It’s almost time to say goodbye to North By Northeast for yet another year. Two longs nights have past, leaving tonight as the last chance to get out an enjoy some of the best new music from around the world. Seeing as it is Saturday, expect a lot of the shows to be really busy so going earlier is always better than later. All the cool kids are doing it!
But before we get back out to the clubs tonight (or get back to anything that resembles normal life), we’ve got to get through the hits and misses of Friday night. Down a man from Thursday night (this business can be brutal at times), we trudged out into the night, hoping that Friday would live up to the glorious sounds of Thursday. For all the planning that can go into what to see over the course of a festival like NXNE, there are always surprises, both good and bad. So far we’ve been luckily and experienced some amazing artists, yet more proof that this year’s fest is one of the best that has happened in a while. Time can only tell what Saturday has in store. That’s all we’re going to say about that for now, let’s get on to the reviews!
Previously: NXNE: Saturday preview, NXNE Rocked Our Thursday.
The Handsome Furs (12 a.m. @ the Comfort Zone)
We have to start this review by saying that the Comfort Zone is an awful venue. For the Handsome Furs, a band that has been getting a lot of hype, it was much too small for the crowd they drew, leaving a lot of people trying to look through a maze of heads to try and see the band. The fact that the ceilings are low and slightly claustrophobic when you’re crowded in with a bunch of other people doesn’t help either. Luckily the Furs, Wolf Parade’s Dan Boeckner (guitar and vocals) and his fiancée Alexei Perry (keyboard), did a fine job of making up for the crappy space by playing a strong set of songs from their recently released Plague Park, plus a cover of “You Got Lucky” by Tom Petty. Boeckner’s singing was unrestrained, his hair flopping around as he rocked his head back and forth to their electro-rock songs. He explicitly stated “Handsome Furs Hate This City” is about Vancouver, not Toronto, before playing a wonderfully jagged and rough version of the song . For all the complaints about the Comfort Zone, the Furs sounded excellent and delivered a clean, impressive set.
Hot Springs (10 p.m. @ the Comfort Zone)
It’s so easy to love the Hot Springs. Proclaiming they were going sober for this show, opting to eat instead of drink, this fabulous Montreal rock’n’roll quartet showed they could win over a crowd no matter how intoxicated they were (or were not, in this case). A post-modern mix of sounds, they flung around riffs like they were Halloween candy, a bevy of little sweet packets of musical joy. While the crowd was sparse at the beginning of their set, the Comfort Zone quickly filled in with a very appreciative audience. They were a treat to watch, especially singer/guitarist Giselle Webber, who’s equally comfortable rocking out on the floor or slowly twirling her arms around her head. The rest of the band form a tight unit and build up the sound to match their onstage energy. There were some mic difficulties at the beginning, but that quickly got sorted out in time for songs like “Pink Money” and “38th Adventure” to be fully appreciated. Go see them next time they’re in town.
The Superfantastics (11 p.m. @ The Silver Dollar)
The Superfantastics (pictured) sound great on paper: a boy-girl, guitar-drums duo who hail from Halifax, a city that has produced so many fantastic pop-rock bands. Sadly, their NXNE debut was marred by some technical difficulties that inhibited them from playing more than two songs in a row without having to stop and retune the guitar. For some reason they played a short set of only thirty-minutes and about five minutes of that time was spent tuning Matthew MacDonald’s guitar between songs. Their songs were nicely rooted in strong melodies, for the most part, but the lyrics were sometimes a little too tongue-in-cheek, especially a song about the internet with ICQ, MySpace and Facebook references. A song about Back To The Future wasn’t a whole lot better. There were a couple of short, jerky numbers that sounded awkward and didn’t really seem to suit the band. Luckily they had charming stage banter to fill in for all the gaps during their set, but it seemed like they were fighting an uphill battle for most of their set.