Yesterday, I looked at some of the best showcases to check out if you're staying put. Today, here's a whole list of good stuff to check out if you're hopping from venue to venue. You can always search through the tag cloud at the right to find more stuff about most of these bands.
With NXNE boasting ever larger numbers of bands every year, you have to accept that you're not going to see everything — and, realistically, you can't even research everything. At least that's the case for me. But in a general effort to reduce the unknown unknowns, I'm putting down a list of bands that I feel confident recommending for you. With just a couple exceptions, these are bands that I've seen before, many more than once. And to back up my claims, I've included a live recording for many of them so you can judge for yourself what you're getting into.
Andre Williams & the Sadies
The Horseshoe Tavern, Friday, June 15 @ midnite
He may be a rummy, but he ain't no dummy. The original Mr. Rhythm has been cutting dirty R&B sides since the late '50's — he wrote "Shake a Tail Feather", dammit! Backed by the agile Sadies, he remains mobile and hostile, serving up a gritty old school sound. Fresh of their new Night & Day collaborative album, this one isn't to be missed.
Listen! Andre Williams and The Sadies - Car With the Star
The Great Hall, Friday, June 15 @ 11PM; El Mocambo (Main Floor) Saturday, June 16 @ 11PM
I've seen a lot of bands since then, but I still remember seeing Shellshag play back in '09 with great fondness and clarity. Two hearts, four hands, drums, guitars, love, general clamour and things clattering on the floor.
Listen! Shellshag - Gary's Note
Bovine Sex Club, Thursday, June 14 @ 1AM; Velvet Underground Friday, June 15 @ 12AM
Revered as one of the greatest punkrock guitar players ever as a member of Richard Hell & The Voidoids and thrilling as a sideman for hire with musicians such as Matthew Sweet, Julian has always had his own lower-profile solo work simmering to one side. His appearance will probably draw mostly from last year's The Naked Flame, but you can expect a nod or two to his past in there as well.
The Horseshoe Tavern, Saturday, June 16 @ 1AM
Toronto's #1 greasy blues band is a treat at any festival — or any dive bar, back alley or boozecan you find 'em in. This show's being broadcast live-to-air, so be ready to have the essence of your sweat transmitted across the Dominion.
Listen! catl - Hold My Body Down
Wrongbar, Thursday, June 14 @ 9PM
Daniel Woodhead and his one-time Spiral Beach bandmate Maddy Wilde are creating a whole new realm of stripped-down pop nuggets, easy to sing along to, but twisted enough to keep you on edge a little.
Listen! Moon King - Sleeping in My Car
The Drake Underground, Thursday, June 14 @ 11PM; The Garrison, Friday, June 15 @ 11PM; Wrongbar, Saturday, June 16 @ 10PM
Over the past couple years, Airick Woodhead's Doldrums has grown from some tentative solo excursions to a widescreen, forward-thinking pop project. A bit chopped, a bit screwed, but not too woozy to make you wanna move a little.
Listen! Doldrums - unknown
The Garrison Sunday, June 17 @ 10PM
Not quite your typical festival fare, Picastro will bring their stark-but-beautiful downcast gloom-pop to the Garrison on Sunday night, playing alongside their recent collaborator, doom/ambient/drone/psychedelia-mongering Nadja. (And, by the way, if the idea of sonically adventurous music on a Sunday night at The Garrison appeals to you, you should also show up for Crosswires, which is there every Sunday with something new and interesting.)
Listen! Picastro - Neva
The Rochester, Saturday, June 16 @ 10PM
Always partying like it's Saturday night, expect windmill guitar heroics and singalong choruses from this pop-minded garage unit.
Listen! Chang-A-Lang - Shake the Sleep
The Garrison, Friday, June 15 @ 12AM
A little theatricality goes a long way for this Montréal "noh wave" unit who balance prog conceptuality and elaborate staging with pure rock immediacy.
Listen! Yamantaka//Sonic Titan - Lamia
PS I Love You
The Horseshoe Tavern, Thursday, June 14 @ 11PM
With sophomore release Death Dreams under their belt this Kingston duo (and sometimes trio) are learning how to channel their big rock sound ever more efficiently. Cathartic guitar solos that express the pain and perplexity of every inarticulate heart.
Listen! PS I Love You - Princess Towers
Rivoli, Friday, June 15 @ midnite
A singer/songwriter on the cusp of big things, thanks in no small part to having a kick-ass band rockin' out behind her. Oh, plus songs with guts, determination and heart.
Listen! Danielle Duval - Ambulance
El Mocambo (Main Floor), Thursday, June 14 @ 8PM
This Niagara Region-crew weds a surf-y beat to a raw garage attack and are really worth getting out early to the El Mo to see.
Listen! Elk - Laura Please
Dakota Tavern, Thursday, June 14 @ 2AM; The Gladstone Ballroom, Saturday, June 16 @ 9PM
Pure pop for now people, The Elwins know the value both of being concise and also having fun on stage — but listen closer and you'll hear some really smart stuff.
