NXNE Review: The National, Ostrich Tuning, The Death Set, June 14

Ostrich Tuning

Friday night started off with a trip to Yonge-Dundas Square to check out The National. Yeah, that didn’t happen. I knew a freebie at a large public square in the middle of downtown on a beautiful Friday night would bring out loads of fans but unless you showed up early there was no possible way of seeing the stage. They sounded really good though. Sigh.

Following a quick jaunt across Queen and stops at the Horseshoe to check out Still Corners and then up and across Dundas to May to see Tokyo’s Round Face and finally ending up at my primary destination which was the basement of Creatures Creating to catch Ostrich Tuning.

I had first heard about them the previous night when I was told by a friend that I “had to see this band playing up the street” because “they were the best musicians in the city” and that they were “better than Godspeed You! Black Emperor.” Some of this was confirmed by a random stranger beside us who agreed. He may have been planted. Regardless, I wasn’t going to not go. It was at a neat little second floor art space of a house in Kensington called The White House. I got there while three-piece  Rituals were pounding out distortion to a packed little room while images from a projector were displayed on a side wall. As I waited in anticipation for Ostrich Tuning to set up, those that were in charge began to quickly scramble: hiding the cash box, getting rid of their beer sign, etc. The cops showed up (apparently about a noise complaint and/or open cans outside) but even though the show would go on, time was ticking and I needed to make it to The Silver Dollar for Mikal Cronin in 15 minutes. It wasn’t until Friday night that I would be able to experience their show.

Creatures Creating is a neat little art collective space on Dundas. They had a comedy show happening on the mainfloor with bands playing in the basement. Ostrich Tuning are different and unconventional because they tune all of their guitar strings to the same pitch. For example, all strings would be tuned to ‘D’ which makes it an entirely new instrument that one would have to re-learn chords and chord progressions. You’d probably never know it unless you were watching their fingers though which makes them such talented musicians. The few songs that I heard were five to six minutes full of drone and psychedelic effects. According to their website they’ve customized their instruments and pedals. They were well received and based on the praise given to them the night before I’ll be checking them out next time they play.

The Death Set

Following a quick stop at Wrongbar to see Bear Mountain and BLK BOX where Gold & Youth played the sweatiest show of the night, I made it to the Shop @ Parts and Labour at 2am for one of NXNE’s “secret shows”. Not so secret considering @urbanoutfitters was letting everyone know who was playing two hours in advance. The Death Set are from Australia but transplanted in Brooklyn and were the headliners. I’d read a review and seen a couple videos of their live shows and knew them to be aggressive and interactive. The audience and band pretty much became one as they played at our level. At one point lead singer and guitarist Johnny Siera entangled his microphone cable in a willing lady’s shirt in front of him, later having trouble getting it out at the end of the song. On purpose? Hmm. They bounced around like Mexican Jumping Beans and the crowd followed suit. It was one of the more unique shows of the festival as I’d never seen a punk band play samples of Jackson 5 and old hip hop between their songs. Confusing, yet unique. Head scratchingly unique.

Posted on by Brent in North By Northeast