Ama & Yuli’s NXNE Round-Up
Every summer, Toronto becomes a flurry of BBQs, boat cruises, rooftop parties, secret alleyway shows and in-store previews. For a week in Toronto, NXNE takes over and becomes every music, media and filmmakers dream destination. Where friends, new & old, come together to enjoy the thing that matters most: music.
This year, Yuli and I took to the streets to check out the who’s who during NXNE and give y’all our opinions, photos, videos and thoughts.
WEDNESDAY JUNE 13, 2012
After making a pit stop at the Cameron House, where we didn’t get to see any bands (apparently we were not in the right room – oops), we decided to make our way to the Drake. I’m so happy that we did. I had heard many great things about Eternal Summers, but had not yet actually heard them (or seen them). I was not disappointed. Their brand of fuzzy indie surf got the 10PM crowd moving and energized for the evening. Commanding the stage, Lead singer Nicole wails on every single track. For those into punk, I would take note of their new album which will be released in July.
Next up was good ol’ Mac Demarco. Fresh off a MegaBus, he let the crowd know that he had “not slept in 24 hours and didn’t know how tight this set would be”. But in all honesty, I think this was the most charmingly hilarious and surprisingly honest set of the entire weekend. It felt as though we were in a private jam session at a kitchen house party between the band and close personal friends invited to check it out. He played new songs, old songs and he even danced around. That, my friends, was a show.
Next up were Italy’s own Porcelain Raft. The sound was smooth, building up a small but soothing sound wall around you, protecting you, keeping you safe – safe from the fuzzy sounds and looping drum machines. Besides that, the lead singer seemed especially thrilled to be playing at a festival called “NXNE”.
THURSDAY JUNE 14, 2012
The Smith Westerns
Vice has always thrown the best NXNE parties and this year was no exception. The Smith Westerns and Dusted playing on the Toronto Islands with bonfires, tacos, free Red Stripe and JanSport backpacks? Yea, doesn’t really sound like a bad gig. The thing that both Dusted and The Smith Westerns did particularly well: good ol’ fashioned rock & roll mixed with a bit of party music. Dusted had this fantastic fuzzy surf vibe. While The Smith Westerns kept commanding the audience to scream how much they loved JanSport. Trust me, the crowd was eating that shit up. The entire audience was going ape-shit for the free JanSport bags. But again, who wouldn’t after 6-10 beers. Hell, I snagged two. All in all, one of the most perfect summer side hangs turned into the best NXNE parties. Also: big ups to Patrick McGuire for DJing the end of the night.
THURSDAY JUNE 14, 2012
A Place to Bury Strangers
After finally making it back into the city, we braved the noise and low-ends to go and see A Place to Bury Strangers at the ElMo. We were so thankful to find earplugs in our newly minted JanSport backpacks, which let us to go to the front of the stage – it was very noisy and very loud. Not quite metal, not quite electro, their music was something very much in between that brought out something out within. What killed the entire performance for me was some fucking Joey Jeremiah-looking douche bag who kept trying to start fights & a mosh pit with everyone in sight -including girls. Not a good look. Although we had some very good (and friendly) company in the front trying to protect us from this twat, it kind of killed the vibe of the performance: something that is suppose to be heavy & unique. Thanks, douche bag.
FRIDAY JUNE 15, 2012
BONEYARD PARKING LOT
Exclaim.ca & Jägermeister Boneyard BBQ
featuring DJ sets by
Face to Face
After trying to find The WA Magazine’s Kensington alleyway jam (with an amazing lineup of bands) and failing, we decided to head over to the Exclaim.ca and Jägermeister Boneyard BBQ to see what all the fuss was about. Besides an incredible set up, including all the 1950s diner fixings (including girls on roller skates) there were free tattoos and haircuts and, of course, a BBQ. They were servin’ up all the Steamwhistle, Sailor Jerry and Jagermeister that you could get your hands on. Ultra dangerous. Especially since Face to Face, Sebastien Grainger and Young Empires were serving up the soundtrack for the afternoon, DJ styles. What I came to realize over the course of the first half of the afternoon (Young Empires and Face to Face DJ slot time) was that it sounded like a rockabilly/punk 101 DJ set. Or, as one of my friends and I dubbed it, your average Quentin Tarantino soundtrack. Kinda lame. Considering that this sound was looped for at least 3 hours. To be honest, I didn’t even realize DJs had gone on until I looked up at the stage and saw them there. All I can say is thank god for Sebastien Grainger playing a bit of different music.
