And so, as quickly as it arrived in town, like a lone gunslinger casually strolling into a nefarious whiskey joint, NXNE has left our fair city. Meanwhile, the music nerd in all of us will shed tears, dreaming of when all those amazing musicians, artists, and comedians will bring us joy the same time next year. Ohhh but what a time it was! Looking back weeks before, waiting urgently to receive my media pass, I shimmied like a hula dancer when I cracked open that email with the opening line “Welcome to NXNE 2013…” I was especially excited this year because this was the first NXNE that I would be performing as well. My band, Spirit Oak, played a set of ambient, trippy folk songs on the Thursday night at the Magpie, and we received a pleasant review via The Take Media. With that plug all set and done, me and my partner in crime and dancing, the magnificent Andrika, host of Indie with Andie, as well our friend, the crafty Cheeks/Chaxman/Chax, did manage to catch Miss Elizabeth’s set that night at Creatures Creating. Although we we’re vibing out to the electronic shoegaze duo’s layers of thick, soupy wavy layers of colourful noise and reverb, we decided to call it a night, avoiding the hipster doofus crowd that would be cramming the Comfort Zone like a tightly-packed can of tuna for the Arbutus records showcase (Braids, Sean Nicholas Savage, Blue Hawaii, & Paula)*, and save our energy for Friday and Saturday.
Friday night was excellent, though like any true NXNE experience, it started off with a mishap. Driving my car like the Millennium Falcon alongside Chewbacca (Andrika) to make it to BLK BOX at the Great Hall to catch Psyche Tongues, we arrived just in time to watch the fuzzed psych-folk freak-out ensemble expertly put together one of the best set takedowns we both had ever witnessed. BOOO! On the upside, Andrika interviewed members from the band, which you can check out here. We then watched Weaves, a band whose experimental noise, post-blues lo-fi kick-assery left us both bewildered and dazed, in the funkiest way possible. We then made our way to the Garrison, joined by the always excellent Ian, where I personally believe we saw the best performance of the entire festival, thanks to LA’s Grande Y Negro Delta AKA Big Black Delta. Andrika and I (especially Andrika) were already big fans of his shadowy mountains of progressive, other-worldly electronic jams, but damn, that mother could dance! It seemed as if he was possessed by both Freddie Mercury and Cedric Bixler-Zavala, dancing up the stormiest of storms, and inspiring the crowd to get alittle nasty as while. Andrika killed a guy with a trident! (Just kidding) After that onslaught of live music brilliance, we caught the ice-cold, discomforting ferocious post-punk of The Soft Moon, whose music easily could have scored any number of classic 80’s horror films. After that was Odonis Odonis, who’s bombastic noise-punk left our ears sore and our brains half-melted, though we appreciated their energy, as well as the diversity in their sound, which despite being pulverising, had elements of glam, industrial, surf-rock, and early alternative rock. Yeah! After that was DIANA, the special guest, a band who, despite the fact that they had only really released one song (one of my favourite of 2013), I was really excited, as I had been seduced by their mysterious, smoky synth pop electrified by vocalist Carmen Elle’s dynamic, captivating voice. Andrika and I weren’t the only ones to check them out, as a small, completely random mosh started near the front stage. We decided then to call it, and prepare for a very long day on Saturday.
While Andrika ventured to the momentous cluster fuck that is Young & Dundas during NXNE to get some photos of Big Black Delta during his 2nd set of the festival (I told you she’s a big fan!), I was up north in Bradford with the Spirit Oak, playing in my 5th Bradstock, an annual festival of smaller statue than NXNE, though it has been running longer, and I love it just as much, never missing a chance to hang out with Terry and his rag-tag crew of wonderfully eccentric old-school hippies, farm animals, Neil Young aficionados, and annoying mosquitos. After that most excellent event, I traveled south, back to Little Portugal, back to…..THE GARRISON! Andrika and I, along with our pal, the small but mighty Emie, figured that instead of journeying all over the city, we decided to just enjoy not only the amazing line-up at the Garrison (easily the best lineup that night), featuring breeze, Cousins, Beliefs, Dusted, Tangiers (re-united), doomsquad, Dream Affair, & Greys, but also the free-parking via Andrika’s über-talented artist brother, Emal De Lanerolle. In Toronto, free parking is extremely, EXTREMELY underrated. And for us, what an end to the festival it was! Each band killed it, (my personal favourite was Beliefs, and I personally believe that the re-united Tangiers would kick the Strokes’ asses on any day), I got to interview haunting, psych-world beat-eletronica trio doomsquad (I’ll be playing that interview on this week’s edition of the Night Shift), and we all got home safely. Sure, NXNE is constantly compared to SXSW, and sure we don’t come close to getting the big-name acts that they do, but on the other hand, we don’t have gigantic, faceless companies sponsoring all of our sets, and armies of drunk degenerates wandering every street like zombies. Instead, we have freakishly talented underground bands from around the city, country, and the world, jamming out in all the magical corners and neighbourhoods of Toronto. As much as NXNE is important to all the different performers for exposure, connecting with labels, building opportunities, etc, it’s also really important to the average music fan who feels connected to the multi-media community by supporting their favourite musician/artist/comedian by attending shows, buying their merch, and then spreading the word to their friends and family. It’s pretty incredible that even within our huge, giant city, people all across the GTA can share their passion for music, art, and this strange, bizarre, super-natural feeling of togetherness. Can’t wait for next year.