NXNE Review: Braids, June 13th, Comfort Zone


By: Adrian J. Miller June 26th, 2013



The best part about the Braids performance at Comfort Zone was the stimulated conversations overheard on the fringes of the crowd.  


It was there where I was restricted for most of the show.  From the soundboard onward was an impressive gathering of unmoving people, an impenetrable mass that had been summoned to merely chill. In the black light alcove were discussions on the nature vs. nurture of man’s personality, the implications of the news of NSA wiretappings and a curious lamenting of the change in the band’s sound. 


“They’re usually more psychedelic,” said Jeff – an NXNE concert hopper, “I was excited to see them most, but I think they’re missing something.”  His friends nodded in agreement, and took possession of the Comfort Zone’s pool table.

To those outsiders, Taylor Smith, Austin Tufts and Raphaelle Standell-Preston put on a bland and uninspired presentation. 


A ceiling mounted projector-displaying colour and animated polygonal patterns lit the stage. But it wasn’t enough to make up for the unintelligible vocals and repetitive techno-tribal beats that droned on and on. Each song was dull and unremarkable, a surprising contrast considering the interesting ambience and range they’ve captured in their acclaimed studio works. 


Ultimately, Braids’ live show failed to penetrate the stoic wall that was the Toronto crowd.  Their set couldn’t induce the trances their persona is known for. 


In the end I left the show feeling disenchanted with the band, harbouring a sense of regret for not joining that pool game when I had the chance. 




Be sure to follow Toronto Music Scene on Twitter @TorontoMusic and Adrian J. Miller @AdrianJNMiller

CD Review: Matt Epp – Learning to Lose Control


By: Hilary Johnston June 25th, 2013


Not to be confused with that guy who wrote the Tim Horton’s song (name barely important), Matt Epp is another folky dripping with commercial potential. His latest album, Learning to Lose Control, is full of radio-friendly tunes that would surely appeal to an onslaught of wholesome teens. 


Epp’s warm vocals come through thanks to Jamie Candiloro’s (Ryan Adams, REM, Willie Nelson) clean production. Regrettably, high quality audio production can’t make up for mundane songwriting that will ultimately leave the listener nodding off. It’s an unfortunate crux considering Epp’s evident skills when it comes to compositional variety. “Use Your Head” is seasoned with a little Flamenco flavour while “Take You Away” features some good ol’ country twang. Heck, there is even a duet with the always-lovely Serena Ryder. The opening track “Sleepwalking” is probably the edgiest offering. The chords show a little grit, which weaves well with the soulful vocals, hinting at a smidgen of excitment to an otherwise listless track-list. 


Epp has some playing chops; I’ll grant him that. However, the fatal flaw to the album’s design is that nobody cares about technical abilities when your lyrics are as shoddy as “You can hold me / but you can’t hold me down” or “He’s just a main / a grain of sand / so take his hand” – I could go on. It isn’t merely intolerable, it’s embarrassing. 


Learning to Lose Control is a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll and 100% drab.




Be sure to follow Toronto Music Scene on Twitter @TorontoMusic and Hilary Johnston @hilary_johnston

NXNE Review: Alright Alright, June 12th, The Rivoli


By: Myles Herod June 24th, 2013 


The stage was set for Heaven, a Brooklyn-based, psychedelic dream pop troupe with a wisp of hype. They never showed. 

Toronto pop-sters, Alright Alright, in turn took their 9pm slot, with no indication given that they were last minute substitutes. Nice one, Rivoli. 

With my mind still fixed on seeing the aforementioned New York based shoegazers, I was understandably letdown upon my discovery. Well, if only momentarily.   

Balancing catchy, high-flying pop hooks with greasy haircuts and denim jackets, my immediate impression was one of surprise. The four-piece were cheerful, playing for the inebriated crowd to full effect.

Their arsenal of punchy riffs and serviceable ‘Ah-ah-ah’ choruses recalled an inflection of The Arctic Monkeys and, to a lesser degree, Vampire Weekend. As the bass guitar rolled and thumped, the lead singer conveyed a raspy conviction when he sang and shouted, sometimes at odds with angular guitar licks that soaked the venue.

The Rivoli, with no barriers between the stage and the crowd, offered optimum simplicity in the best sense. The sound was clean and the sparse stage lights glowed. As 11th hour replacements, Alright Alright played liked it was their last gig, with a fervent energy to burn. 

The instruments got louder as the songs grooved and swung; they could be quiet during moments and loud and proud during others. Truthfully, the more I listened, the wider my smile grew. ‘Who are they guys?’ I recall muttering. 

