NXNE Day 2: Paper Thick Walls @ The Boat

paper thick walls

This being my first of possibly four nights of NXNE shows made me sigh inside a bit. It was a case of the “you-never-know-what-you’re-gonna-get” syndrome and this happens for every large days-long music festivals for bands looking to get noticed. Unless you’ve done painstaking research and you’re by-passing those bands that have already graduated to the next level and established themselves (ie. Mikal Cronin, Iceage, etc.), then a lot of what you have to base your band selection on is the following:

1. Band Descriptions: these are usually two-three sentences that praise the band and give unfair comparisons to more successful bands. For example, from one particular band description: “…electropop four-piece combining vocoder, synths, computers, and guitar effects for frequent comparisons to bands like Phoenix, Two Door Cinema Club,and OK Go.” I understand why this is done and sometimes it actually might be quite accurate but other times it’s just wrong. Just plain wrong.

2. Geography: they let you know what city they’re currently based out of which can also lead to bias and be misleading. For example, “Hot damn! Those guys are from Brooklyn? I might catch the next big thing!” versus: “Hot damn! Those guys are from Burlington? I might miss out on that band from Brooklyn who might be the next big thing!”

3. 30-Second Clips of a Chosen Track: to be brutally honest, usually you only need about five seconds.

4. Venue Location: even though Toronto is quite a large city, it is entirely walkable and most of its venues are located in various pockets of the city that are all within walking/biking/public transportation. That being said, if you only have 15-20 minutes from the end of one band’s set at The Silver Dollar (College and Spadina) and the next band you want to see is at the BLK BOX (Queen and Dovercourt), it’s just not in the cards. This leaves you being forced to make decisions based on your location.

5. Recommendations: these might come from friends, social media, or the media in general (NOW, NXNE.com, etc.). This is probably the best way to find out who to check out when the choices seem endless.

Based on most of those criteria I saw Paper Thick Walls at The Boat in Kensington. I was greeted outside by a smoking hipster in a basketball jersey with a painted face. Conflicted hipster or Insane Clown Posse juggalo? I wasn’t sure. I got inside right as the band went on stage to a fairly sparse room. Unfortunately, they were having issues with sound right off the bat but being the seasoned musicians they were, they soldiered through.

Paper Thick Walls are a Chicago-based four-piece composed of guitar, keys, drums, a large stand-up bass, some hand-claps and for one song, a trumpet. Their music is upbeat and folk-based with lots of hope and positivity. If I were to break my own rules I would say they sound most like The Lumineers. They were a nice start to the festival for me, especially with a couple of their songs building up and ending in loud crescendos. They were polite, gracious and talented and despite me not having a penchant for this type of music, it was quite good.

While making my notes at the back of the room I noticed the painted-face hipster was now in full uniform and looked like more of a mime than a juggalo. Upon further research it would seem to be this gentleman from Iceland, Epic Rain, who was performing after Paper Thick Walls. It was an interesting start.

Posted on by Brent in North By Northeast