We may be tired, we may be deaf, we may have caused permanent damage to our livers, but boy did we have a great time at this year’s NXNE. The music we heard, the BBQ’s we crashed, and the people we met were all part of why this is such an amazing festival.
We can’t wait for the next one, although we will probably need about 360 days to recover from this year.
Saturday was, of course, the biggest day of the festival, and Torontoist was there from noon until well past midnight checking out as much as humanly possible. Who did we love? Who did we hate? You can check it all out after the jump.
NXNE’s Indie Music Market set up camp all day at Dundas Square. Not only were there bands playing, there were dozens of other artists set up in booths all throughout the square. We chatted with the handsome Scott MacLeod, grabbed some buttons from The Hemingway Solution, and accidentally smacked into Oh! The Pretty Things. Sorry, guys.
The Burning Boyz (12:00 noon @ Dundas Square)
We didn’t mind that their set was only fifteen minutes long, and we really didn’t mind that they only sang classic rock cover songs, because for a bunch of second graders, The Burning Boyz kick some serious heine. Flynn, the seven-year-old lead singer, has only been playing guitar since Christmas, but you couldn’t tell based on the way he was shredding his guitar and wagging his tongue at the audience. Dexter, the keyboardist with the missing front teeth, is the resident expert of the band, having played for a whole four years, since he was three years old. Once you get over the “Aww” factor, these guys are really good for their age considering when this Torontoist writer was their age, we were picking our nose instead of picking at guitars in front of a hundred people. We can’t wait to see what the future has in store for them. –AMANDA BUCKIEWICZ
Charlemagne (1 p.m. @ Dundas Square)
This Hamilton 5-piece knows that in a place like Dundas Square, you have to grab people’s attention early. Charlemagne did just that when they opened their set with a hard rock version of the gospel song “Amazing Grace,” which was actually really good. They had an amazing stage presence, and lead singer Max Kerman looked like he belonged on stage as he told the audience stories before each song. The soulful song “Abigail,” for example, is about a conversation between Jack and his girl Abigail while she is on her break from working at Foot Locker in Jackson Square Mall in Hamilton. Their songs are memorable and catchy, but still deep, which is an all-too-rare combination these days. –AMANDA BUCKIEWICZ
Sebastien Grainger et Les Montagnes (11 p.m. @ The Horseshoe Tavern)
We wanted to enjoy the set from Sebastien Grainger, ex-Death From Above 1979 member, we really did. As much as we tried, there was a hollow feeling that maybe, for all the band’s energy and noise, the music just wasn’t that exciting. There were bright spots, like “Love Is Not A Contest,” a short ballad that morphed into a passionate rocker, and the groovy “Kid Party,” but little consistency from one song to another. A lot of songs, like “Solution=Problem,” sounded too much like bad ’80s hair metal and the fact that they had a head-banging bassist with long blonde hair only furthered the comparison. It had the performance we were expecting from Grainger, but was too spotty musically to meet our hopes. –MIKE WARNER
The Kill Devil Hills (2 p.m. @ Dundas Square)
Picture riding through the Australian Outback on a motorcycle with your friend the gunslinger and a bottle of whiskey, and then picture that in musical form. That’s what The Kill Devil Hills sound like. This Australian alt-country/blues band sang songs about drinking too much, slinging guns, and dry land. What made them even more cool was Stephen Gibson’s stand-up drumming, which 102.1’s own Barry Taylor said he had never seen in his life. All of this after they had performed the night before at 1 a.m. at Rancho Relaxo. After their set hordes of new fans approached the band to ask questions and to buy their album. This was by far the best show at Dundas Square on Saturday, hands down.–AMANDA BUCKIEWICZ
Ohbijou (10 p.m. @ The Horseshoe Tavern)
As good as Swift Feet For Troubling Times is, even better things are in store for Ohbijou, Toronto’s orchestral-pop darlings. Playing a set that consisted mainly of new songs, there was a remarkable consistency between both old and new songs that eliminated any notion that Ohbijou may suffer from a sophomore slump and not be able to recreate the magic of their debut. With as many as eight people on stage at times, new songs like “Tour Song” and “New Years” were gorgeously textured and a natural evolution from Ohbijou’s recorded output so far. The final crescendo of “Steep” stood as the highlight of the evening, a symphonic swirl matched by the strong vocals of Casey Mecija. Another strong show from one of Toronto’s best bands. –MIKE WARNER
The Diodes (3 p.m. @ Dundas Square)
This set had been hyped up all week, and judging by the hundreds of people who packed in to Dundas Square right as their set began, The Diodes had a lot of pressure on them. As members of the original punk-rock movement of the seventies, this was the first time in 30 years that all of the original members were performing together on stage. And despite an all around lack of energy in the band, they put on a strong performance. As they played old favourites like “Dead On Arrival” and “Waking Up Tired,” the crowd chanted “WELCOME BACK” and banged their heads in unison. It was like a time warp to the days when punk rock was about rebelling against more than just your parents. –AMANDA BUCKIEWICZ
United Steel Workers of Montreal (9 p.m. @ The Horseshoe Tavern)
The United Steel Workers of Montreal are a confusing three headed monster. Felicity Hamer gives sultry, raspy vocals, Gus Beauchamp is the average working man character, while Gern f. is really, really scary, a combination of large stature and guttural, Tom Waits vocals. Even though their songs all fell under the alt-country umbrella, they ranged from slower ballads like “Place St. Henri” to a fast-paced, rapidly strummed pieces of folk-punk. While the singers were very much involved with the music, the supporting guitar players often seemed bored onstage, dragging down the energy of the performance. It was very interesting, but not always captivating. –MIKE WARNER
C’Mon (11 p.m. @ Dundas Square)
C’Mon is the type of earth-shattering rock and roll that parents in the seventies must have feared the most. It’s raw, it’s loud, it’s thundering, and it makes you want to pick a fight with the biggest guy in the room. Their songs are short and driven by the skilled use of their guitar, bass, and drums. In the middle of one song, bassist Katie Lynn Campbell and lead singer/guitar Ian Blurton laid down on the steps of Dundas Square and continued to play an ear-shattering guitar harmony. This three-piece knows what they’re doing, and they’ll kick your ass if you say otherwise. –AMANDA BUCKIEWICZ
The Icarus Line (12:00 midnight @ The El Mocambo)
The Icarus Line are known for their stunts, and at least a handful of people who came to their packed set were waiting in eager anticipation to see the band who wrote “$UCKING DICK$” on The Strokes’ tour bus. Sadly, they did not get up to any debauchery, but it was still a great set. They are the type of rockers who act like they are way too cool for everyone else, who didn’t speak to the audience and barely made any acknowledgement that they existed. Instead, they focused solely on their instruments and vocal chords, and pounded the shit out of them as much as possible to produce a powerful edgy rock sound.–AMANDA BUCKIEWICZ
All photographs by Amanda Buckiewicz.