Listen! The Elwins - On Your Doorstep
Unlovable, Thursday, June 14 @ 11PM
If you like the scrappier direction that Hooded Fang has headed in, then you'll love vocalist Daniel Lee's other band, which is a perpetually rough-around-the-edges but always pop-minded. Just as likely to play on the floor as the stage, Hut brings the party to you. This double-header at Unlovable with Hussy should be a whole lotta fun.
Listen! Hut - Droppers
The Jessica Stuart Few
The Central, Thursday, June 14 @ 1AM
You might be attempted to dismiss Stuart's use of the koto as attention-grabbing exoticism, but the sound is well-integrated into her songs, and she's not just plinking strings for effect — she can really play that thing. Likewise, her songcraft is sophisticated, bringing to mind such masters as Joni Mitchell.
Listen! The Jessica Stuart Few - At My Window
Czehoski, Saturday, June 16 @ midnite
Another smart singer/songwriter with a less-seen stringed accompaniment, Elaine Kelly-Canning opens up dreamy landscapes with her harp, but never falls down the rabbit-holes of self-seriousness.
The Mark Inside
The Gladstone Hotel Ballroom Saturday, June 16 @ 11PM
With the tension of a broken beer bottle being waved in your face, The Mark Inside's menacing roar is lean rock for these mean times. Since the belated release of their Nothing to Admit album last year, the band has been patiently building momentum — just like the guy drinking bourbon at the corner table all night suddenly leaping to his feet with an ambiguous burst of energy.
Listen! The Mark Inside - There is Nothing to Admit
El Mocambo (Upstairs), Thursday, June 14 @ 1AM
Another no-nonsense retro-referencing rock unit, this Optical Sounds-affiliated crew has always had an engaging live attack — now enhanced with some ace new songs from their forthcoming Psychotomimetic Dopamine album.
Listen! Revolvers - Break it Loose
Old World Vulture
The Piston, Thursday, June 14 @ 8PM
"Post rock" is too narrow a tag for this local quartet. Yes, they play instrumental music with shifting textures, but there's something sleeker percolating underneath. Their new Trophy Lovers is dropping soon, so I imagine the band will be presenting some of its tracks with the urgency of the new.
Listen! Old World Vulture - Last Kicks of a Dying Horse
Rivoli, Thursday, June 14 @ 9PM
If you're heading to the Arts & Crafts showcase at Rivoli, make sure to head down early to catch this trio. Their mix of power pop and new wave is a bit reminiscent of something that Don Dixon might have worked up with Marti Jones.
Sean Nicholas Savage
The Garrison, Saturday, June 16 @ 9PM
One of the most prolific workers on the Montréal scene, Savage shifts musical identities (balladeer! disco-lord!) with new releases that have been coming at a rapid clip. But live it all finds unity in the fact that above all he wants to be a capital-E Entertainer and make you dance.
The Boat, Wednesday, June 13 @ 10PM
Another band with an enormous will-to-entertain, Tomboyfriend is like a musical-multiple-personality case — their multitudes manage to encapsulate scrappy rock cowbell-clangers, tin-pan-alley ballads and sounds-like-showtunes in one multiheaded, multimedia beast.
Listen! Tomboyfriend - Hardboiled Wonderland
The Detour Bar, Thursday, June 14 @ 1AM
Punch the clock with This Mess as they pump out hardcore-informed noisebursts with machinelike precision and postindustrial passion.
Listen! This Mess - ½ Steps
The Two Koreas
Velvet Underground, Friday, June 15 @ 10PM
Still defying critical analysis (because all the critics are on stage), The Two Koreas synthesize the coolest records you never heard into danceable bursts of drone, repetition and stage banter.
Listen! The Two Koreas - Bad Captains/Boy Teen Oslo
If all that ain't enough, here's a lightning round of parting suggestions... call it good bands stuck with extra-reductive blurbs.
If you're looking for intelligent hip-hop, check out Abstract Random (Velvet Underground, Wednesday, June 13 @ 9PM).
If you're looking for a slinky banjo-fied hoedown, check out BEAMS (The Sister Saturday, June 16 @ 11PM).
If you're looking for next-wave disco, check out Christien Summers (El Mocambo (Main Floor), Friday, June 15 @ 8PM; Cameron House, Saturday, June 16 @ 1AM ).
If you're looking for spastic, confusing noise, check out Connoisseurs Of Porn (Sneaky Dee's, Saturday, June 16 @ midnite).
If you're looking for anglophilic rock, check out The Holiday Crowd (El Mocambo (Upstairs), Wednesday, June 13 @ 1AM).
If you're looking for 90's style alt-pop, check out Papermaps (Rancho Relaxo, Thursday, June 14 @ 11PM ).