue and epilogue, still don’t offer enough choice to require choosing. If you’re going out either of those days, you know where you’re going. And previewing Wednesday on Thursday would just be silly. So for the next three nights, here’s some thoughts.
Thursday, June 17 2010
Old World Vulture (Rancho Relaxo @ 8PM) – I recommended seeing these rising local purveyors of surging instrumental post-rock back during Canadian Musicfest, and having heard their just-released self-titled debut EP, that endorsement goes double.
MP3: Old World Vulture – “Benny”
Free Energy (The Horseshoe @ 10PM) – A lot of the talking points around these Philly boys concern the fact that their debut Stuck On Nothing was produced by LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, but what really matters is that it’s ’70s-styled arena-sized power pop with hooks to spare. They also play earlier in the evening at Yonge-Dundas Square at 6PM. The Line Of Best Fit has an interview and NPR is streaming a live show.
MP3: Free Energy – “Hope Child”
Zeus (The Rivoli @ 10PM) – also all about the vintage-tint power pop, these local boys have steadily grown their following and their debut Say Us has them playing much larger rooms than the Rivoli – this could be your last chance to see them in such cozy environs.
MP3: Zeus – “Marching Through Your Head”
Olenka & The Autumn Lovers (The Gladstone @ 10PM) – one of the acts I most sad to be missing, this London Ontario, Balkan-inflected folk-pop band thoroughly impressed when I saw them in November. I take solace in the fact that with their new album recorded, that more shows will be coming in the near future.
MP3: Olenka & The Autumn Lovers – “Eggshells”
CALLmeKAT (NOW Lounge @ 11PM) – Spare and delicate electro-pop from Denmark courtesy of Katerine Ottoson, whom you can apparently just call Kat. Check out her NPR Tiny Desk Concert and video session for CALLmeKAT as well as this interview at Interview. She also plays Czehoski on Friday at 11PM.
MP3: CALLmeKAT – “Flower In The Night”
Warpaint (The Horseshoe @ 11PM) – one of my must-sees for the fest, I saw this LA quartet at SxSW and was intrigued, but quality time with the hypnotic dream-pop of their debut EP Exquisite Corpse has sealed the deal. Their debut full-length is due in the Fall.
MP3: Warpaint – “Elephants”
Sleepy Vikings (The Boat @ 12AM) – proof that randomly clicking on NXNE MySpace links can be fruitful (though it’s still mostly frustrating). This band, who is trekking up here all the way from Tampa, Florida, seems to be made up of all kind of stuff I like – jangly guitars that sometimes get noisy, sweet vocals and hooks a-plenty. Plus they’re playing when I had nothing else pencilled in – if that’s not fate, I don’t know what is.
MP3: Sleepy Vikings – “Calm”
Anaïs Mitchell (Czehoski @ 1AM) – Her latest album Hadestown is a folk-opera that translates the story of Orpheus and Eurydice to a modern setting and it’s actually kind of great. Very curious to see how she’ll render it live, though I’m not expecting Justin Vernon to show up to reprise his parts.
MP3: Anais Mitchell – “Flowers (Eurydice’s Song)”
Friday, June 18 2010
Christopher Smith (Bread & Circus @ 8PM) – His name might be eminently forgettable but his pure, clear voice and wistful songwriting make a lasting impression. His debut album The Beckon Call came out in May.
MP3: Christopher Smith – “Gently, Gently”
Neutral Uke Hotel (The Painted Lady @ 9PM) – Pretty much what the name implies – the songs of Neutral Milk Hotel re-interpreted on ukulele. I suspect it’s actually better than/less gimmicky than it sounds, not least of all because Shawn Fogel, who is behind this project, is also behind Golden Bloom and they’re great.
MP3: Neutral Uke Hotel – “King Of Carrot Flowers Pt 1”
The Happy Hollows (Lee’s Palace @ 10PM) – Slightly off-kilter but always smiling indie rock from Los Angeles. It sounds like the kind of loudness and brashness I’d need to make it through the night. Their debut Spells was released back in January.
MP3: The Happy Hollows – “Faces”
Best Coast (The Garrison @ 11PM) – One of the buzz bands of the fest, they’ve got the garage-sounding hook-heavy pop sounds of Summer that the kids like and will release their debut album Crazy For You on July 27. In addition to this show, they’re playing the Great Hall on Thursday night at 11PM and Wrongbar on Saturday at 2AM and if that’s not enough, their just-announced Fall tour brings them back to town for a September 25 show at Lee’s Palace.
MP3: Best Coast – “When I’m With You”
Rah Rah (Bread & Circus @ 12AM) – This Saskatchewan collective released their new record Breaking Hearts a couple weeks ago, and while the big boisterous band thing is getting a bit played out, it’s hard not to dig it when it’s done this well. They’ll also plan an in-store at Sunrise Records on Saturday at 5PM and at the El Mocambo on Sunday night.
Video: Rah Rah – “My Guarantee”
Rich Aucoin (The El Mocambo @ 12AM) – Rumour has it this Haligonian popsmith’s show here at the end of January made the blind able to see technicolours and the lame able to dance. Excessively high expectations? Maybe, but that’s what big pop ambitions like Aucoin’s will get you.
MP3: Rich Aucoin – “10,342 Cuts For The US”
Evening Hymns (The Dakota Tavern @ 12AM) – Spirit Guides was one of my favourites of 2009 and while I haven’t revisited it lately, the wooden-walled environs of the Dakota would be the perfect place to get reacquainted. NOW has an interview.
