NXNE Review: I Smell Blood, June 19, The Boat

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After seeing Pissed Jeans earlier in the evening, I couldn’t resist the idea of keeping the bodily fluids theme going for the night by taking in a set by  I Smell Blood, straight outta London, Ontario.  The name suits the band and their loud, aggressive sound well, evoking the image of an animal ready to strike out at it’s prey. The name also reminds me of an episode of Angel where a character states that blood smells like pennies taste.  Sorry for the geeky digression. 

I Smell Blood follows in the tradition of two piece noisemakers like Lightning Bolt or godheadSilo, though they keep things strictly intrumental.  Playing to a small but appreciative crowd at The Boat. the band ploughed through a few numbers full of rumbling low end riffs and frantic blasting drums. 

It was the perfect way to cap off the night and also the perfect way to keep myself awake at 1am on a Thursday. 

NXNE Review: St. Vincent, June 20, YDS

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

St. Vincent has had quite a year. On the strength of her superb self titled album and stellar live performances on shows like SNL, Annie Clark has effectively left no doubt as to who the queen of indie rock is. Perched high on top of a stage pedestal on Saturday night at Yonge & Dundas square, her headline slot at NXNE felt more like a coronation. All hail Queen Annie.

Playing a set mainly consisting of new material, St. Vincent’s tracks popped to life and reminded us just how excellent pop songs Digital Witnesses and Birth in Reverse are. Between the tracks and epic guitar solos (a St. Vincent show trademark) were random blurbs about space ships and childhoods and now we are all alike. I’m sure most of us were a bit like wtf but we still rolled with it.

Having only seen her previously in small venues, it was great to see how much she had evolved as a performer. Almost everything seems calculated, the robotic dance moves, the synced up choreography with the rest of the band and the semi matching outfits. On a teeny boy band, it would seem cliche. In the presence of St. Vincent, it seems like we are witnessing an art rock production. Not many white people can pull off corn rows, yet there she was on stage with cornrows and not a single person doubted it’s place. When you’ve reached that level, you know you are doing something right as an artist. One of the best sets at NXNE.


NXNE Review: Maica Mia, June 18, Garrison

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maica mia

What the NXNE Press Guide said:

Maica Mia is an experimental rock trio consisting of Maica Armata, Jonny Paradise, and Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Mauro Pezzente. Arresting and cathartic vocals, assertive guitars orbiting a microcosm of terrestrial samples, explosive drumming, and maximalist flourishes of space-balladry make up their core sound of heavy hypnotics.

I’ve been a GY!BE fan since their inception back in my Montreal days so it piqued my interest when I saw that their bassist was also a member of Maica Mia. Upon my arrival at the Garrison I found a relatively sparse room. It was also slightly disappointing to see that it was just the duo without Mauro playing tonight. Regardless, I can only imagine that they might feel slightly discouraged as it would be quite tough to play to a mostly empty room.

Their music was filled with an abundance of dark minor chords mixed with Maica’s slow and haunting vocals and overlaid with aggressive drums. It was still quite loud considering it felt so empty in there.

Their set was done within twenty-five minutes. Looking dejected, Maica mentioned that they had records for sale and then packed up her gear.

NXNE Review: Perfect Pussy, Anamai, Frankie Cosmos, June 21, The Great Hall

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Perfect Pussy played the Horseshoe on the Friday night of NXNE. It was a somewhat divisive performance with some loving what they did and others hating it. The Panic Manual was there and Ricky wrote a review of it.  He did not enjoy their set. However, in the interest of fair and balanced reportage (we’re like the Fox News of music blogs that way), here is my take on their set at The Great Hall the following aftenoon.

“We’re on our best behaviour today,” noted Meredith Graves at the beginning of their set. While the previous night may have been plagued with problems, this show went off without a hitch. The sound was good , no speakers were blown out and all of the equipment seemed to be working properly, so those expecting a fiasco of some sort went away disappointed. Or satisfied if they didn’t want a fiasco.  Whatever. Yes, it was still noisy and chaotic and over after about 20 minutes, but it was a controlled chaos.

After Perfect Pussy, the room cleared out a bit and Anamai got things started at the other side of The Great Hall on a makeshift second stage set up on the floor by the bar. In contrast with the previous set, it was a much more laid back affair, but still quite intense in it’s own way. Anamai is the project of Anna Mayberry, who was joined by one other member providing ethereal electronic sounds that added atmosphere to Mayberry’s  dark, folk-based songs. This was one of the most entrancing and most memorable sets of the fest for me. The crowd mostly sat on the floor and gathered around the band in sharp contrast with the moshpit that erupted near the end of Perfect Pussy’s set.

Back on the main stage was Frankie Cosmos, led by Greta Kline, who offered up a set of simple, catchy, twee-ish indie pop that brought to mind a cross between Julie Doiron and Allo Darlin’. Kline kept the banter to a minimum due to the fact that they were playing another show about an hour after this one. Strangely, this afternoon set would be the closest thing the band would play to a “real” showcase at the festival, seeing as how their other two sets were on a streetcar and in a park. It’s cool that the fest is branching out and trying new and different things, but it does seem a bit odd that a band would not get a proper nighttime showcase. Regardless, it was a good show and piqued my interest in hearing more from them.