NXNE Review: Elizabeth, June 21, Garrison

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Looks can be deceiving.

When I first walked into the Garrison, I thought I had stumbled into some hard rock act more suitable for tattoo rock parlour or something. On stage were three band members, all with long hair and probably tattoos and seemingly the type of people who can go as extras on that Sons of Anarchy show. I was like, ‘this doesn’t look like a band who in their NXNE bio lists things like the Libertines, NME and Arctic Monkeys’.

The band on stage was called Elizabeth, a Vancouver group who had flew all the way here to play at NXNE. As I listened to their set at a nearly empty Garrison I started to realize my initial assessment was not correct. Instead, Elizabeth presented to me solid rock featuring spiky guitars and sounded like the good ole indie rock you would hear from a decade ago. The group had alternating vocals and a really solid guitarist who was just chilling and doing his thing. I wished their vocals came through more clearly as some of the tracks had some nice pop hooks to them but then I realized this was the Garrison and expecting a good mix was like expecting a properly cooked steak at your local dive bar. Wasn’t going to happen.

NXNE Review: Spiritualized, June 20, Massey Hall

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You know, NXNE is supposed to be about discovering new music or something, but really, when you book Spiritualized on the most hallowed musical grounds in Toronto, people are going to go that. Especially old people. Like me.

Armed with his band and two backing singers, Jason Pearce and company played a set that is best described with the word gorgeous. It was so damn pretty, Spiritualized’s music has always had a sense of epic to it and epic and Massey Hall go together like wine and cheese. Tracks like “Lord Let it Rain on Me” seem to be written especially be performed at places at Massey Hall and when opportunities like that arise, somehow it just feels … special. You always know a show is going well when everyone just shuts the fuck up and listens to the band. I’m pretty sure the amount of people feeling the need to do small talk during Spiritualized’s set was at the minimal, and that’s probably the highest accolade you can give to a band these days.

Closing their all too short set with their iconic track “Come Together”, Spiritualized easily played one of my favorite sets at NXNE. It would of been better if they played Stop Your Cryin, but I guess we can’t have it all.

NXNE Review: Perfect Pussy, Horseshoe, June 20

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Despite the fact that I am clearly not a person who listens to hardcore music, I have now seen Perfect Pussy twice. It goes to show just how much the Syracuse group has reached out of their musical sub-genre into the mainstream indie landscape in the past six months.

Perfect Pussy’s set at the Horseshoe was memorable, and that’s probably the only good thing I have to say about it. The band started off with frenetic energy with blistering guitars and drums surrounded highlighted by Meredith Graves passionate and active delivery. I have no idea what she is saying, but having seen them in March, I already knew that would be the case. For all I know, her lyrics are probably “ARRRGHH AWWWW PEW PEW PEW BOOOM BLEEA BLAH BLAH WHOOOP YARRRRG”. My friend says she prefers that her vocals be drawn out by the music, to which I say, why bother writing lyrics at all. It all seemed like loud, undecipherable noise to me.

About ten minutes in, things started going awry. The bassist’s amp failed and with seemingly no help in sight, the dude decided that the best form of protest would be to snap his bass in half over his knee in a bane/batman style of move and storm off stage.

You know, I’m a software developer and when I have code that doesn’t work, I don’t pick up my computer and throw it through a window. Musicians are so weird.

Anyways, after that, the band decided to stage a protest of some sort by just playing feedback or something while Graves dropped down to her knees and did whatever it was she was doing. After a few minutes, the Horseshoe staff had enough and ushered them off the stage.

It would seem amusing to most people, but this sort of thing also happened in March at SXSW so either this band has really bad sound guys setting up their equipment or this is just part of their gimmick. I might sound old, but if this whole thing wasn’t some sort of art piece, then Perfect Pussy seems like a very immature band with temper issues that can’t deal with non ideal situations. It leads to some memorable shows but I can’t see this lasting.

NXNE Review: Future Islands, June 19, Vice Island

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Thank god David Letterman did not retire one year earlier.

Without the funny man saying “I’ll take all you got” to Samuel T Herring after the band’s now iconic performance on Late Night, we would not have seen the astronomical rise of the band Future Islands. Without this rise, we would not have been on Vice Island on Thursday to experience the joy that is a Future Islands show.

Something about that video tapped into all of our inner psyches. Watching Herring just give it his all and laying it all on the line in front of an audience of millions just inspired the inner performer in all of us. I think it gives people a sense of hope just to see someone dance like no one’s watching (but in front of millions). Which brings us to their set at Vice Island on Thursday night.

If there was one word to describe a Future Islands show, it would be the word joy. Everyone who saw them Thursday night broke out in a frenzy of smiles after the set. Having been around for a decade has allowed the band to refine itself into a tight sounding act that made all the tracks from Singles sound lively and awesome. Leading the charge was Samuel T Herring who got the crowd dancing within mere seconds of taking the stage. He pulled off all the moves we have come to love over the past few months, including

– the chest pounding
– the weird squatting / samoan looking crab dance
– the staring blankly into the night
– the mafia finger dance move
– the death metal voice

On a less sincere looking man, all those would seem gimmicky. On Future Islands, they seem real, and in the end, everyone can detect and appreciate that. We danced, we laughed, we sang along to that amazing single. A ridiculously fun set that brought happiness to everyone at the show. Can’t ask for more.