NXNE Review: Nadja, June 17, The Garrison

You know what’s a good idea? Bringing earplugs to shows. Its an especially good idea when attending a fest like NXNE wherein you’ll end up seeing multiple bands over the course of the week. Its even more especially important if the band you happen to be seeing can get incredibly loud.

And so of course fate would have it that en route to Nadja‘s set at The Garrison I realized I’d forgot my damn earplugs. In case you hadn’t figured it out yet, Nadja can get pretty loud. For their Sunday night NXNE showcase, The Toronto duo of Aidan Baker and Leah Buckareff played a set of heavy, ambient, drone based instrumental music that was essentially one long piece. Think Earth meets Godflesh. And yes, it was loud. Hence, my regret over forgetting those earplugs. Standing onstage, a table of effects pedals and drum machine between them, they launched into the piece with barely an acknowledgement of the crowd. In fact Buckareff performed pretty much the entire set with her back to the audience, focused solely on the music and only really interacting with Baker. It was as if they were only focused on playing music and the audience was almost incidental. For some bands, that doesn’t work, but for an act like Nadja, it’s really more about the sounds they’re producing than putting on “a show” of any sort.

In many ways though, it is actually rather interesting to watch Nadja ply their craft. Watching them decide which effects to use, when to use a bow with your guitar (and who uses it – at one point Baker passed the bow to bassist Buckareff as if to say “OK, its your turn”). Despite the fact that the band were mostly insular onstage, it was still a pretty engaging performance. The music was quite evocative. At times I felt the need to just close my eyes, take it all in, and let it sort of wash over me. All in all, an intense listening experience and certainly a unique way for me to close out my time at NXNE for the year. Now if only I had remembered those earplugs …

Posted on by Paul in Everything, North By Northeast