NXNE 2012 (Wednesday, June 13, 2012)
While these shows are fresh in my mind I want to get some quick notes down. I'm a nerd for not wanting to throw my full reviews out of sequence, so there'll be a fuller accounting of the night by and by that'll include even more details and recordings.
8 p.m.: Indian Wars @ Of A Kind
Like rock'n'roll — or like capitalism itself — NXNE has managed to keep itself fresh by constantly bringing bright-eyed, DIY would-be usurpers into its circle. And thus, while a year ago Static Zine was piggybacking on the festival crowds to get attention for their old-school cut/paste/photocopied publication, this year sees them with an official daytime show, celebrating the launch of their second (still awesomely old-school) NXNE-themed issue with an afternoon's worth of bands at vinyl'n'vintage emporium Of A Kind. Kudos to Team Static for their hands-on self-publishing as well as their talent for bringing events to life.
I only made it down in time to catch the last act, but there was a nice crowd on hand to see Vancouver's Indian Wars. Rootsy with a bit of blues-honkin' mouth harp, bassist/vocalist Brad Felotick has a bit of a Dylan-y bleat, but the band behind him kept things pleasingly scuffed up. There was dual-guitar interplay and some mild feedback courtesy of keyboardist Craig Pettman waving his harmonica mic in front of his amps. Ramshackle and catchy in agreeable proportions.1
Listen to a track from this set here. Indian Wars will be playing two NXNE showcases on Saturday: Sneaky Dee's @ 11PM and The Dakota Tavern @ 2AM.
9 p.m.: THIGHS @ The Garrison
After that, headed down to The Garrison and settled myself in there for the night, as a nice way to ease into the festival. My decision to stay put was helped by the fact that the night was being co-presented by Wavelength2, and with General Chaos providing the visuals and Doc Pickles MC'ing the night, it had the WL feel. That also came from the fact that there were four pretty distinct acts on hand, all unified by a boundary-pushing ethos.
I knew nothing about first band THIGHS, but given the impressive heap of gear set up on the floor in front of the stage, I figured they'd be noisy. And then I was pleasantly surprised when several familiar faces in the crowd turned out to be on hand not just to take in the show, but to play. I recognized Jarod Gibson (also of Odonis Odonis) on drums and vocalist Mark Colborne (also of Pants + Tie) and it took me a little longer to connect guitar and bass to other bands like Danger Bay. That lineage gives a bit of a hint at what's hand here, but the band delivered more of a clunking roar than might have been expected — think Big Black/Jesus Lizard sonic architecture as a delivery system for Colborne's anxiety transmissions.
His delivery here was a bit less howl'n'sputter than with Pants + Tie, and he was dressed-down a bit from his usual stage attire with that band. That gave him the air less of a bureaucrat in the middle of a crisis than a weekend-warrior in full-on panic attack mode, suddenly wondering how everything went wrong in his life. He was still full of slightly-discomforting stagecraft, slowly inching forward to sing right in the faces of the front rank of spectators, before walking away from his mic and through the crowd to the back of the room, licking his fingers all the while, like he was trying to recover the flavour of something special that had been stolen from him. Toward the end of the set, he clutched at his chest, dropping to the floor on hands and knees while the band churned on behind him.
It was a quick jolt of a set — I don't think the band has been playing together for too long as of yet, but it was rather exciting. The DAPS Records crew was in attendance, so I reckon we'll be seeing the band at some more of their affiliated events.
Listen to a track from this set here.
10 p.m.: WE R DYING 2 KILL U @ The Garrison
Although billed solely to Montréal avant-punk unit WE R DYING 2 KILL U, the real draw here was the presence of Penny Rimbaud, drummer for first-wave UK anarcho-punks Crass. As such, no one in attendance seemed to really know what to expect, and as I saw the musicians setting up with a pair of basses and a pair of guitars, plus flute, sax and banjo I was even more confused. This could be anything, but I was still surprised when Rimbaud led off with a few lines pinched from "Heartbeat Hotel".
It turned out to be, on balance, a sort of free-jazz meets spoken-word explosion. And let there be no doubt: if you ever think it's about a certain haircut or a certain sound, you're wrong — in context, there's nothing more punk than seeing an old man reading poetry, accompanied only by a trilling flute. The instrumentation varied between songs, and at a couple points Rimbaud simply slipped to the back of the stage and crouched between the drummer and an amp while the rest of the band would do a song without him.
Regardless of who was singing, however, most of the lyrics were about radical politics, ranging from systemic racism to cassaroles and carrés rouges.
The quality of the poetry varied a bit, and after the initial burst of conceptual surprise at the whole thing it made less of an impact. It might not all have been "good", but it was pretty entertaining, and there was no doubting that the musicians were as nimble as hell. And anyways, with so many sanitized, play-it-safe bands filling up the bars during NXNE, I'm glad to see something that was a little erratic, wobbly, anarchistic and confusing.
11 p.m.: Silkken Laumann @ The Garrison
It seems like a lot of musicians have an electro-dance side-project these days. It makes a certain sort of sense: on the one hand, an artist can explore songwriting in different ways, taking advantage of new technology that reduces reliance on other musicians while on the other it's an easy-to-transport live gig that pays off with body-movin' satisfaction. Going in, all I knew here was that this project was Rolf Klausener (of earnest Ottawa rockers The Acorn) throwing his hat in the ring.
Silkken Laumann has evidently progressed past the "bedroom project" phase, with its live incarnation now a trio with Klausener backed by fellow Acorn-er Pat Johnson on drums and Adam Saikaley on keybs. Unsurprisingly, the music was throbby arpeggiated pop with a lot of bass. Though there seemed to be a contingent on hand out to see the band, it took a couple songs before a few people gave in to the dance imperative, which quickly got a bit of body movement in front of the stage.
As for the music, I can't say it made very much of an impact on me. Although there were a few places with interesting dynamics, it was mostly faintly-generic beatz. That would have been fine if they were wedded to interesting songs, but there wasn't much here that registered. Praise is due to Klausener for exploring in a new artistic direction, but perhaps having now mastered the elements of the style, he might yet find some more-distinguished sonic nuances, and remember to write some choruses.
Midnite: Teenanger @ The Garrison
Closing out the night was the one band on the bill that I was well familiar with. I was glad to have another chance to hear the newer stylings from garage-punk miscreants Teenanger, as the last time I saw them, back in March at their album release show, I found the band to be a little flat. Perhaps I was in a less receptive mood on that night (or a more receptive mood on this one) as from the get-go of opener "S.L.W." I was more engaged. I think it helped that the band was roaringly loud in The Garrison's PA, and I could feel the music pushing me around a little.
Always seasoned, the longest spate of touring in their existence certainly added a cutting sharpness to their sound. Vocalist Chris Swimmings sounded raw and nasty as the band powered straight from song to song, and there was an extra bottom-end throb from Melissa Ball's bass.
This was a bit of a restrained crowd for a Teenanger show until Wavelength co-founder Jonny Dovercourt waded in and started his own pit alongside WL programmer Adam Bradley. But still, even if I wasn't bounching off someone else's body, as the band closed out a too-quick set with their new-ish self-titled song, I felt re-energized.
Listen to a track from this set here.
1 Do note that Of A Kind will be having a second, all-day in-store on Saturday, with some really fab bands, including the ace closing quartet of Teen Tits Wild Wives, Chang-a-Lang, Planet Creature and Das Rad at 5/6/7/8 p.m.
2 The show was labelled WL544 for the didactic/historically minded.