FRIDAY JUNE 15, 2012
Bass Drums of Death
The Death Set
This is one of the shows I was looking forward to most. I needed a good pick me up and lively punk show to get me on my feet and moving. All I can say is: best Friday night decision for our NXNE weekend. Minus the blood. Yea, blood. More on that later.
Each of the bands served up fierce and fast punk rock realness: heavy on the guitars, fast on the rifts and dancing/moshing around like you’re batshit crazy. Bass Drums of Death served up real rock and roll goodness and were like the amuse bouche leading up to METZ. They served up garage with snot plus attitude and left you aching for more in your loins. So once METZ came to the stage, shit was getting real.
METZ arrived on stage as if they were going to prove to Toronto: “we own this city.” Just earlier, they had been signed to SUB POP Records. Kind of a big deal. So METZ played this hometown show like it was their last and everyone in the crowd (including myself) ate it up. Including mashed up bloody dude who ended up bleeding all over the back of Yuli (her dress looked like a murder scene) and me (I was luckier, only three blood drops). Yep, us Pink Mafia girls: when we cover, we go hard. Trust: Yuli & I have the bruises to prove it.
Brooklyn’s The Men brought the crowd together through crowd surfing and the like, playing their noise-ridden hardcore to positive response. They played a selection of tracks from their recently released album and kept it fast & heavy & hard.
It wasn’t until The Death Set arrived on stage that things got a little more playfully punk. Playing their Mishka mixtape inbetween tracks from their album, Michael Poiccard, girls hopped on stage to dance around. Guys sang along with Johnny Sierra and people crowd surfed a plenty. This had the makings of a great punk show but with a less serious vibe. The type of punk show you wanted at a party. Sidenote: I got my MOTHER FUCKIN’ DEATH SET shirt I’ve been hunting for since October after I couldn’t get it at their Brooklyn Bowl show. Score.
SATURDAY JUNE 16, 2012
SLAPBACK MEDIA HQ
Over in Kensington, lies one of the rooftops of Slapback’s secret headquarters. On this rooftop, we were able to see HonHeeHonHee play amidst the glorious sunshine and beautiful Kensington background. Cold beers and pizza in hand. Cannot complain at all about that. Their quick but shining (and enthusiastic) set during the Slapback Party made me realize that this rock quartet could destroy pretty much any venue they were in. Watch out for more from them.
SATURDAY JUNE 16, 2012
Yuli had recommended this group to me. So I thought, OK let’s check this out. She described an operatic band who wore red, black and white face paint onstage and used cardboard clouds with special lighting as thunder. Hmm. OK. Sounds arty and weird enough for me. I’m in. She said I wouldn’t get the ‘full’ experience from their Sonic Boom in-store but I needed to at least experience it. From what I gathered, it was straightforward rock and doom metal atmospherics with a little bit of prog-rock thrown in. I would say, not for the weak of heart and definitely not for everyone. Did I like it? Yeah, they put on an amazing show. Did I think it was for everyone? No, not at all. A friend of ours who met up with us thought it was bloody awful. But the harmonizing vocals and simplicity of what they are producing kept me interested. I would say check it out for yourself.
SATURDAY JUNE 16, 2012
Blood Rexdale & The Walls Are Blonde
The best thing about NXNE is finding some of the festival’s unofficial underground events. This one was a daytime BBQ in the small backyard of a house near Dundas & Dufferin. From North By Northeast’s sweltering Saturday afternoon, well into the humid evening, this event held stage to a long list of well-known artists playing super short sets (10 minutes each) and no one who visited was being charged a thing. This is what the spirit of NXNE is all about.
The ones I will make mention of (since there were over 20 bands) are Doldrums, who gave a blissed out performance; Charlotte Cornfield, with her voice soaring and strong; Army Girls, who tore down the house with her blues guitar reminding me of a Jack White produced artist; Carnivores, who delivered this southern indie rock swampy realness which was perfect for a hot summers day; and Bloor Rexdale & The Walls are Blonde, who gave perfectly indie.
It was a fabulous afternoon spent drinking, meeting new friends and listening to great music.
