North By Northeast

NXNE Review: Apache Darling, June 20, Bovine Sex Club

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Prior to the start of NXNE, we sent out a questionnaire to a whole bunch of bands playing the festival, asking them a range of questions including what it is that separates them from other bands. As Glasgow electro pop group Apache Darling explained, they feel that they do stand out a bit from the rest of the crowd:

“We don’t use any backing tracks, so you’re going to get an electronic gig with a rock band feel to it. That, plus our keyboard player Andrew only has 8 fingers, so that’s probably separates us quite a bit from other acts!”

I didn’t really get a chance to check out how many fingers he had, so I’m not sure how seriously to take that last comment, but I can confirm that all of the keyboard/electronic elements did seem to be played live alongside the live drums and bass. It does help to differentiate them from acts whose live show largely amounts to just pressing play.

Singer Stefanie Lawrence thanked the audience for coming out and for “actually giving a shit.” I imagine playing a show to people who are there but don’t give a shit would be rather daunting, maybe even worse than playing to an empty room. The band put on a good show for those who attended (and took the opportunity to plug their show later that night), with Lawrence’s vocals soaring on top of the band’s electronic sounds. The bassist especially was impressive to watch. She kept it pretty low key and subdued at times, but would occasionally let loose with some jazzy/funky basslines.

One criticism I have of their live show is that the band needs to work on their timing a bit – there were a few moments of silence between the songs that often stretched out for a few seconds, but to their credit, they acknowledged it. Keyboardist Andrew Black apologized for the delays, claiming it was all his fault. “I never know when you’re ready. You never look at me,” said Lawrence. Black then responded with something about him being a bit scared of her. I’m sure he was joking, but who knows? Maybe there’s some band tension there. They could always go see that guy from Metallica’s “Some Kind of Monster” if they want to sort it out. Warning: he might want to join the band afterwards though.

NXNE Review: Language Arts, Mod Club; Muuy Biien, Garrison; Homebody, June 19

Posted on by Brent in Concerts, Everything, North By Northeast, Reviews | Leave a comment


What NXNE Press Guide said about Language Arts:

Language Arts is the brainchild of Toronto-based guitarist, composer, and singer Kristen Cudmore. It’s the marriage of classical training and jazz school, consisting of complex layers that’s part Joanna Newsom, part tUnE-yArDs, and shifting between beckoning choruses with bright hooks and meandering lyrical sagas.

On this night Languare Arts were a polished and talented three-piece with pretty delicate vocals provided by lead Kristen Cudmore. Their version of cute wispy dream pop fit well in a venue like the Mod Club. Well constructed songs built from their beginnings and those in attendance enjoyed their almost hour-long set. Favourite quotes from Kristen: “Has anyone heard our album here? (silence from the crowd). What the fuck? I’m tired of it.” And also, “Whenever I’m at the grocery store and I have a lot of food I feel like a big pig.” Followed by: “snort snort” and a shy awkward laugh.


What NXNE Press Guide said about Muuy Biien:

Muuy Biien is the real thing. No college degrees, no connections, no future: kids in their 20’s raised in the Georgia countryside, born to work in fast food. The band members met while all working at a fried chicken chain. But art springs forth from the unlikeliest of places. The power of DIY is palpable and real, but so is the sense of craft that hangs over it.

Members were walking around the Garrison for the two bands before them going back and forth to get bottles of Bud from the back. Their music is part Refused, part Jon Spencer Blue Explosion, part Iggy and the Stooges. Their lead singer gets the award for best dancer of NXNE this year which last year was awarded to Pissed Jeans. They were loud, aggressive and the crowd responded by becoming a part of the show.


What NXNE Press Guide said about Homebody:

Homebody play angular post-punk and jangling pop music. There will be guitars and there will be drums and you will respond with appropriate head movements.

Homebody are another three-piece band playing experimental noise pop and hailing from Denver, Colorado. All members were talented musicians switching between instruments, switching between vocalists, and even switching speeds midway through songs on several occasions. If I wasn’t mistaken there was a rare sighting of a six-string bass through the first couple songs. Their last song Break In was a favourite.

NXNE Review: Mission Of Burma, Obliterations, California X, June 20, Lee’s Palace

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As the old saying goes, you can’t judge a book by it’s cover. The same could probably be said of bands and the t-shirts they wear, but we can often arrive at some sort of conclusion about a band’s influences by whatever band they’re repping on their shirts during a show. And while it’s probably quite a stretch to say that Sting and the Cro-Mags were huge influences on California X, it is fun to imagine what the perfect musical synthesis of “Fields Of Gold” and We Gotta Know” might sound like. Alas, California X are not that band, though they are purveyors of crunchy riffs paired with melodic vocals, which puts them in good company with a few other acts playing NXNE whose repertoire hearkens back to the sounds of the 1990s. I got hints of Dinosaur Jr. and a few others in their sound.

