Well, it’s over. We came, we saw, we didn’t wait in line once (thanks, priority pass). But before we throw up our tattered white flags and rejoin society, it’s nigh time for some sort of festival wrap-up to prove we were actually there and weren’t just telling you what to do. So here is a smattering of reviews and photos from our handsome reporters who we set loose into the night every night for however many nights it’s been. Marvel as we run down our most memorable shows (thankfully limited to maybe one-quarter of what we saw) in hopes of helping you relive the magic. Or at least helping you fake like you were there if any of your cooler friends ask.
Contributors: Ashley Carter (AC), Alex Nino Gheciu (ANG), and Nicole Villeneuve (NV).
With photos by Nick Kozak/Torontoist, Mario Lunardo, and Shaun Axani.
Broken Social Scene with Feist @ the Courthouse as part of the This Book Is Broken Launch/Arts and Crafts showcase: We weren’t there. But YouTube was!:
White Cowbell Oklahoma @ Kathedral as part of the Exclaim!/UO Booking Agency/No Idea Records showcase: Don’t even worry about whether these infamous “special guests” were good or bad musically. They managed to get the entire crowd to leave the club mid-set to continue the party on their RV (including some folks just walking down Queen Street who weren’t even at the show to begin with). How many crowds did you shepherd into the night on Thursday? That’s right, none. (AC)
D-Sisive (Toronto, ON) @ Bread and Circus as part of the Just Entertainment showcase: Over at Bread and Circus’ crammed-tight hip-hop extravaganza, D-Sisive kicked things gimmick-free (sans ostrich mask and tuxedo!), piling through a collection of his least buzz-killing tunes with the help of his right-hand man Muneshine. Braggadocio cuts from his Let The Children Die LP featured many a pop cultural punch line (“You’re not a killer, you’re a sound alike; the Brandon Flowers type”), while an impromptu sing-a-long of the Ninja Turtles theme song (word for word!) left the crowd in stitches. (ANG)
D-Sisive by Nick Kozak/Torontoist.
Bloodgroup (Reykjavik, Iceland) @ the El Mocambo (Down) as part of the Musebox showcase: Sure, Bloodgroup may have an occult-ish band name and a lead singer bearing an uncanny resemblance to Drag Me To Hell actress Alison Lohman, but there was nothing overtly ghoulish about their early candy-coated set on this bill rife with foreign acts. Four dudes dressed like members of The Warriors churned out fuzzy LCD Soundsystem–style electro-house (three of them on keyboards and samplers, one on a keytar) while chanteuse Lilja Jonsdottir laid down sultry Madonna-esque vocals submerged in buckets of reverb. Okay, so mall goths will dig Bloodgroup’s melodramatic Within Temptation–style ballads, though they may get scared away by their dance-y aesthetic, saccharine choruses and, well, keytar player. (ANG)
Bloodgroup by Nick Kozak/Torontoist.
Junior Battles (Toronto, ON) @ the Kathedral as part of the Exclaim!/UO Booking Agency/No Idea Records showcase: These local hook-heavy upstarts welcomed a bill full of visiting bands with their charming ease, copious group chants, and funny banter (actually). An energetic start to a quality pop-punk showcase. (NV)
Film Noir (Paris, France) @ the El Mocambo (Up) as part of the Musebox showcase: Parisian quartet Film Noir treated us to a less-avant-garde-than-their-moniker-suggests dose of Strokes-y garage rock replete with giddy guitar lines and a vocalist that could mimic Julian Casablancas’ somnambulistic drawl to a tee. It’s cool that they’re from France, but you’re better off listening to Is This It. (ANG)
Film Noir by Nick Kozak/Torontoist.
The Burning Hell (Peterborough, ON) @ The Horseshoe: The Burning Hell and its cast of characters held a dancing crowd captive with their darkly funny and smart folk-pop and special guest appearance by the United Steel Workers of Montreal. Another packed room early on a school night bodes well for the weekend. (NV)
The Burning Hell by Shaun Axani.
The Homosexuals (London, UK) @ The Bovine as part of the Chunklet showcase: The only misstep in an otherwise positive first night of no line-ups and encouraging crowd sizes was walking into the Bovine where The Homosexuals were taking stage to a rambling, weird monologue from frontman Bruno Wizard, sending us turning on our heels before getting lost in Wonderland for the night. Punk legends (?) or not, no thanks. (NV)
Carpenter (Vancouver, BC) @ the Kathedral as part of the Exclaim!/UO Booking Agency/No Idea Records showcase: Back to the Kathedral for Carpenter’s set; it was as tight and crunchy as their recordings, with singer Daniel Sioui’s impressive vocal presence and spastic dance-kicking as highlights. These guys were glad to be in Toronto, for NXNE, at a well-attended show, so good work Toronto punk fans. (NV)
Carpenter by Shaun Axani.