MP3: Evening Hymns – “Broken Rifle”
PS I Love You (Lee’s Palace @ 1AM) – I meant to catch this Kingston duo at Canadian Musicfest in March, but didn’t, and with their self-titled debut EP ready to drop on July 13 I better take them in before they blow up because what they do is exactly what the kids like. At the moment, at least. NOW has a feature piece.
MP3: PS I Love You – “Facelove”
Gramercy Riffs (Bread & Circus @ 1AM) – Polished and punchy co-ed jangle-pop from Newfoundland – nothing especially groundbreaking but tuneful in a way that will always be welcome. They also play an acoustic set in Trinity-Bellwoods earlier in the day – exact time to be determined. Ask around.
MP3: Gramercy Riffs – “Call Me”
Murder Ford Monument (The Silver Dollar @ 3AM) – These Montrealers still sound a bit rough around the edges and wet behind the ears, but they’ve got the right combination of moodiness and drama to make the right impression. A shame that their late-night evocativeness has been taken too literally as far as their set time goes… maybe next time.
Saturday, June 19 2010
Valleys (The Drake Underground @ 8PM) – Atmospheric yet jagged folk-pop from Montreal that wanders into the dark parts of the woods that you were told never to go into – I’m going to miss this set but they’re already on my “see them the next time they’re here” list. Their debut album is Sometimes Water Kills People.
MP3: Valleys – “Silent Woods”
Savoir Adore (Sneaky Dee’s @ 10PM) – Despite the rustic overtones of the title of their debut In The Wooded Forest, this Brooklyn co-ed duo’s synth-pop feels entirely made for the city; specifically going out and dancing.
MP3: Savoir Adore – “Bodies”
The Grates (Wrongbar @ 10PM) – This Aussie power pop trio led by the hyperactive Patience Hodgson are as close to a sure thing for a good time as you’re going to find anywhere. When I saw them at SxSW 2009 they had a rhythmic gymnastics demonstration in the middle of their set. For example.
MP3: The Grates – “Burn Bridges”
The Hoof & The Heel (The Drake Underground @ 10PM) – This Montreal pop outfit’s name is familiar enough that I’m sure someone has told me that I need to hear them at some point in the not-too distant past. And now that I have, well that list that I added Valleys to a few entries above? It just got one longer. Something tells me I’m going to regret not being at this showcase.
Video: The Hoof & The Heel – “Fireworks”
Golden Bloom (Czehoski @ 11PM) – Shawn Fogel of Neutral Uke Hotel’s main gig is splendid power pop reminiscent of golden age, Bennett-powered Wilco. I got to their last album Fan The Flames too late to see them at NXNE last year. Hope to not repeat that mistake this year.
MP3: Golden Bloom – “Doomsday Devices”
Jane Vain (The Drake Underground @ 11PM) – Apparenyly Jamie Fooks has dropped “The Dark Matter” from her band name, but as long as she’s still making smoke-filled pop noir, then it doesn’t really matter what she calls herself. As long as she puts out a new record soon.
MP3: Jane Vain & The Dark Matter – “C’mon Baby Say Bang Bang”
The Craft Economy (Neutral Lounge @ 11PM) – It’s been a few years since I saw The Craft Economy but there’s no reason to think they’re not still keeping the flame of fun and dancey New Wave synth-pop burning bright. All their recordings are available for free via torrent on their website.
Video: The Craft Economy – “The Crash, The Wagons, The Dying Horses”
Avi Buffalo (Lee’s Palace @ 12AM) – The absurdly young and absurdly talented crew from Southern California will give Toronto plenty of chances to discover them and their self-titled debut, which is definitely worth discovering. In addition to this full-band gig, songwriter Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg will play a solo set at the Great Hall on Friday at 9PM and they’ll be back on August 3 supporting Blitzen Trapper at the Opera House.
MP3: Avi Buffalo – “Remember Last Time”
The Gin Riots (The El Mocambo @ 1AM) – And since it wouldn’t be a music festival for me without at least a little Brit-rock in the equation, these Londoners owe more than a little to The Libertines and Arctic Monkeys, but when you’re coming from this school it’s less about originality and more about attitude and these guys have enough of that to be worth a look.
MP3: The Gin Riots – “In The Bedroom”
Some other NXNE lists and guides are available from JAM, who have a list of acts to see, Chart has list of strange acts and another of best bets, Paste tries to make their American readers wish they were in Canada, Spinner, who itemize other things to do in Toronto beyond live music and NOW a general guide to how to do the festival. Spinner also talks to festival organizers about the event’s 16-year history.
Zunior is offering a free downloadable sampler of the artists playing the NXEW showcase at the Gladstone tonight.
And while I deliberately left out most of the acts playing Yonge-Dundas Square this weekend, they’re obviously getting a lot of the media attention. Case(s) in point: Spinner, CTV and NOW catch up with John Doe and Exene Cervenka of X, whose Thursday night show at Yonge-Dundas Square will mark the LA punk legends’ first show in Toronto in some 20 years.
NOW talks to Jay Ferguson of Sloan, who are headlining the Friday night programme at Yonge-Dundas Square.
The National Post and NOW Q&A The Raveonettes, who are the penultimate act at Yonge-Dundas on Saturday.
Hellbound talks to the legendary Mike Watt about handling bass duties in the even more legendary Iggy & The Stooges, who are headlining Yonge-Dundas Square on Saturday night, while NOW scores an interview with Iggy himself.
The Phenomenal Handclap Band, who are playing Yonge-Dundas on Sunday at 7PM, will play an in-store at Criminal Records that afternoon at 4PM.
And oh my god that took much longer to write up than I was expecting. And now I’m pretty much too tired to do any of the festival.