Wednesday, June 24, 2009

NXNE Was A Hit!

The past week (June 17th to 21st) Toronto hosted NXNE. This is a major music and film festival\conference that has people coming from all over the world to partake. I had the pleasure of covering this festival and I was pleased with not only the organization on NXNE and Flip Publicities part but also the talent that was in attendance.

Here are my highlights of NXNE.

NXNE opening night gala on Wednesday June 17th was held at The Berkley Church and was an invite only. This event had many faces in the music industry in attendance. The buzz about the festival was rampant throughout the room with everyone talking about must-sees.

There was a skulls exhibit on one side of the room which got me to thinking... do you think that the person(s) whose skulls they once belonged to would have approved with say having a steel Mohawk or dressed up to look like an African voodoo witch? Imagine donor cards with 3 options now Organs, Body for Science, Skull for Art. Either way it was very interesting.

On the stage was top tattoo artists working together to create a large piece of artwork. I couldn’t get a real good look because the artists were all surrounding the piece, obviously working on it. Would have been interesting to see the end result.

From there I headed to The Dakota Tavern to check out what bands they had in store for opening night. The Dakota Tavern is a great little venue located at Dundas and Ossington. When I arrived Treasa Levasseur (Toronto, ON) was on stage with 2 saxophone players, drums, guitars, bass, and 2 keyboards. The sound was phenomenal and the energy was buzzing in this great little tavern. Treasa has a voice that can literally give you goose bumps. She grinds it out R&B, blues style like no one I have seen before. It was real treat to walk into.

Next up was David Baxter who is a regular at Dakota for stepping on the stage with many talented acts. But this time it was David with his own backing band. And 2 words – well done! I for one cannot wait to hear more from David. Not only can this man play the guitar but he can also sing! Good old sweet rocking country is what David Baxter brings to the stage.

Last but never least The Beauties took the stage at 3am. I have seen The Beauties at The Dakota Tavern a few times before and they never fail to get the audience to their feet screaming for more of that rockabilly blues sound. They are Toronto’s own little gem. They don’t tour, they don’t even have a Myspace page but by far they are one of the best live bands that you can find in Toronto.

Thursday June 18th the rest of the 50 venues opened their doors for music. Planning what show to attend was one of the hardest things to do at NXNE. Cause you know the drinking and dancing till 4am isn’t hard, it is finding where to do it. As well as having a job also during this week was another drawback for many I am guessing. Working late and missing shows or just having to leave early so you can get your ass out of bed the next morning for work was a huge downer for many of us.

And of course Thursday night I had to work late and missed the return of one of my favorite bands to Toronto – Yellow Wood. Yellow Wood played at Rancho Relaxo’s on College on Thursday for a great crowd and I missed it, balls! See how life can be so unfair when you have a job to pay bills. Anyway, when I got there the boys from the band were still hanging around so I was able to chat and snag an EP from them. The band consists of 2 brothers and a friend from Windsor, Ontario and they have a sound that is reminiscent of Radiohead meets Coldplay and I mean that in the best absolute way possible.

I did however get to hear Rah Rah (Regina, SK) and Wildlife (Toronto, ON). Rah Rah has been compared to Arcade Fire and as Dan Wolovick put it “Arcade Fire for one song but the next is something all different”. So you know you’re in for a sound that is not one long Nickleback song. Wildlife is best described as rock meets pop for some pop n’ rocking beats. Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself. They will be back to Rancho’s on July 25th for another show.

I then did a quick jaunt over to Lee’s Palace and caught the end of the special guest show with, Elliott Brood. This is a man who can rock it out sitting down. I only made it to see the last song but from the sweat on stage and in the audience I am sure I missed a good one.

However, up after Elliott Brood was the alt rock country Toronto band The Schomberg Fair. I have seen The Schomberg Fair play some great sets in Toronto before and there are reasons I always come back for more.
Reason 1, Matt the singer\guitar player has the energy of a 12 year old.
Reason 2, Nate the 2nd vocals\bass player has one of the deepest voices I have ever heard, besides the guy from Sha Na Na.
Reason 3, Pete the drummer keeps the boys together with the quick beats of his drums.
Want to stomp and drink then go see these boys because you will be sweating and begging for more!

Friday June 19th was El Mocambo(down) for me. And I think that a lot of people felt the same because it was a packed crowd. I got there just in time for the 10pm show which was Toronto band Songs From A Room. Good old loud rock n’ roll with a very happy bass player and transitive beats.

11pm Burning Brides took the stage. This bands reigns from Los Angeles whom seemed to have a great following in this area. Singer could belt out the sounds with hair to match it, big hair – big voice. Burning Brides has a female bass player, which is always a treat for me. Sporting cute pigtails and schoolgirl looks with a happy smile. However, that is where the simile ends because she could rock with the big boys. We have been told as a country that we are very reserved when in attendance at a concert. Well I did see more then a dozen feet stomping and heads banging to this band. So either they are good; or they brought their friends from across the border.

