NXNE Review: Nadja, June 17, The Garrison

Posted on by Paul in Everything, North By Northeast | Leave a comment

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 …

NXNE Review: Killer Mike, June 16, Wrongbar

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

What better way to get across from College and Spadina to the west end to catch Killer Mike at Wrongbar on a beautiful Saturday night but to walk. I left around 12:40am and speed-walked about forty-minutes and you’ll not believe the bizarre things you see at this time. But since it wasn’t part of the entertainment and I’ve lived in cities for most of my life, I’ve become desensitized to this stuff. Regardless, thanks to Rival Schools playing a longer set than normal, I made it on time and it was definitely worth it. Of the twenty plus artists/bands/groups/clowns I saw since Wednesday, Killer Mike was the highlight. Not only was it a highlight, but while looking for my sacred pass that I dropped at the bar, I found a fiver. Bonus beer.

The show started around 1:30am and everyone outside soon came in and pushed up to the stage. Rap music and the white kids loving it. The hipster girls starting to grind up against one another making sure to not spill their $7.25 tallboys of Labatt 50 (I swear) on one another. Based out of Atlanta, Killer Mike found fame through his ties with Outkast back in 2000 on their album Stankonia. My first experience was hearing “That’s Life” in 2008 off his I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind, which basically says that if you don’t like what he’s saying, then then don’t listen. Idiots. He was there promoting his new release R.A.P. Music and the controversial new video to “Big Beast,” which is a nine-minute convenience store robbery/car chase with a bit of zombie apocalypse theme going on that features T.I., Bun B, and Trouble. On stage though,Killer Mike is more of a loveable cuddly teddy bear though. Way less threatening than so many other popular hip hop artists out there these days. After the first couple songs he said, “I see security looking a little uptight. A big black with so many beautiful drunk white people.” I heard this from where I was as “beautiful CHALK white people” which is way more racist and way funnier but I’m guessing he said the former.

His crowd favourite, “Reagan” started off with another story about his mother, who he made sure we knew was both a “convicted drug trafficker and college graduate,” and even though she’s still a mother who calls her son “Michael,” she still lets her opinion be known that Ronald Reagan didn’t just set progress back with his war on drugs and his conservative economic policies, he caused more of a divide between working class black communities and white America. “Fuck Ronald Reagan” indeed. Killer Mike had the crowd fromthe time he stepped on stage and even let them know how much he appreciated playing in Toronto and may have even said that this was his best show ever.

NXNE Review: Limblifter, June 16, El Mocambo

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

After taking in the crowds at Yonge Dundas, some more crowds watching an empty MMVA stage,and a couple other bands, I made my way to the El Mocambo to catch old skool alt-rockers Limblifter at midnight. You remember “Tinfoil” right? Yeah, you do. Hearing that song wasn’t the highlight of their set though, the highlight was me sitting along the wall at the side of the stage waiting for them to go on stage when beside the poor girl who was a NXNE volunteer given the responsibility of making sure no one went back there. Well this one guy wasn’t having it. He made a bee-line and ploughed straight through but that lasted about five feet when he tripped over face first and landed on one of those hard guitar cases. He just laid there for a good ten seconds or so while everyone within viewing distance processed what had just happened and then we were able to look at each other and acknowledge we all just saw that. Classic.

Oh, and then Limblifter played. They were good too. The Dahle brothers formed this as a side-project while in Age of Electric but drummer Ryan left to join The New Pornographers. The El Mo was at capacity and it was probably the oldest crowd I encountered during the festival. They didn’t miss a beat though and sounded as good as when I remember them as a teenager.

NXNE Review: Young Liars, June 16, The Painted Lady

Posted on by lauren in Everything, North By Northeast | Leave a comment

Young Liars

So it’s midnight Saturday night, I’m wiped out already (yea, I’m an old lady inside so what), but there’s still so much to see. Having heard a song by Young Liars, I thought it was definitely worth checking out as it would bring the dance. Bring the dance it did. First time in Toronto, (second showcase for NXNE) Young Liars are a 4 piece dance-rock band from Vancouver. We hit the venue just as they were setting up and made our way to the front. I don’t know if you’ve been to the Painted Lady, but it’s like every other bar on Ossington, long and narrow. How they packed this in for shows, I’ll never know, but loved the intimacy of the space, and the lighting. It made you feel as if you were in your parents basement hosting a secret dance party.

Young Liars played hard, and made us all dance up a storm. Much like Phoenix and a bit Cut Copy-ish, there’s nothing better than seeing people playing actual instruments and still making  you dance. Not hating on the electronic music genre, I love it too, but watching a dude/dudette wail on a guitar while getting all sweaty on the dance floor makes the experience seem much more authentic. Can’t pick just one, but the stand out songs were definitely “Colours,” “Echoists,” and “6/4”. Based on their talent and great live set, I would expect to see these guys touring around the area much more often. Hit them up next time they’re here and dance your fucking feet off.