June 22, 2009
NXNE came into town at the same time as about every other festival and event you could imagine. Toronto was overwhelmed with not only the five-day music festival, but also Pride week, Edgefest, Big on Bloor and the MMVA’s. Through all the anarchy and chaos TorontoMusicScene tried to take in as much of the 500-plus bands as possible. Here are some of the highlights:
Yonge and Dundas Square
Toronto band Spiral Beach opened up NXNE’s free concert series at Yonge and Dundas Square. Playing spastic, new wave surf rock with pop undertones, Spiral Beach rocked as hard as you can at 6 p.m. at Toronto’s busiest intersection. Perhaps the best song of the evening was the unreleased track "Domino" which will be featured on their upcoming album. The song itself contained various elements of the B-52’s, which is fitting considering singer/keyboardist Maddy Wilde looked like a cross between the B-52’s Katie Pierson and Wilma Flinstone. Within the first song, it became easily apparent why Spiral Beach was offered an opening slot for the main stage at last year’s Virgin Festival.
Every time I see Toronto band Beth In Battle Mode I am blown away. It’s as if I forget each time just how good of a band they truly are. Playing songs off Technical Know-How and the newly released Hot Science, BIBM played The Velvet like consummate pros. Even when guitarist/singer Edward lost his guitar strap mid song, he never lost his cool, instead dropping the guitar and focusing on his vocal duties without missing a note. Standout songs included the new tracks, "A Little-Known Fact" and "Ikea Sangria" which featured the Funnel Cake’s quartet, a four-piece brass ensemble which perfectly complemented their sound. When The Bravery played last year’s Edgefest, I envisioned they would sound like BIBM live, to which they disappointingly didn’t.
Gothic New Wave band Purrr did their best to win over fans at a surprisingly empty Kathedral. For those who weren’t in attendance, you really missed out. Playing a varitety of electronic based goth rock in the vain of She Wants Revenge, Purrr played songs off their self-titled album with more energy and intensity than their recordings could allow. The best track of the night was the hypnotic "Open Your Eyes." The only downside of this three-piece is that they could really use a Bass player to completely round out their sound.
The first thing you have to know about Montreal band Red Mass is don’t bother listening to their recordings. They sound as if your little brother recorded them with a boombox in your mom’s basement. Do however see this band live every chance you get. An eight-piece collective that is constantly rotating members, Red Mass is the angrier, grittier version of Broken Social Scene without the notoriety and egos. Their set was a mash up of punk and indie rock that was unapologetic, untamed and insane. All I can say is, when was the last time you saw a keyboardist play with her feet? The entire audience was left in a frenzy begging for more, which I’m sure many got when they saw them again on Saturday.
Waterloo band Spirits recently signed to Sonic Unyon and its no surprise why. The dance rock trio delighted fans and passer-byes at The Reverb with such soon-to-be poppy hits like "Forbidden Flame". The crowd may have been slightly on the small side, but those who were there were really enjoying Spirits vibe. It was not uncommon to find people dancing away at the front of the stage. Lookout for their self-titled debut album due to drop in September.
Making a stop at NXNE during their southern Ontario tour, Will Curry and The Country French delighted fans with their piano driven pop/folk rock stylings. Along the lines of bands like Panic! At The Disco and Ben Folds, Will Curry and company played such addictive songs as "Surprising Me" and "Honest People." If you are ever in a terrible mood, just grab your dancing shoes and check out this band and I guarantee you’ll instantly be dancing away in pure bliss.
Punkabilly band Rehab For Quitters seemed destined for failure before they even hit the stage Saturday night. Having lost drummer Chris Dickey a month prior and recently adding a new guitarist to their ranks, it just didn’t seem like enough time for Rehab to get their shit together in time for a NXNE show. However, nothing could have been further from the truth. Rehab came out and rocked the stage like all the members had been together for years. Starting their set with an epic introduction from the infamous Michael Buffer, Rehab came out "Ready To Rumble" and didn’t stop until they were done playing closing song "Johnny Rock N’ Roll.”