Frank YangHands down, the best thing to happen to NXNE in recent years is the designation of Yonge-Dundas Square as the festival’s main stage and making the shows staged there – usually featuring the lineup’s biggest names – free for everyone. And what’s better is that despite being located in pretty much the most central and public place in the city, there’s been no signs that they festival has been concerned about diluting the quality of the performances to be a little more family-friendly; witness last year’s near-carnage of Iggy & The Stooges or the mid-day ass-shaking sissy bounce clinic put on by Big Freedia. Passers-by were offended by the latter – and to be honest I don’t blame them – but that it happened was great.
And it was just as great that Thursday evening’s programme featured an early evening slot from a band whose credentials were impeccable; a Polaris Prize-winning local act with mounds of international critical acclaim and fronted by a national television personality. Who just happened to be called Fucked Up. And the best part? No one cared. Actually, check that – it didn’t even matter that no one cared because it implies that there were concerns about people being offended. The best part was that the show was fantastic. I don’t think I’d have believed you if you told me a couple years ago that I’d become a Fucked Up fan – I figured that respect was as far as I’d get, but fact is I think their latest David Comes To Life is terrific and I can’t think of anyone I like more as Toronto’s musical and cultural ambassadors right now than them.
After being introduced by the festival emcee – a role that Damian Abraham played last year – the band tore into “Queen Of Hearts” from the new album and Abraham tore into the crowd, body surfing into the masses and largely disappearing into the circle pit and general tumult while somehow continuing to sing. The punk rock revelling continued through the first portion of the set as Abraham’s bandmates dutifully cranked out arena-sized rock from the safe confines of the stage, with Abraham eventually climbing out to bellow out the rest of the set from the edge of the barricade while the fans carried on moshing, surfing and generally carrying on. And through it all, the spirit was amazing and celebratory, quite a far cry from the dark vibe of last year’s Stooges show, though to the casual onlooker the mayhem might have appeared similar. For Fucked Up, it was a sort of warm-up to their more familiar club-sized show at Wrongbar later that night, but for everyone else, it was a pretty high bar set for the rest of the night.
Time Out New York has an interview with Damian Abraham and the brand-new video for “Queen Of Hearts” is linked below.
Photos: Fucked Up @ Yonge-Dundas Square – June 16, 2011
MP3: Fucked Up – “The Other Shoe”
MP3: Fucked Up – “Ship Of Fools”
MP3: Fucked Up – “A Little Death”
MP3: Fucked Up – “Queen Of Hearts”
MP3: Fucked Up – “Neat Parts”
Video: Fucked Up – “Queen Of Hearts”
Video: Fucked Up – “Black Albino Bones”
Video: Fucked Up – “Crooked Head”
I was pretty proud of myself for getting from Yonge to Ossington on bike in less than 8 minutes, even if it meant being a sweaty mess for the Modern Superstitions set at The Garrison. I’ve liked to check in on the local quartet from time to time, happily seeing the potential obscured by awkwardness at V Fest 2009 be more fully-realized in a much more confident Halifax Pop Explosion set last Fall. And the upward trend continued on Thursday as the band sounded louder and punchier than ever before, with new material that sounded less immediate but more impressive in its ambitions. While they could have done pretty well simply being “The Strokes fronted by a cute girl”, they’re obviously looking to do something more and that they’re arriving at these conclusions before their debut full-length is released can only be taken as a good thing. The next time I see them, I expect they’ll be ready to take on the world.
Photos: Modern Superstitions @ The Garrison – June 16, 2011
MP3: Modern Superstitions – “Visions Of You”
Video: Modern Superstitions – “Mercy Line”
Video: Modern Superstitions – “Visions Of You”
Leaving The Garrison, my tour of the worst venues in the city to take photographs in continued at The Velvet Underground where The Two Koreas were set to perform. I’d seen them way back in 2007 and was impressed enough at the time, but not enough to keep up with what the quartet in the years since. A recommendation to give their latest Science Island a spin confirmed that they were still at it and their facility for combining big guitar riffs with shouty yet melodic vocals was even sharper than before. And live, with frontman Stuart Berman’s dance moves thrown in, it was a good way to spend a half hour or so. And then it was back out into the night.
Spinner gets Berman to write about the duality of being in a band and writing about bands for a living.