For a band to enter on stage without fanfare, or for their sake, false pretense, they hit running, coming off remarkably fresh.

In the words of Matthew McConaughey: ‘Alright, alright.’



(Photos by: Myles Herod)

Be sure to follow Toronto Music Scene on Twitter @TorontoMusic and Myles Herod @MylesHerod

NXNE Review: The Dirty Nil, June 13th, The Silver Dollar Room


By: Adrian J. Miller June 21st, 2013


The schedule stated their home base as Hamilton, but truthfully, they’re from Dundas, a one-time town that was annexed by the steel city years ago (wholesomeness still in tact).

You got none of that from The Dirty Nil on stage at The Silver Dollar Room last Thursday, though.

They are raunchy and loud and sweaty.

Kyle Fisher (Starfish) came out swinging and shirtless on the drums right from the top.  Luke Bentham and Dave Nardi blazed through their slacker rock set with a maddened frenzy, and the room was on fire.

The whole of the audience was rocking along to this angry trio whose set list needs to be longer.

The Silver Dollar Room is a small and unassuming venue. There’s nothing on the walls, and the front length of the stage is just over two meters from the bar.

They sipped their beers; toasted the audience, and reached out to touch glasses with the mass. Luke proceeded to let an audience member strum his guitar wildly at the end of one of their rollicking anthems, branding The Silver Dollar as the best venue for a band that takes rock and roll personally.

Outside their own tunes, the Dirty Nil covered the Misfits’ “Last Caress”, as people shouted and screamed in alliance.  A core group of fans were present, belting out lyrics to most of their catalogue, occasionally fist pumping. Their love was palpable.

It’s easy to see why.  The Dirty Nil guys are just as charged at the end of the show as they are tearing through their opening riffs.

I believed Luke when he declared that they were playing again later that evening. 

“At a place called Grossman’s?” He says unsure, “its on Spadina? I don’t know where.  I don’t know Toronto.”

What does he like about playing in the big city?

“The people,” he says.

The Dirty Nil are a big sound from a small town, and worthy of a shot at growing a substantial fan base. 

Their grungy take on garage rock is sure to get you at least nodding along with their angst. Rock on, boys.


Be sure to follow Toronto Music Scene on Twitter @TorontoMusic and Adrian J. Miller @AdrianJNMiller

NXNE Review: Moon King, June 13th, Horseshoe Tavern


By: Adrian J. Miller June 20th, 2013


The chattering crowd at the Moon King show was startled just as the band appeared.

There were no lights on the stage – just a shocking bang as the drummer struck the snare. With the volume on a particular mic set incredibly high, it was then that they proceeded with their sound check.

Moon King began with a song delivering a great rhythm. Whether it was the powerful bass drum kicking in my chest, I was compelled to groove along to the unintelligible melody.

On stage, Daniel Benjamin was eccentric and energized. Right off the top he thrashed a set of maracas with un-caged fury. Tossing them haphazardly behind and slyly saying, “Hello” at the abrupt end of the tune.

Maddy Wilde has a voice that drives the band’s charm – but the real gusto stems from Benjamin.  He loves the stage, parading about in the little space he had. Twirling, caressing and cowering around with the mic stand, he stole his own show.

The group charged through a grungy-guitar driven new song that was untitled and without lyrics.  During which, their second guitarist broke a string but seamlessly rejoined the set when it was replaced.

During “Crucified,” it was apparent a large portion of the audience was charged by the spectacle that is Moon King.

As the set neared a close, a real moshpit opened up, enticing Benjamin to crowd surf.  He jumped off the stage – but was propped and pushed right back. In the hustle, he dramatically stepped on the connection box and kicked around one of the work lights that illuminated the stage before stumbling to the ground. 

And as the song went on, the work light started to smoke. In what must have been an effort to stop it, Daniel Benjamin proceeded to smash it with the mic stand.

When asked why he did it later in the evening, he says to me, “Sometimes you just have let the set catch fire.” Certainly Moon King did just that. 


Be sure to follow Toronto Music Scene on Twitter @TorontoMusic and Adrian J. Miller @AdrianJNMiller

NXNE Review: Inlet Sound, June 13th, Cameron House


By: Adrian J. Miller June 19th, 2013


Inlet Sound was set to play just after eight o’clock. 

By then the rain had almost stopped, but those coming into Cameron House were damp and chilled. “Don’t worry,” assures the singer, “we’ll try to make it warm in here.”

Typically a five-piece band – Michael Wexler (vocals), Sean Hardy (pianos/keys) and Steven Gore (fiddle/mandolin) were without their rhythm members and played a revised acoustic set for the first time in a year.