Next up was what I believe was one of the highlights of the festival for me. Melissa Auf Der Maur, and not because I think chick bass players are cool (cause they are) but she is a rock n’ roller that has seen and done what many of us could only dream about. Melissa was the bass player for Hole (Courtney Love band) and also worked with Smashing Pumpkins for a record. All this from a lovely red headed girl from Montreal. Since leaving her great past behind she has a solo album out and on this night at El Mocambo she took the stage to show us reserved Canadians what she had to offer. And we responded with welcome arms. I crown Melissa Auf Der Maur the new Lee Arron of our time. Rock on!

The night ended with The Sadies and Bionic. Rumor has it that this was one of Bionic’s last show and I have just one word – boooooooooo! Bionic you will be missed.

Saturday June 20th after getting my ass kicked and stomped at Edgefest I made it out alive to head back to NXNE. And I welcomed the warm dry venues, with beers under 5 dollars and toilets that could flush (for the most part).

9pm at Rancho’s I was ready to hear After the Weather, which was quite appropriate name for what I endured on a rainy muddy day at Downsview Park. After the Weather is from Montreal so you know they are going to be good. I am just enthralled by all the talent that Montreal has to offer. Some of my favorite bands come from the great French city that wants to leave us. But whatever, that is another story, because tonight Montreal was with us. After the Weather was best described in the NXNE booklet “if you like bone chilling sonic punk opera”. Seriously I can’t say it any better then that. The drummer loved to hit those drums so hard that at one point I swear he was going to lose his arm through his drums. He did lose his seat and wound up on the floor at one point, almost taking out the curtains and NXNE banner on stage. The singers voice reminded me of a young Jeff Buckely very hypnotizing, very sexy. Meanwhile the bass player would chime in with some yodeling or opera screams that at first was like “what the hell?” but whatever, it totally worked. Great performance by all.

Lovely Killbots from Toronto hit the stage after After the Weather and they are no strangers to Rancho’s. Piano and drum duo with the lovely Lauralee’s voice to send chills up and down your spine.

Audioporn was a no show so in their spot was Armies of You. A UK band that had a very soothing sound and as the sound tech put it a David Bowie thing going on. Enjoyable and fantastic.

The clock strikes midnight and next up is Toronto's own The Speaking Tongues. Now if you are from Toronto and have never seen The Speaking Tongues then shame on you. This twosome never fails to deliver a good time. With a blues rocking sound that will get your feet stomping. And hey look at that, Canadians you do know how to rock out! Seriously, The Speaking Tongues always, always deliver and never fail to get your fists pumping and feet jumping. At one point I was going back and forth with the sound tech, this is my favorite song, then the next one came on and it was like wait this is my favorite one. You know what how about every song is my favorite one. Yes The Speaking Tongues rocked the house!

Next up was Nightwood, another gem from Montreal. I mean wow Montreal I bow down to the talent that you consistently give us.

Finally the night ended with Hank Pine and Lily Fawn, also known as The Hank and Lily Show from BC. Two words – holy shit. This band has originality not only in their music but their performance. They are here to entertain and they get it done. What a great ending to a great night of some amazing musicians. They started their set from the back of the room walking up to the stage chanting “Don’t Be Afraid”. The eeriness in the room with Hank dressed in a gas mask and Lily’s pitchy voice was a contradiction to the words of the song. The stage was set with Hank booming over the crowd in his large black hat and gas mask with 3 back up singers in platinum and black wigs, bass player as well in a gas mask and Lily on stand up drums (Sheila E style – awesome). The crowd was on their feet enjoying the theatrics and music. The Hank and Lily Show killed it.

Sunday June 21st was the last day of NXNE and I didn’t make it out of bed until Monday, HA! Drinking till 4am every night coupled with the energy of the audience and bands is really exhausting. I think my liver and ears were bleeding for me to stop after the 3rd night but I couldn't say no. NXNE is only once a year so damn it I am going to give it!
Kudos to all the artists, musicians, volunteers, booking agents and etc. for a great NXNE show. This was a great event and I for one am proud that I was part of it.
Thanks NXNE! Is it June 2010 yet?

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Blogger historyjen said...

Looks like we crossed paths a couple times... :-)
Glad you enjoyed the festival. Me too!

June 24, 2009 11:14 PM  
Blogger pete said...

we guarantee rock and roll delivery every damn time!

The Speaking Tongues

June 25, 2009 3:07 PM  
Blogger treasa levasseur said...

thanks a million!

July 6, 2009 10:45 PM  

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