Continuing on with the t-shirt theme, I noticed Obliterations had an even more diverse range of musical acts represented on their shirts – Neu!, David Allen Coe, and Black Flag. Much like California X, they don’t sound anything like an amalgam of all those sounds (likely a good thing) though they’re as uncompromising in their sound as I imagine those acts to be, playing a blistering set of straight ahead hardcore.

Vocalist Sam James Velde was an intense performer, but also a fairly funny guy in his stage banter, especially when he called NXNE out on their corporate partnerships. He discovered while looking on social media earlier in the evening that the show would be sponsored by a vodka company. He added that that he was OK with that and that they didn’t really care about the sponsorship, but that the sponsor seemed to be “in the wrong business.” He was referring to the projections on the wall designed by Lee’s Palace artist Al Runt, noting that the somewhat trippy art in fact wouldn’t make him want to drink vodka, but rather might make him want to get “high as fuck.” Naturally, the band launched into “Blackout” after that. Velde later thanked METZ’s Chris Slorach for putting them on the bill (apparently he had something to do with booking this show), describing him as a cool guy in a cool band from a pretty cool town, though he did note the number of restaurants in our fair city. “Y’all motherfuckers like to eat!” Obliterations easily put on one of the most satisfying and entertaining sets of NXNE for me.

Finally, Mission of Burma closed out the night, playing all the post punk classics from throughout their career. As far as I could tell, Mission of Burma weren’t wearing any band shirts. They’re more likely to be the band other bands wear onstage though, so it’s all good.

NXNE Review: OM, Liturgy, USA Out Of Vietnam, June 19, Opera House

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While hanging out at The Opera House before the OM/Liturgy/USA Out Of Vietnam show, I experienced a weird marketing related moment. I was leaning against a wall in the corner when some dude with a thick Italian (?) accent approaches, says he’s with a marketing company, and asks if he can take a picture of his company’s poster for some car. I shrug, start to move, then he says that no, I can stay and be in the picture. Um, no thanks guy, I really don’t want to be in your pic. He then proceeded to snap several other shots of the car ad on the wall. With the flash on, no less. I found it rather odd. Why does he need to take photos of the poster in the first place? Wouldn’t they know what their poster looks like already? Was this to prove to his marketing firm, that yes, their posters have in fact made it out? And why would he need several pictures of a poster in a relatively empty corner of a venue surrounded by a few random metalheads? I got the impression that this guy was no Don Draper.

Speaking of marketing, USA Out Of Vietnam started off their set with a bit of good natured false advertising: “We are from Montreal. We’re called Voivod. We’re really pleased to be playing with Grimes tonight. It’s very rare to see Grimes and Voivod together.” I’m not entirely sure … in this scenario, is Liturgy Grimes? The Montreal band’s set encompassed a lot of different sounds and came across at times like Neurosis with a more pronounced shoegaze/post-rock influence. It was heavy and beautiful.

Following them were Liturgy, whose bandleader Hunter Hunt-Hendrix once described their sound as “transcendental black metal” and while some may scoff at that term, it’s something of an apt description of their sound. Hunt-Hendrix and his bandmates use repetition of riffs in their music until it becomes almost hypnotic, which I suppose could theoretically lead to a transcendental state. A standout of their set was “Kel Valhaal,” which on record sounds a bit dull, but really comes alive in concert, acheiving an almost Swans-like quality. The band had some issues with the sound at first, with Hunt-Hendrix complaining about the mix efter going through a fairly thorough soundcheck. His vocals did not sound good during that first song, but they seemed to rectify that soon after (possibly by putting a lot of effects on his vocals).

And finally, the headliner for the evening took to the stage and took things in a different direction. OM also made good use of repetition in their music, but seemed heavy in a different way than the two openers. With simple drawn out riffs, the psych/stoner rock outfit definitely adhere to the “less is more” school of songwriting and it works like a charm for them. Adding texture to the core bass and drums sound on which the band was  founded, multi-instrumentalist Robert Lowe proved himself the MVP of the night, taking their droning stoner jams to the next level.

All in all, a satisfying night with all three bands on the bill immersing the listener completely in the music.

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