Bridge and Tunnel (Brooklyn, NY) @ Kathedral as part of the Exclaim!/UO Booking Agency/No Idea Records showcase: These Brooklyn punks are the real deal, rocking so hard and meaning it so bad that the singer accidentally slammed his face on the headstock of his own guitar and got to sport a sweet gash for the rest of the show/their Canadian tour (with the aforementioned Junior Battles). Rad band? Check. Blood? Check. And it’s only day one. (AC)
Bridge and Tunnel by Nick Kozak/Torontoist.
Hexes and Ohs (Montreal) @ the Silver Dollar Room as part of the Next/Pop Montreal showcase: Early at Friday’s Pop Montreal preview, the hotly-tipped Hexes and Ohs were sweating bullets as their Macbook and Yamaha Sequence Remixer began malfunctioning three songs into their set. Luckily, they made a full recovery and invested their quirky brand of bedroom disco with enough dorky charm and starry-eyed zeal to evoke that first awkward kiss under the bleachers. (ANG)
Zoobombs (Tokyo, Japan) @ Yonge and Dundas Square: It’s weird to see a band that normally causes a fair-sized ruckus in a small club play on an oversized stage in broad daylight. And by broad daylight, we actually mean torrential rain, which somehow didn’t dissuade a fairly large crowd—and more onlookers as the show progressed—from checking out these Tokyo-based psych-rockers. You didn’t even have to bring an umbrella because the crowd up front was packed side-by-each with them. For a more accurate review of these guys in their element, see Saturday. (AC)
Aids Wolf (Montreal, QC) @ Sneaky Dee’s as part of the Panache showcase: Down at Sneaky Dee’s’ exhibit of artsy-fartsy noise acts (see also: Team Robespierre, Pterodactyl), Montreal’s Aids Wolf put on a show as shocking and offensive as their band name. Lead singer Chloe Lum crawled through the audience, shrieking bloody murder like the second coming of Lydia Lunch while her band laid waste with a disjointed Dadaist clamour drawing on material from their latest LP Cities of Glass…we think. (ANG)
Aids Wolf by Mario Lunardo.
Bionic (Montreal, QC) @ El Mocambo (Down) as part of the TV Carnage showcase: During each intermission at this hard rock bill, a masked man named Pinky played spastic video collages of corny retro television clips as part of his new project entitled TV Carnage. The audience was shocked, bewildered, and a bit annoyed, but luckily Bionic arrived by the end of the night to blow our minds into oblivion. Decibel-shattering stoner rock bangers like “Learn to Love the Government” cut straight through the brainstem, while front man Jonathan Cummings screamed like a coke-addled Nick Oliveri in between sarcastic stage banter and viscid gobs of spit. He announced this was their third-last show, but we couldn’t tell if he was shitting us or not. (ANG)
Bionic by Mario Lunardo.
No Age (Los Angeles, CA) @ Lee’s Palace: This was the show where we counted the most bands that weren’t actually on the bill. As soon as we walked into the totally sardined Lee’s palace, we spotted members of Crystal Antlers, some Arts&Crafts alumni, the Darcys, and one Jason Schwartzman (in town filming Scott Pilgrim?). But what do you expect from a show featuring one of Sub Pop’s finest. Kids absolutely lost their shit to this unfathomably loud and energetic two-piece. And by kids we mean the 19+ crowd who moshed like they were at their very first punk show. (AC)
The Superstitions (Toronto, ON) @ the Reverb as part of the NOW Magazine showcase: This unplanned detour turned out to be a good move; The Superstitions pounded out a set of ’50s-inspired power-pop with legitimate confidence and a cool juxtaposition of nerd guys vs. rock girl, a group of bratty brothers and their cooler older sister whose playful bickering is nothing but endearing. (NV)
The King Khan and BBQ Show (Montreal, QC) @ Lee’s palace: Chainmail shirts and gold body paint have never combined to such great effect. One of the only times we heard an ‘encore’ chant at NXNE this year was after this special guest’s late-night set, and we hear it wasn’t even his best show this festival. King Khan has the kind of balls-out rock-star swagger that you so rarely see anymore (except, you know, when he’s in town…which is pretty often). Especially fun was watching NXNE volunteers try to keep the backstage band-drunks at bay after they parted way with their free beers long enough to stumble on stage and realize where the real party was. Total chaos. (AC)
Change of Heart (Toronto, ON) @ The Horseshoe: The best part about Toronto’s Dinosaur Bones playing this show was that the U of T class of ’09 that was there to support them cleared out quickly, guaranteeing a spot at the front of the stage for Change of Heart. Ian Blurton, in his trademark dry wit, made no qualms about how wracked his nerves were (even scrawling all his lyrics on pieces of bristol board for easy reference) just before launching into a short, fierce set that had almost everyone within eyesight happily shouting and fist-pumping along, creating one of the most excited, friendly atmospheres in any venue all weekend. (NV)
Ian Blurton’s cheat sheet during Change of Heart by Shaun Axani.