SATURDAY JUNE 16, 2012
THE SILVER DOLLAR
Ell V Gore
Whoa. Silver Dollar was the place to be on Saturday night. When we arrived (good and early) the place was already at capacity. The venue wasn’t even letting some of the members from Mac Demarco (who had played earlier in the evening) get back in. Crazy. So naturally, I was looking forward to a crazy evening.
Ell V Gore started the evening off dirty & heavy. Getting everyone hot, sweaty, and bothered. The girl drummer was absolutely killing it keeping everything tight & together, while it mixed between surf and metal. Is that a genre? Who knows? But I’m creating it right now.
Next up was Prince Innocence, a creation of the ice-cool vocals of Talvi Faustmann and her Little Girls-member boyfriend Josh McIntyre. The crowd was not acting as receptive as I felt toward them. Someone threw an empty beer cup at them. Totally uncool. But their music was silky smooth and cold as ice. Makes me feel like a female Weeknd – House of Balloons mixtape. You wanna play this on your comedown from all of the things. Good stuff.
Lastly, we checked out Bleached. Loved this LA Punk group who gave me female punk fabulousness. Their set was peppered with songs from their seven-inches and new tracks from their upcoming album. The set was short and tight and full of high energy. Lead singer Jennifer’s onstage confidence kept growing all throughout the set. Perhaps a new punk rock goddess in the making?
SUNDAY JUNE 17, 2012
A Friend in London
Hands and Teeth
Dubbed the ‘hangover BBQ’ complete with pulled pork sandwiches and beer, the owners of #Hashtag Gallery, along with two others, organized this beautiful final send off of NXNE in the backyard of their gallery, complete with tents, grassy space and meeting old and new friends. Everyone seemed ready for one final party and a final fuck you to the rain that was forecasted.
A Friend in London started the afternoon off right with their beautifully melodic brand of Danish indie rock. They seemed so incredibly stoked to have been a part of NXNE and a part of the BBQ. But it wasn’t until Hands and Teeth and Jumple took to the stage that everything really went up a notch.
Hands and Teeth encouraged the crowd to come close, get in on the action and become one with the band. Their beautiful songs of of poppy, experimental folk inspired (some) in the crowd to start moshing and dancing. Who knew? What a high calibre set for an end of festival set.
Next up was Jumple. Oh man. What can we say about them? It was Russian polka infused and ridiculous. But holy shit. Not a single person in that backyard wasn’t moving. There was a dance off to the Twist. They had everyone sing along to “Enter Sandman” by Metallica. Plus, they made many a reference to the KGB. Interesting. It lifted the spirits of anyone who wasn’t feeling it yet, that is for damn sure.
Finally, Brew Willis brought their quick & dirty brand of surf punk to the stage which kept the tempo up after Jumple. They were brash and left everyone wanting to party.
SUNDAY JUNE 17, 2012
YONGE DUNDAS SQUARE
Raekwon and Ghostface Killer
All of the hip hop acts to close out Sunday. So very classic. I think people are finally starting to pick up on Action Bronson, but my first introduction to him was his Shiraz mixtape. Getting to see him live is always a treat. Like in any of his videos, he has large blunts hanging out of his mouth, a playful spirit and was spitting rhymes so tight. It seemed like most of the Y/D crowd were perceptive to him. As they should be. This cat from Queens NYC has delivered some of the sickest beats and rhymes in the last year. Let’s hope his performance at Dundas Square opened him up to a much larger more diversified crowd.
Killer Mike has made a large impact on the scene, and made a large impact with his performance: throwing up a big fuck you to Ronald Regan and letting the crowd know exactly who he was, ”My momma calls me Michael and I’m the son of a correctional officer”. His album, R.A.P Music, has been called one of the best of this year. Killer Mike walked around & owned that stage like nobodies business, always leaning out into the crowd to give high-fives and let people engage.
Finally, the men of the hour: Ghostface and Raekwon. Ghost and Rae traded verses like old pros, sampling from old Wu-Tang classics and their own solo material. They had Canadian DJ Skratch Bastid on the decks for them the entire set. Represent. Not only did they lay down classics like Triumph, Chessboxin’ and Protect Ya Neck – they brought up people from the crowd to get involved. They had ODB’s 13-year-old son begin rapping with them. They took this entire set and made it into Y/D Square history. I think I can say 20,000 people left the square happy, including myself.