As we head into day two of the much-hyped music and arts fest, a look at the good, the meh, and the ugly from Wednesday night's performances.
Tink. Adelaide Hall, 1 a.m.
With many hip-hop pundits hailing her as the next big thing, Chicago rapper Tink, signed to Timbaland’s Mosley Music Group label, took to the stage at Adelaide Hall to close out NXNE’s first night. Her set started strong, with the spitfire rapper displaying great flow as she prowled the stage. But a mid-set slowdown (and persistent audio issues lowering the volume on her mic) had Tink run into Toronto’s oft-noted lacklustre crowd enthusiasm, and left the impression that she still has some work to do if she intends to make good on all the hype. -Steve Fisher
Blonde Redhead. Opera House, 10 p.m.
For the first night of NXNE, seasoned pop-rockers Blonde Redhead were arguably the festival’s most established act. Their latest album Barragan skews softer than their earlier noise-rock records, but their performance at the Opera House had the crowd (which itself skewed a bit older than at other venues we visited over the night) engaging in serial head bobbing. There was a minimum of banter from the stage, but in a festival setting, we figure most fans were happy to hear as many songs from Blonde Redhead’s extensive catalogue as they fit in. -Steve Fisher
Lower Dens & Moon King. Horseshoe Tavern, 11 p.m.
Baltimore’s Lower Dens played the midnight slot at The Horseshoe Tavern, following Moon King, Toronto band on the rise. It was a shrewd pairing by NXNE programmers: Lower Den’s third record, Escape From Evil, features synth-infused tracks and lyrics with a heavy emotional punch. This translated onstage into a beguiling live performance, with diminutive vocalist Jana Hunter slowly ramping up the intensity, then refreshingly displaying some restrained showmanship. -Steve Fisher
Tasseomancy. Mod Club, 9 p.m.
These Toronto via Haliax sisters’ immaculate harmonies were almost enough to overlook a generally listless performance. Close your eyes though, and you’ll be transported to a beautiful world where two contemporary Kate Bushes craft hypnotic synth-driven goth-folk. Bewitching, but it’s a shame they still seemed bothered. -Kate Fane
Ibeyi. Mod Club, 10 p.m. Despite being dubbed “Doom-Soul” by the music press, the French-Cuban twins were nothing short of jubilant during their fantastic Mod Club set. Not even a series of technical difficulties could dampen their energy—it just inspired them to perform more beautiful a cappella chants in Yoruba, the language of their Nigerian ancestors. Part Nina Simone, part James Blake, their unique blend of modern production with old-school soul is something seriously special. -Kate Fane
Dinner. Lee’s Palace, 9 p.m.
It’s hard to tell if Danish singer and producer is parodying ’80s gothic new wave, or if he’s trying to faithfully recreate it, and just happens to be a really strange man. The answer is probably yes to both. Imagine a slightly absurdist Ian Curtis impression and you’re actually getting a pretty faithful picture of what a Dinner show is like. -Chris Dart
Zola Jesus. Lee’s Palace, 12 a.m.
The decision to perform in near total darkness was odd and, to be perfectly frank, annoying, but the raw vocal power of Nika Roza Danilova — aka Zola Jesus — is so all-encompassing and room-filling that we can forgive it. Also, we didn’t realize so many Zola Jesus songs involved trombone. -Chris Dart
Glass Animals. Danforth Music Hall, 10 p.m.
In contrast with the stage’s beautifully minimalist background and intimate purple-green lighting, members of the English indie rock foursome, Glass Animals, writhed arrhythmically onstage to uneasy effect. Albeit very talented musicians, the quartet’s decision not to break between songs resulted in a performance that felt like one very long, very lacklustre endeavour. -Sarah Duong