Forget compasses, GPS, or helpful Sherpas. From June 13–19 this year, Torontoist is here to be your guide to everything NXNE.
The Cowgirl Choir at a recent performance. Photo by Scott Murdoch.
Halleluia Showcase, featuring the Cowgirl Choir, the Lying Cheats, Cowboy And Indian, Revolvers, the Hounds Below, Organ Thieves
The Comfort Zone (480 Spadina Avenue)
June 16 at doors at 7 p.m./first band at 8 p.m (Cowgirl Choir at 9 p.m.)
$10 at the door or click here for NXNE pass and wristband pricing options.
“I wanted to sing in a choir for country music… so I made one,” laughs Megan Flynn, a founding member of the Cowgirl Choir. She, Rebecca Daniels, and Lesley Saliwonchyk had sung in choirs in grade school and high school together, and the three put out a call for other performers to join them. “Within our first couple of meetings, we had more or less the choir we have now”—though they rehearsed for four months before playing their first public performance. Now, the Cowgirls are in high demand, sometimes playing as many as two shows a week.
It’d be inaccurate to refer to the choir as an amateur effort, or a hobby; all of the women have professional performance training. “We don’t all come from the same backgrounds—some of us don’t read music—but we all have singing experience,” says Flynn. This fact wasn’t lost on legendary booker Dan Burke, who scheduled them into his NeXT-at-NXNE lineup. “Honestly, he seemed a little cynical when we all trotted up the stairs in our pretty clothes,” says choir member Claire Wynveen, recalling when the Cowgirl Choir were last-minute additions to a bill at the Silver Dollar. “But after the show, he came and told us we were a highlight of the night”—this from a man not known for false praise.
Torontoist: Tell us why we should see you at NXNE, in 10 words or less.
CW: Nine intelligent, feisty, female country singers give great stage… yeah.
MF: [Laughing] She has a master’s degree—she’s won awards for that shit!
What’s your favourite Toronto venue, and why?
MF: The Silver Dollar—the sound is just amazing there.
CW: The other band that went on before us at our last gig there, Flying Fox and the Hunter Gatherers, they filled the space and brought the whole place to life—it feels like the sort of venue where that happens a lot.
Does the NXNE beat the SXSW, and why?
MF: [laughs] Well, we haven’t been to SXSW… NXNE is pretty amazing for Canadian artists, because it galvanizes everyone. There’s all these great bands from Montreal, Halifax, Vancouver, Calgary, and more, and it’s great that they all converge on Toronto for this crazy week of partying. It brings the city together—because everybody likes music, right?
Who’s going to be the breakout act of NXNE this year?
CW: I know Diamond Rings is already doing really well, but I think that, playing the free outdoor show with Land of Talk and Stars, a lot of people who haven’t heard him will be, like, “Ohmigawd, he opened for Robyn? He must be kind of famous.” A lot of passers-by will get hooked, I think. I’m also interested in his new band, Matters.
What’s up next for Cowgirl Choir?
MF: We’re taking time this summer to prep some new songs and work on some recording.
CW: We’re also playing Pride—we’re doing Steers and Queers at the Dakota Tavern on June 30. It’s called “Night of 1,000 Dollys” this year, so we’re learning a bunch of new Dolly Parton songs, and combining with a group of amateur Dolly Parton fans. It’s going to be a big gay country music party!
Any last words?
CW: People who haven’t seen us before generally think it’s going to be a bunch of middle-aged women with cowboy hats and boots on, but…
But you’re a bunch of babes?
MF: [Laughing] Sure, yeah! We’re urban cowgirls… We ride bikes.