Torontoist's Guide to NXNE 2012
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Torontoist’s Guide to NXNE 2012

NXNE is an embarrassment of musical riches, but it can be hard to find the best acts. Even so, don’t panic. We have put together a comprehensive guide to the festival.

Fans in Yonge-Dundas Square during last year's NXNE.

North by Northeast may have started life as a weird, Canadian knock-off of the legendary South by Southwest festival in Austin, but over the last 18 years it has morphed into its own beast. Now, it has over 40 venues, 50 panels, an ever-improving selection of films and comedy acts, and a raft of unofficial shows, semi-official shows, secret shows, and weird daytime barbeque jams. Oh, there’s also that whole thing about bars being open until 4 a.m., which is a welcome break from our town’s usual crappy 2 a.m. last call.

We’ve broken the festival down by genre—see below for that—but here are some general pieces of advice that will probably apply to you whether you’re a hip-hop head or a death-metal enthusiast.

Bring a bicycle: NXNE has a pretty wide geographic footprint, ranging from Greektown in the east to Parkdale in the west. If you’re not armed with a bicycle, prepare to spend a ton of money on cabs.

Pace yourself: NXNE consists of a lot of long nights. Don’t make the rookie mistake of going ham on Wednesday and Thursday, then being too burned out to check out the Saturday headliner and the Sunday hip-hop showcase.

Watch a movie: There are a tonne of great movies about music that are having their Canadian debuts this week as part of the festival. We’d make a special effort to see KMS – Jewish Negroes at the NFB (June 14, 2:15 p.m.), as well as Sa Javla Metal: The History of Swedish Hard Rock and Heavy Metal and Ghostface Killah & Toronto’s Apollo Kids, both of which are at the Toronto Underground Cinema (June 15, 3 p.m. And 5:15 p.m. respectively). Want more? We have a full NXNE movie preview right here.

See some comedy: Everyone loves to laugh, regardless of what genre of music they’re into. Comedy Records will be bringing the funny nightly at LOT 100, so make sure to stop by at least once. The more adventurous will want to check out a special, late-night edition of Strip Comedy at The Monarch Tavern (June 15, 2 a.m.)

Keep an open mind: We’ve all spent days playing around with NXNE’s Schedulizer, but don’t get married to it. There are always unofficial secret shows, and they’re just that—unofficial and secret—so keep your ear to the ground. You might stumble on gold.

Okay. Now go discover your new favourite band.