Beginning with “Thanks Sally” their wholesome, modern-folk sound is as authentic as it is infectious. You’re hooked from the start. Gore’s fiddle weaves through Wexler’s pounding acoustics and Hardy was on an upright piano in the back for added flavour.

Cameron House provided the perfect space. A second stage through a curtain to a back room, where the walls are covered with artificial lily vines and flowers that are up and entwined across the lighting grid above. With their songs like “Canadian National” and “Amber” evoking a feeling of anticipation and summer bliss – it felt like a personal performance in a neighbour’s garden.

It is unfortunate they played so early in the evening and in such a tucked away venue. 

The audience grew steadily and felt the emotion displayed by Wexler as he bounced in his chair, eyes closed – belting their heartfelt tunes. Flanked on either side by his band mates in matching plaid, who displayed an equally inspiring conviction.

Perhaps they did feel a little restrained sitting down.

Towards the end, their cover of Windersleep’s “Weighty Ghost” included the classic participation of the audience. And during their closing numbers, you’d be convinced that the group would fit well along side big radio acts to which it’s easy to draw comparisons with their sound.

You’ll hear the Lumineers, recognize a Barenaked Ladies’ melody – but you are listening to Inlet Sound. 


Be sure to follow Toronto Music Scene on Twitter @TorontoMusic and Adrian J. Miller @AdrianJNMiller

CD Review: Ell V Gore – Sex Static


By: Hilary Johnston June 18th, 2013


It has been a big month for local band, Ell V Gore. They recently wrapped a handful of NXNE shows and just launched their debut EP, Sex Static, onto a scene of eager hipsters. The quartet teamed up with Toronto boutique label, Bad Actors Inc., for this release. It seems that fish tacos are not the only thing trending in this city; collaborations with members of Fucked Up (Ben Cook in this case) are all the rage.

This four-track EP brings together the late ‘70s gothic post-punk aesthetic of Bauhaus and Joy Division with a more electro-industrial, almost Krautrock tinge. The result is edgy guitar riffs over booming bass with dark, yet melodic vocal lines. If spooky is your thing, this band may just be for you.

The most note-worthy track on the EP is “Lobotomy”, the video for which recently received the Pitchfork stamp of approval. The track, perhaps slightly more palatable to the non-punk than the somewhat monotonous “Her Vicious”, showcases the group’s effective use of nuance to create a musical atmosphere. It evokes imagery of an after-hours party in some sticky crevice of the city too cool for most of us to know about, where clothing is black and foreheads are sweaty.

The final track, “Death Strings (Loss Angeles)” comes as a refreshing change of pace after three tracks of the musical embodiment of the weird kid at the back of the your high school art class. The build-up occurs more gradually, the timbres are more diverse and somewhere in the blend of doom exists a chant-like drone. Rather than being the musical equivalent of that aforementioned art dweeb, this track is probably on his iTunes beside a bunch of other too-cool-for-you-to-know about bands. Much better.


Ell V Gore – Lobotomy



Be sure to follow Toronto Music Scene on Twitter @TorontoMusic and Hilary Johnston @hilary_johnston

How I Spent My Field Trip

Field Trip Crowd

By: Myles Herod June 14th, 2013 

Field Trip Crowd

Despite the ominous clouds and a beer-dry evening, Arts & Crafts ‘Field Trip’ was not merely a decade-long celebration of music, but a glorious melding of Toronto culture. Food trucks, art, literature, and loads of porta-potties; unlike so many over-packed festivals, Fort York proved an idyllic landscape for the cavalcade of indie idols who graced the two stages on June 8th. 


The Music

Bloc Party

Bloc Party

Revisiting gems from their Silent Alarm LP, the London lads also mixed things up with some newer cuts. The bass was deep, and the beats were pulsating. Distinctly British, their sound lends itself well to the likes of a modern-day Joy Division, New Order, or any other post-punk outfit. It’s been subsequently announced that the group will be taking an indefinite hiatus (perhaps until 2016). To those who enjoyed their set, it may be the last.




Beginning things with an eight-piece ensemble (including Charles Spearin from Do Make Say Think and Snowblink) was a wonderful treat. Leslie and co. spent the first half swooning over her latest offering, Metals; then things got weird. Looping her voice on ‘My Moon My Man’ and treading into psychedelic realms on ‘1234’ proved confounding, albeit bold. Those looking for peace and love where met with electronic meditations on past crowd favs. You can’t blame her for trying, right? 



