NXNE invades Toronto: a weekend in review

NXNE By: TJ Liebgott
June 20,2008
NXNE came and went this weekend with a bang, leaving music fans with an overabundance of music and film.  This year festival organizers really kicked it up a notch by adding a few new ideas.  Bands moved out of the clubs and into other venues like Pearson Airport, Toronto Island, Union Station, Dundas Square and various parks and public spaces around the city.  All of this turned Toronto into the Mecca of Independent music June 12 through 15. Here are some of the hits and misses that NXNE had to offer.

 
Thursday
 
Smothered In Hugs (Charlottetown, PEI) The Rivoli

Live Pic of Smothered in HugsSmothered In Hugs got the night started and set a great tone for the talent the weekend had to offer.  With their upbeat rock/dance sensibilities this band would fit in perfectly with the College St. Toronto crowds.  It’s too bad for SIH that they are hiding out on a small east coast island instead of calling their base camp Toronto or New York.  If you’re a fan of Tin Bangs, The Bravery or The Strokes, check these guys out.

Hell Yeah Fuck Yeah (Toronto) The Bovine
Hell Yeah Fuck Yeah LiveIts hard to say what happened during the 30 minutes that Hell Yeah Fuck Yeah rocked The Bovine.  Its all a blur of furious guitar riffs, water being spat in every direction, chanting’s of "Hell Yeah Fuck Yeah," and song after song assaulting your every sense.  A band like HYFY only exists for two reasons.  1 to fuck shit up and 2 to rock your face off.  By the first note they had already done both.

Modern Boys Modern Girls (Toronto) The Boat

Modernboys Moderngirls Live Considering Modern Boys Modern Girls had such great songs on their MySpace, it was really sad to watch this band fizzle.  Maybe my expectations were set too high, but it seemed like MBMG never connected with the audience at The Boat.  They also failed to seem cohesive as a band, lacked in energy a bit and seemed to be playing on the sloppy side.  Later it was pointed out that they had added some new members and were still working out some of the kinks.  I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt and give these guys a second chance.  Keep posted for our interview with MBMG.

LA Guns (LA) The Bovine
The LA Guns canceled at the last minute, but how awesome would it have been to seem them play.  From stadiums to The Bovine, this had the potential to be something unreal.  This was my one real disappointment of the weekend.

Friday

Semi-Precious Weapons (New York) Velvet Underground
Semi-Precious Weapons LiveIts obvious why legendary producer Tony Visconti (Bowie, Morrisey, T.Rex) works with Semi-Precious Weapons.  They have an element of glam, rock, punk and a sense for melodrama that I haven’t seen in years.  Frontman Justin Tranter was energetic and highly charismatic, spouting out such great lyrics as "I can’t pay my rent, but I’m fucking gorgeous."  SPW’s set at Velvet was electrifying and explosive and I’m sure the other show at The Silver Dollar was just as great.  When these guys come back to town be sure to check them out.

Beth In Battle Mode (Toronto) Holy Joe’s
Beth In Battle Mode LiveThis high energy rock trio is a great band to see live because its obvious they are all having fun.   BIBM is not a band that is trying to impress anyone, they just play the music they want to fans that want to hear it. With their catchy vocal hooks on songs like Everyone is In A Band, it’s easy to see why people like them.  Keep posted for our interview with BIBM.

Lodown (Windsor) Republik
Lodown LiveThe Republik turned itself into a strange venue for NXNE.  All of the bands playing friday night were sponsored by Jagermeister and would regularly be playing a venue like The Bovine.  For some reason they played Republik instead, which lead to a strange mixed audience.  It seemed like  half were The Bovine crowd and the other half regular club district patrons.  Regardless of the crowd, not many seemed interested in Lodown which led to some frustration from the band.  "What do I have to do, slice my wrists open onstage for you guys to give a fuck?" and other such angry rants was all leadsinger Mike Edwards could do to vent his anger for the audience.

Latefallen (Toronto) Republik
Latefallen LiveEither more people showed up or they came out of the shadows for Latefallen’s set because the front of the stage was packed for their performance.  It was good to see Latefallen outside of The Bovine because they proved that they translate well outside of a small club. Other than the fact that the sound at Republik is too bass-heavy to fit the dance/hip-hop music the club usually plays, Latefallen sounded great. At the end of the show Latefallen seemed like a bigger band than I had previously given them credit for.

Robin Black LiveRobin Black (Toronto) Republik
I am gonna start this one off with a disclaimer.  I have never liked Robin Black.  Black’s show at Republik and/or free shots of Jager did little to change my mind.  The show felt flat and Robin didn’t seem to bring any of the personality that he is known for.  Has this band been at all relevant since 2002?

Saturday

Six Shooter Records BBQ (Various) Six Shooter Records Backyard
Six Shooter Records ShowcaseSaturday afternoon was a perfect day to hang out in a backyard drinking beers and sangria and listening to artists signed to Six Shooter Records.  Some of the acts playing the BBQ included: Luke Doucet, Hawksley Workman, Oh Susanna, Hey Rosetta, Justin Rutledge and more. It was definitely a relaxed event admist the anarchy that is NXNE.

Holoscene (Toronto) Velvet Underground
Holoscene LiveListening to Holoscene prior to their show could not prepare me for what I witnessed that night.  Holoscene played a set of surreal, ambient and serene soundscapes that melded their way into furious crescendos of rock.  The crowds at velvet became hypnotized by Holoscene’s set.  At times it became so quiet you could hear a pin drop.  No one said a word during their set as they were looked into moods and emotions that the band was creating.  This is the kind of band you have to expierence live.  Keep posted for our interview with Holoscene.

The I Spies LiveThe I Spies (Toronto) El Mocambo
The I Spies are making a stir in the Toronto music scene and its easy to see why.  With their Indie rock sensibilities and poppy choruses, The I Spies are only just beginning their climb up through the ranks.  Check out tracks like "To The City" and "I Heart The Middle Mind" to hear their catchy vocals and great rhythm guitar riffs.

Recovery Child (Toronto) Cameron House
Recovery Child LiveRock band Recovery Child played an at capacity crowd at The Cameron House.  The gig itself was kind of strange.  Cameron House lends itself as a better venue for Singer/Songwriters not full out rock bands.  Even if you wanted to, there was no room to get into the music with their playhouse style seating.  RC was really tight and songs like "Trigger Me" really left their mark on the crowd.

By the end of the weekend we had seen some great bands, made some new friends and maybe even a few enemies.  There were a lot of bands we regrettably missed and an Evil Dead matinee would have been fun too, but hopefully we can catch those bands under less stressful situations. 

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