Woodpigeon (Calgary, AB) @ The Horseshoe as part of the CBC3/Sirius Radio showcase: Following live-broadcast banter from various CBC3 hosts, Woodpigeon walked on stage to a packed house and, after a slow start, reciprocated some of the energy and enthusiasm that a night and showcase of that type (and a recent Polaris long-list nod) beg for. The room was packed front to back and the line outside was starting to form by the end of Woodpigeon’s set; it finally felt like a typical music-festival weekend at the Horseshoe. (NV)
Little Girls (Toronto, ON) @ Sneaky Dee’s: Dee’s was pretty packed out with people clearly trying to decide whether these lo-fi melodic whateverers live up to the hype. There are so many “must-see/hear/watch” bands in Toronto that it’s usually hard to pick one out that’s destined to stand out for longer than a summer, but these dudes seem to be sticking. They’re relatively new so their fuzzy live set can only get better (and more Joy Division-y) than it already is, plus we counted so many local promoters in attendance—who bombed in for their set and bombed back out at the end—that they won’t have trouble booking shows in this city for a long, long time. Ladies and gentlemen, Toronto’s new post-punk ‘it’ band. (AC)
Little Girls by Nick Kozak/Torontoist.
Will Currie and the Country French (Waterloo, ON) @ the Reverb as part of the SLFeldman & Associates showcase: Next to the glee on old Change of Heart fans faces, the smiles on the faces at the Will Currie show were the brightest and most genuine, sort of like the piano-pop that Currie and his band have perfected. Not a runaway show stealer at a festival of this magnitude, but strong showmanship and musicianship, and good enough to get Jay Ferguson to produce their record for release on murderecords, so why not? (NV)
Will Currie and the Country French by Shaun Axani.
Zoobombs (Tokyo, Japan) @ Velvet Underground, Saturday, as part of the Next showcase: This spacey Japanese quartet accumulated so much buzz over the weekend that people crammed into the Velvet Underground on Saturday like there was a meteor shower outside and it was the last bomb shelter on earth. The Zoobombs lived up to the hype with a spacey psych-jazz meltdown akin to Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Rich, and the Mars Volta having a barroom brawl…on shrooms. (ANG)
Zoobombs by Mario Lunardo.
Grand Analog (Winnipeg, Manitoba) @ Reverb, Saturday, as part of the SLFeldman & Associates showcase: We were expecting the same old rap ‘n’ roll dub ‘n’ soul as always while waiting for Grand Analog to get things started, but they caught us off guard with a left-hook of louder rap rock (“I Play My Kazoo”), funkier funk (“Electric City”), grimier reggae (“Take It Slow”), funnier banter (“I be the spokesperson for the broke person”), and livelier special guests (i.e. Shad f’n K). (ANG)
The Wooden Sky @ El Mocambo as part of the MySpace showcase: At 1 a.m., rivalling a handful of other big festival draws, and without having released any new material recently, The Wooden Sky still managed to draw lots of happy rowdies for their high-spirited set of old alt-folk favourites and heavier, already-classic sounding new material at the El Mo. Local band or not, this was a festival high for sure. (NV)
The Wooden Sky by Shaun Axani.
Dan Griffin (Toronto, ON) @ Rancho Relaxo: A soothing solo set of introspective folk to cap off a hectic weekend; in the end, however, Griffin’s songs and gracious, lighthearted demeanor were uplifting enough to almost trick us into thinking we could stay out until 2 a.m. again. (NV)
Mardeen (Halifax, NS) @ Rancho Relaxo: Good enough on Thursday to make us go looking for more in the same weekend. More perfect pop tonight, the maturity of which belies their young faces. New material with choruses that ring as big and pound as relentlessly as Clash classics. (NV)
Mardeen by Shaun Axani.