Broken Social Scene

With a press release that stated “one night only”, the die was already cast for something grand. Making things even rarer, the collective group of BSS players took turns at the mic to deliver You Forgot It In People live (for the first time in its entirety). It was worth the price of admission alone. “K.C. Accidental” saw Drew’s dramatic vocals come through, while the spine-tingling “Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl,” found the trio of Lisa Lobsinger, Stars’ Amy Millan, and AroarA’s Ariel Engle combine their vocal prowess on behalf of an absent Emily Haines (really, is Metric that important?). Truly it was a legendary capper to a beautiful day.


The Food


Toronto’s acclaimed food trucks came in droves to Field Trip, giving those with cash to spend some of the City’s tastiest artisan dishes. We spent, we sampled, we rubbed our bellies. Here’s our report.    


Buster’s Sea Cove


Octopus Tacos ($10)

Tiny portions, with a meaty serving of cephalopod mollusc. Spiced coleslaw lined the bottom, adding some zip. The hype and price were a little off-putting. It was delicious, though. 


Donkey Bites


Jerk Chicken Gyro ($9)

Succulent, zesty chicken, although the bread turned soggy after a minute. Prompt and friendly service. 




Creole Turducken ($9)

Hefty and nicely spiced. The accompanying buffalo chips were crsip, yet moist. Total win!



Final Thoughts

Field Trip was built around the themes of community and wonderment. Last Saturday amidst the greenery and the Gardiner express, you certainly felt it.

(photos by: Adrian Miller & Myles Herod)

Top 10 Local Bands to Watch During NXNE

the beaches
By: Sheena Lyonnais June 10, 2013

The Beaches

NXNE is the perfect opportunity to discover a multitude of bands from around the world, but it’s also just a great excuse to drink til 4 a.m. and catch some of the finest local talent in the city. These 10 bands span a spectrum of styles and experiences, but they share the common denominator of calling Toronto home. It’s insane the talent coming out of this city right now, but we had to narrow it down. Here’s who made the cut.
Human Bodies (Wednesday, Rivoli @ 8 pm)
Human Bodies is an ambient indie five piece that is really just quite nice to listen to. They play early on Wednesday, making them a safe choice to start your week off, seducing you early with their charming harmonies and dreamy pop elements. They’ve been recording a follow-up to 2012’s Continue EP, so expect some new material.  
Brad Filatre (Wednesday, Cameron House @ 10 pm)
Originally from Newfoundland, this songwriter has been calling Toronto home for a few years now. With those smoky, folky vocals and moody guitars, Brad Filatre sings love songs for the girls with the broken hearts, and he writes for those days when you’re here but you’d rather be anywhere else, with blurry visions of coastlines and empty canteens. A more commercial pick than the rest, Brad Filatre is universally talented. This would be a good pick to bring a date to. 
DIANA (Thursday, Horseshoe Tavern @ 10 pm)
DIANA is the local buzz band of the festival and it is well warranted my friends. The band’s debut self-titled LP was released here through Paper Bag Record and through JAGJAGUWAR in the States. With their big, bold soundscapes and indie notoriety (singer Carmen Elle is from Army Girls, Kieran Adams is from Warm Myth and Bonjay, Joseph Shabason from Destroyer and Paul Mathew from Hidden Cameras), they’ve recently returned from touring the UK and France, receiving accolades from NME and numerous blogs along the way. A top pick. 
Beliefs (Thursday, Handlebar @ 10 pm | Saturday, Garrison @ 10 pm)
Another dreamy shoegaze band to come out of Hogtown, but Beliefs gets a pick because they possess something magical and haunting, an energy so organic it seems this music had to be made. Comprised of Jesse Crowe (also one of the best hairstylists in Toronto FYI), Josh Korody and Richard Stanley, the band has performed alongside A Place To Bury Strangers, Beach Fossils, and others. Consequence of Sound used the phrase “shrouded in blankets of sobering haze” to describe their debut album and it’s such a great depiction I must quote it. Beliefs is cinematic and ambient, a score to living in the city.
Parallels (Thursday, The Painted Lady @ 1 am)
This video alone is proof enough that Parallels’ retro throwback to the days of Heart and Madonna is worth devoting a coveted Thursday spot to see the Toronto synth-three piece. Wear your dancing shows, for Parallels embraces influences range from New Order to Robyn and track “Ritual Dancer” is sure to get your moving. It’s fun, it’s light and will no doubt be a colourful performance. 
Pick A Piper (Thursday, The Painted Lady @ 2 am)
Might as well stick around for Pick A Piper, the spin off project of Caribou drummer Brad Weber and one of my favourite party acts in the city. Pick A Piper takes their percussion heavy but swirls it in with atmospheric rhythms and soothing vocal constructions. I like to toss them on when it’s late in the night and everybody’s coming down, so it’s appropriate and welcoming that they’ll grace the stage at 2 am. Sway baby, sway.
The Beaches (Friday, Rivoli @ 10 pm)
Four badass girls influenced by Patti Smith, The White Strips and Elastica? Maybe a little bit of the Runaways in there? You don’t need to tell me anymore for I am already in love. Not only are the Beaches (pictured above) incredibly solid, but its members are STILL IN HIGH SCHOOL! They can’t even legally drink and yet their music makes me want to do 10 shots in a row and take the town by the horns. Ladies, if you’re looking for a heroine or four, these east side babes are your girls. Their video for “Loner” has been in rotation over at MuchMusic and they’re opening for Mother Mother at a couple gigs later this month. They’re debut self-titled EP just dropped on May 28 and is available on iTunes. Draw some big stars around this selection because you’re spending your Friday at the beach. 
Dusted (Saturday, St. James Gazebo @ 7 pm + The Garrison @ 11 pm)
Brian Borcherdt of Holy Fuck fame has struck sonic gold with his post endeavour, Dusted. Rounded out by drummer/producer Leon Taheny, The duo’s latest album Total Dust has been on constant rotation since it’s release last year. Equal parts fuzzy and hauntingly barren, Dusted are a unique enigma that manages to tap into your soul and lure out internal sadness one note at a time.  
Eight and a Half (Saturday, BLK BOX @ 11 pm)
Alright, I know Eight and a Half is only partially a local band and I also know that they’re often found amongst my festival picks, but I never feel like their turnouts give them justice. This is the perfect band to watch to dissuade some of that festival anxiety, I mean these guys get it. They just want to be chill and introspective and they want to do it in a style that’s relatively familiar–thanks to their combination of Broken Social Scene and (ex) the Stills members–yet is also quite surprising, with their cumulus sound constructions and ambient architecture. This is a band that truly makes me feel and I never tire of seeing them live. 
Skinny Bitches (Saturday, Magpie @ 12 am)
This co-ed duo manages to pack a lot of elements and actions into pretty simple construction: just a boy and a girl swapping vocals on guitars and drums. Nothing fancy here, but the results are effective and the music is packed with swagger. Top tracks include “Everything’s Cool but Nothing’s Exciting” and “Gunsmoke.” Giver a little more of that low growl and these guys might be on to something. 
Be sure to follow Toronto Music Scene on Twitter @TorontoMusic and #TorontoMusic throughout NXNE.

