If I had Gone: A Fictional #NXNE Portlands Review – Dan Mangan, Born Ruffians, Father John Misty

Posted on by Ricky in North By Northeast | Leave a comment

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With all this hoopla around the OJ Simpson documentary, the Kim Kardashian GQ cover and NXNE going around, it only seemed to make sense to write an article in honor of the situation and make our blog seem all up and modern with pop culture. Due to various commmitments, I was unable to go to NXNE Portlands today but here’s my review IF I HAD GONE

Getting There
Saturday was a wonderful day. Sunny, hot and nary a cloud in site, it was an idealistic day to hit up a music festival. Portlands seem a bit difficult to get to, but good ole NXNE has found a boat shuttle to the venue, and it’s sponsored by..WHAT??? All the parents surrounding me going to this festival are really confused now. They’ll be hungry later.

The Grounds
I just noticed there’s a band called Highs and Dan Mangan is playing at 4:20. How convenient. Saturday was a freaking hot day, and I’m glad I bought my water bottle – wait what? There’s no water stations? It’s 30 degrees outside!

Dan Mangan
It’s now 4:20 and Dan Mangan has taken the stage wearing a Got Bud shirt looking rather dishevelled. The grounds look empty and the boat shuttle that my friends were on have not arrived as per scheduled. Having released a surprise EP last night called “Unmake”, Mangan pulls off the classic Wilco at Pitchfork 2015 strategy by playing his new EP in it’s entirety before breaking into the hits. The new material is more stripped down and acoustic compared to his previous works, showing a fragility to his brand that was previously lacking, according to his publicist. Personal highlight for me was the new track Forgetery, a track featuring Tegan Quin who sang along side Dan via Snapchat, which was projected onto a big screen.

The Zolas
I spent most of their set exploring the grounds of the Portlands, trying some magnificent micro-brew company called Budweiser, which wasn’t a part of the Got Bud? Sponsorship. My friends called me and said their boat captain is missing and they are currently stuck in the middle of Lake Ontario.

From what I heard, the Zolas sounded pretty good, that might also have just been the radio, because I was at T&T munching on dim sum. I hope this pass allows re-entry.

Mother Mother
I felt bad for Mother Mother, the brother-sister band from Vancouver played a fun set of their brand of Canadian indie guitar rock but people were passing out left and right because it was about 35 degrees on the ground and everyone was too cheap to spend 4 dollars on a bottle of water. Some hipster kid tried to drink the water from lake ontario but then he immediately grew a third arm which went rogue and choked himself to death.

The band cut their setlist short, and seemed to be in a rush. I just realized they were playing some music festival called Sound of Music in Burlington later in the evening. Soul Asylum played that festival on Thursday, are you saying we could of had Soul Asylum here at the Portlands today?! Opportunity missed! Also playing that festival: I Mother Earth, Headstones, Sass Jordan and the Killjoys. There’s some nineties joke you can make there.

Born Ruffians
I was vaguely disappointed by the Born Ruffians set, I was expecting an hour of good ole Born Ruffian tunes such as Hummingbird and Foxes Mate For Life, instead I got an hour of Luke Lalonde trying to sell us on his brewery collaboration with the Muskoka Brewery and how it pairs wonderfully with cornish hen and white asparagus with a dab of honey mustard sauce. The samples were great though, as I was thoroughly sick of Budweiser at this point.

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Father John Misty
The headliner for tonight, it was a great chance for me to see him live again for like the seventh time in twelve months. I’m sure he won’t do his whole gospel preaching singer prancing about on stage and teasing the crowd thing again.

I guess I was wrong. Still, the man has stage presence and charisma that just spells out headliner. For more information about his show, read our review here from the April show. The girls in the crowd were swooning, although it seems like half the crowd was desperately trying to call an uber for the inevitable mess that will happen when the thousand or so people at this show all try to leave the Portlands at the same time.

Luckily, I was able to get away, because I wasn’t really there.

Or was I?

NXNE Review: The Joy Formidable, June 15, The Mod Club

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Photo by Elisabeth Isles

A couple of songs into The Joy Formidable’s set at The Mod Club, singer Ritzy Bryan announced that they would be treating the night’s show as their record release party. It confused me a bit, since i was fairly certain that their latest, Hitch, came out a while back, but she went on to announce that it had come out here later, due to some “boring shit” that she wasn’t about to go into and that they would treat this as their record release show because they can. Fair enough. They then promptly went on to play a brand new song that’s not even on that record, also because they can. Hey, why not? Bryan made it clear that the band does whatever they want to do, though mostly what they want to do seems to involve rocking out to their big, shiny, anthemic tunes.

