Get the ball rolling with a mixture of pop, thugged-out rap, and spooky punk.
North by Northeast tends to start slow, but there are still enough good acts playing that it’s worth going out. Here are recommendations to help you start things off on the right foot.
Wednesday, June 12, 11 p.m.
The Rivoli (334 Queen Street West)
This will be the third music festival where we’ve enthusiastically endorsed Mozart’s Sister, after last year‘s NXNE, and this spring‘s Canadian Music Week. Caila Thompson-Hannant makes it very easy for us. The Montreal-based Grimes contemporary has released an EP, Hello, that takes her bedroom recordings and Cyndi Lauper-style vocals and gives them a polished sheen, and she’s grown substantially as a live performer, stepping out from behind the table of equipment more often.
Go if: You want to kick off your NXNE seeing a clever pop star in the making.
Wednesday, June 12, 11:25 p.m.
Wrongbar (1279 Queen Street West)
Charlotte’s Deniro Farrar has compared himself to both Tupac Shakur and Charles Manson. He’s dubbed his incongruous, sometimes jarring blend of pretty, ethereal cloud-rap beats and ultra-thuggish rhymes “cult rap.” In short, he’s supremely weird, but he may be one of the more interesting acts at this year’s festival.
Go if: You dig this whole “cloud-rap” thing, but wish it had more edge.
Wednesday, June 12, 11:35 p.m.
Nocturne (550 Queen Street West)
JellyTooFly, Toronto’s self-proclaimed Queen of the Game, has spent the last few years dropping mixtapes and honing a style that could best be described as stoned, slit-eyed malice. She’s developed a strong cult following around the city, and for good reason. While her rhymes are strong on her records, her brand of slow-moving, menacing rap really shines live.
Go if: You want to see the closest thing Toronto has to Snoop from The Wire.
Wednesday, June 12, 12:00 a.m.
The Hard Luck Bar (772 Dundas Street West)
Having released their exquisite new record, Anhedonia, in February of this year, Winnipeg-based post-punkers This Hisses are bound to put on a hell of a show. Their sound has a deep, lingering richness, with moments of sparking effervescence overlaid on a deep well of sadness. Their aesthetic combines a garage-rock energy with rich, velvety, and even gothic tones, earning their style the moniker “surf noir.”
Go if: You like your punk dark, dense, and a little spooky.
(Natalie Zina Walschots)