The worst thing about having a pass for NXNE is using it. I got my perspective of the festival working the door at The Boat for the Maple Music showcase. The job was to bow for the “delegates” or “pass-holes” as they walked passed a growing line of wristband holders, or “audience.” It’s crystal clear to me that NXNE is set up by the industry, for the industry; audience and musicians are afterthoughts.
On Friday night, at the disappoingingly unpsychedelic Besnard Lakes show I asked a visiting musician if he thought the festival was “worth it.” He explained to me that since he was lucky enough to be included in a showcase he got to choose between $100 and a festival pass (many bands have to pay to play). He took the hundred bucks, but it still only covered about half of his travel costs to come from Montreal. When I asked if the exposure made up for the expense he said, “Yeah, I guess so.”
Who benefits from North by Northeast, then? A&R and media people don’t have to go out of their way to be fed pre-hyped showcase bands, while musicians from out of town or out of country might get some media or label attention, provided their hype is effective enough avoid being overlooked.
Am I being too negative? The Six Shooter Records barbecue at their new store/gallery at 1118 Queen East was nutritious and delicious. But the highlight of the weekend was watching my drunken friend shout in the face of the owner of the El Mocambo that he’s a liar and a cheat. Excessive? Perhaps, but what kind of reaction can you expect to the man who hosted both the Doritos and the Rogers showcases?