A bit later in their set, Bryan tried to chat up the crowd about the fest. “This is part of a festival, isn’t it? North by North … East?” she asked, and when she went on to ask who else we had coming to town this week … well, there was a bit of silence with only Father John Misty’s name being offered up at first. Awkward. To be fair, there’s probably not a lot of overlap between fans of The Joy Formidable and say, Pere Ubu or Schoolboy Q fans, so it’s not too surprising that no one could think of any other notable names on the spot, but it still served as a reminder that NXNE is not what it used to be. Also, the guy who shouted out Prozzak should have realized that a band from Wales would be very, very unlikely to know of our weird Canadian cartoon band (no offence to Simon and Milo).

Still, regardless of any of that, The Joy Formidable put on an entertaining show. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen them live and they still manage to impress, fully throwing themselves into their performance and playing with a certain aggression and, well, joy.

NXNE Review: Eagulls, June 13, Horseshoe Tavern

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

Photo by Elisabeth Isles

George Mitchell, singer of Leeds post-punkers Eagulls, has definitely got the whole brooding, emotive frontman thing down pat. In fact, anybody who missed out on The Cure’s headlining set at Bestival the night before would have found a reasonable replacement for Robert Smith and co. in Eagulls’ performance on Monday night at The Horseshoe – vocally, Mitchell is practically a dead ringer for Smith.

While we’re on the subject of brooding, Eagulls’ new material off of their recently released second album Ullages has a moodier vibe than the more aggressive sounds of their debut. It’s definitely more of a slow burn, which, while effective on album, makes for a slightly less dynamic live show – whenever an older song did make an appearance in the set, it popped a bit more in comparison. Still, despite any misgivings, the band put on a decent show, though I will admit to getting a tad bored towards the end of of their set. That may just be my preference for their first album coming through, but perhaps others were feeling the same way too.

“Enjoy the silence,” said Mitchell at one point and while I thought for a moment they were about to play a Depeche Mode cover (they weren’t), he may have also been taking a shot at the audience for not being appreciative enough. Maybe the band just needs to give us something more to get excited about.

The Ultimate NXNE Preview

Posted on by Ricky in Everything | Leave a comment


Holy crap what the hell happened to NXNE?

A few years ago, it was raging, there were crazy sets on the Island, The National was playing Yonge and Dundas Square, Spiritualized was playing Massey, and amazing bands were playing all over the city. It was a vibrant festival that I really thought was going in the right direction. Yes! I thought, they are learning from SXSW!

A few years later, we are all struggling to make up what NXNE really is. This year saw major changes to the program. Gone are the all you can eat passes that made NXNE so appealing. Instead, we now have to deal with one time fees for each venue. Furthermore, there is a semi-festival playing at the Port lands, and the costs for them are even higher, but as NXNE loves to point out, it’s the lowest price of any Toronto festival. Coffee Time might have the cheapest coffee on my street, doesn’t mean it’s any good.

As a result, people are less excited about what I used to think was the premium music event in Toronto, and that is kind of sad.

Still, we at the Panic Manual are mostly optimists so here are some benefits for the new format

  • No more must see shows at Yonge-Dundas square: Personally, I hate going to YDS on the weekend. There’s too many crazy people and it’s too crowded. Luckily, I don’t have to go there now.
  • Portlands is out of my comfort zone: Sometimes it’s nice to do something you normally don’t do, it keeps life interesting. I normally don’t think about the Port lands, but now I have to consider it and maybe it’s a reasonable area and not a desolate, empty space that was cheap to rent. Maybe I’ll buy a condo there because I like it so much. You never know
  • Less thinking: With a smaller lineup, and the inability to jump from venue to venue without paying, it removes the need for complicated spreadsheets and configuring optimal nights. Choice paradox has been proven to be one of the new causes of mental distress among young people so now they won’t have that

Anyways, we are still sorta excited for NXNE because it still showcases some music. Here are some bands we are excited about.

Awa – The Israeli Haim sisters put on a fantastic, energetic show in Austin during SXSW and they are back again in Toronto. They have an unique sound and their harmonies and beats will have you dancing along in no time.

Nails – These Californian noisemakers have been getting a bit of buzz for their upcoming third album You Will Never Be One Of Us, which at 21 minutes is fairly short, yet still manages to clock in as their longest yet. So expect something hard hitting at their show at the Hard Luck – they don’t call it powerviolence for nothing.

TUNS – With members of Sloan, The Super Friendz and The Inbreds, these guys are basically the all star team of ’90s Halifax Pop Explosion power pop.

Big Ups – Brooklyn post-punk that brings to mind Slint and Fugazi.

Ghostface Wu Tang member always brings his A game, and also with BBNG in town, they might put on a collaboration show and blow it all up.

Shamir: Dance the night away with Shamir as he brings his A+ dance game to town after a wildly successful sold out show at the Mod Club earlier this year or sometime last year.

Father John Misty – This guy comes to Toronto so much I get the feeling he has an illegitimate kid here or something. Either way, he does his thing and you will probably swoon to it. Even if you don’t, this show will be packed.

Partner – A band full of fun lyrics and clever stage banter, I saw them at CMW and came away impressed.

What are you excited for?