NXNE 2013 Preview – 5 Must See Bands

Toronto Band July Talk NXNE

Toronto Band July Talk NXNE

By: TJ Liebgott June 10, 2013

It’s always daunting to try and go through over 1,000 bands to try and figure out who you must see for NXNE, we here are trying to make life a little easier and give you a head start.  These are the top 5 bands to see during NXNE as selected by TMS co-founder TJ Liebgott.
July Talk
My top pick of the festival.  Think Johnny Cash singing with June Carter, but with more growl, more rock and even more balls.  Singers Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay have a beautiful rapport between them that can easily shift from angelic to devilish depending on the track. July Talk hasn’t even been around for a year and are already making waves with their debut self titled album 
Young Lungs
Montreal band Young Lungs are filled with a feverish energy that makes their songs fun, energetic and danceable as hell.  It’s a full frontal assault of pop, sped up to break neck speeds that will leave you longing for more.  Check out why this post-punk band has already played with bands like Electric Six and Metz in their hometown.
Having already seen CTZNSHP a few times at various festivals, I can’t miss this Montreal band when they play NXNE.  With a showcase at Wrongbar and Yonge and Dundas square, it’s only a matter of time before buzz for this band grows.  Playing ambient indie dance with pop sensablilties CTZNSHP will be one ear worm that will be near impossible to rid after the festival is over.
The Dying Arts
Toronto band The Dying Arts sound flirts between straight up indie rock and occasional grunge influences.  Their songs are carefully constructed, filled with intrigue and energy and their live shows are entertaining as hell. They are a talented band that will suck you into their sound before you even know what hit you.
Ell V Gore
Everybody needs a wildcard and this NXNE that wildcard is Toronto band Ell V Gore. ELL V Gore is a grindhouse of musical influences fused together into a punk rock B-Horror film.  Drenched with echoey vocals and slathered in sexual indignities, Ell V Gore is not for the faint of heart or the unimaginative and will leave you forever changed after NXNE is over.
Be sure to follow Toronto Music Scene on Twitter @TorontoMusic and #TorontoMusic throughout NXNE.