Photos: The Two Koreas @ The Velvet Underground – June 16, 2011
MP3: The Two Koreas – “Midnight Brown”
Video: The Two Koreas – “Midnight Brown”
Getting to The Silver Dollar for 11 was strictly a logistical move to make sure I got in but it turned out to be one of the most fortuitous of the weekend, as it allowed me to see Chains of Love. The Vancouver outfit don’t do anything new whatsoever, but that’s rather the point. They take the spirit of ’50s and ’60s girl-group pop and writing new – GOOD – songs in that style and deliver them with genuine rock energy and plenty of sass and style, thanks to the charisma of frontwoman Nathalia Pizarro. A couple of gear issues threatened to stall their momentum early on but when they got going, there was no stopping them. An unknown quantity with only a 7″ and handful of MP3s entering the fest, they left as one of the bands everyone was talking about.
Photos: Chains Of Love @ The Silver Dollar – June 16, 2011
MP3: Chains Of Love – “You Got It”
MP3: Chains Of Love – “All The Time”
San Diego’s Crocodiles, on the other hand, came into NXNE with all the hype and lots to prove – not many bands get a three-night residency at a major festival for their Canadian debut. If they thought for a minute that they didn’t deserve the attention, however, you couldn’t tell from behind frontman Brandon Welchez’s Ray-Bans. Drenched in nothing but red light, they came off as cool as you could imagine and and as loud as you’d expect. On last year’s Sleep Forever, they found a good balance between the lo-fi psychedelic garage aesthetic of their scene and their fondness for big pop hooks but live, it was all about the drone and the volume. As such, guitarist Charles Rowell became the real star of the show as the amount of racket he was able to conjure out of his axe was most impressive, layering noise upon fuzz upon more noise, all delivered in riff form. Welchez gets points for simply being audible overtop of all that, but you couldn’t really hear anything more specific than that. Still, even so, a pretty bracing – and deafening – debut.
Spinner has an interview with Rowell, who post-gig also told them why they’ve never played in Canada before (hint: it’s what you think).
Photos: Crocodiles @ The Silver Dollar – June 16, 2011
MP3: Crocodiles – “Sleep Forever”
Video: Crocodiles – “Hearts Of Love”
Video: Crocodiles – “Sleep Forever”
I would have been happy to call it a night at that point but the fact that I was there, and Vancouver’s Dirty Beaches – whose debut Badlands was long-listed for this year’s Polaris Prize earlier that day – was up next was a pretty good argument for sticking around. And with regards to what Alex Zhang Hungtai – he who is Dirty Beaches – is about, all I can say is I don’t get it. I mean, I kind of do; his one-man, no-fi bedroom Elvis act certainly has a unique style to it and works on record in creating an atmosphere. But live, with Hungtai either shrieking or muttering into a plastic condensor mic or coaxing squalls of noise out of his guitar over simple looped beats, it was just kind of perplexing. The people around me went nuts, I went home. Dirty Beaches return on September 24 at the Phoenix as support for Peter Hook.
Photos: Dirty Beaches @ The Silver Dollar – June 16, 2011
MP3: Dirty Beaches – “Lord Knows Best”
Video: Dirty Beaches – “Shangri-La”
On a day where I would be seeing an Andy Bell and was writing up a band called Chains Of Love, how weird is it that an Erasure tour – including a September 11 date at the Sound Academy – be announced? Pretty weird. The show is in support of their new record Tomorrow’s World, due out this Fall, and tickets are $40.
Video: Erasure – “Chains Of Love”
As one festival ends, another begins. Or at least is announced. I speak of Summerworks, the annual convergence of theatre and music, and their 2011 music programme which was announced yesterday. Things kick off on August 4 with an all-day opening party and wrap on the 14th with same – details on performers for each are still forthcoming – but the evenings in between will shake out as follows, with all shows being held at the Lower Ossington Theatre with advance tickets $10 a night.
Friday, August 5 – Hooded Fang, Steven McKay
Saturday August 6 – Bonjay, Lioness
Wednesday August 10 – Great Bloomers, House League (featuring members of Forest City Lovers, Matters, Evening Hymns and more)
Thursday August 11 – Bruce Peninsula, Jennifer Castle
Friday August 12 – Miracle Fortress, Ruby Coast
Saturday August 13 – Green Go, Powers
The National Post talks to Shad, who will be playing a free show at Metro Square on July 1.
The Boston Globe has a visit with Chad VanGaalen.
The new Handsome Furs record Sound Kapital is streaming in whole over at Exclaim in advance of its release next week; Spin has an interview and a stream as well. They play The Horseshoe on August 1.
Stream: Handsome Furs / Sound Kapital
DIY has a pre-Glasto chat with Dan Mangan. His new record Oh, Fortune should be out in September.
Southern Souls has posted a video session with Little Scream.