Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Currente calamo: NXNE 2013 (Saturday)

NXNE 2013 (Saturday, June 15, 2013)

While these shows are fresh in my mind I want to get some quick notes down. In the fullness of time there will be a more complete accounting of the night that'll include even more details and recordings.

8 p.m.: Andrea Parkins @ The Tranzac (Main Hall)

After some daytime excursions, I made my back to The Tranzac for what would definitely be my main stop of the night. I would have been going to this even if this show had been going on outside of NXNE, so the fact that it was integrated into the festival was even better. For all that, the crowd looked more like something you'd see at a Burn Down the Capital gig than your typical venue-hopping festival-goer.

That sense of "outsiderness" was enhanced when the night began with a set from New Yorker Andrea Parkins that would be anything but standard NXNE fare. Featuring extended technique for accordion and electroacoustic improvization, Parkins has been recording and developing her style (inspired by Fluxus and John Cage) since the 90's, and here unleashed a variety of sounds (from accordion, laptop, electronics, bells, and a roll of packing tape) with a sense of calm stewardship. Elements of noise and distortion were balanced with ethereal waves of sound, a lot of with with a frisson of sheer unexpectedness — this is not your typical accordion set. This one was totally an unexpected delight.

Listen to an excerpt from this set here.

9 p.m.: THIGHS @ The Tranzac (Main Hall)

After that, the night shifted to a different kind of noise as THIGHS began building their wall of amps on the dancefloor in front of the stage. I was amused to note the band setting up in such a manner that they'd be face-to-face with the sit-down crowd — and I was guessing that most in the front row might not have seen frontman/howler Mark Colborne in action before.

One the band let that wall of amps loose, a few of those first-row patrons moved back to protect their ears, but they were probably still within Colborne's range as he, as always, wandered off as far as his extended mic cord would allow, channelling his inner genteel psychopath — or, possibly, an alien sent to earth in human form who isn't quite sure of which things he should acknowledge/ignore/bump into/rub up against, sputtering half-intelligible bursts like "I LOSE HOPE!" all the while. The band's tightly-controlled cacophony, with its razor-sharp stops and starts, ground out behind him — a little slower and less frenetic than in the past in the first of what would turn out to be several numbers that were new to me. From the sounds of it, the band has turned over their setlist a fair amount from a year ago, with fewer of the songs from their album peppered throughout. I've been a fan of this band since I first encountered them, but this was the best-executed set I'd seen from 'em — truly a cut above.

Listen to a couple tracks from this set here.

10 p.m.: Lean Left @ The Tranzac (Main Hall)

I've already talked about this amazing set here. You can also listen to an excerpt from this set here.

Midnite: Tangiers @ The Garrison

After that, I headed into the sweatbox of The Garrison's back room for another highly-anticipated set. Tangiers released three very fine albums before packing it in, but coming out at a time when I was just starting to go to more gigs, I missed out on seeing them. Now, celebrating the ten-year anniversary of their debut Hot New Spirits, co-leaders Josh Reichmann and James Sayce had reassembled the lineup that recorded that album. Headlining a night-long showcase put together by local label Hand Drawn Dracula, there was a tightly-packed crowd that looked like they'd been waiting (all night/several years) to see this set.

When they emerged to the darkened stage, the band pulled it off with tightly-coiled, fuss-free intensity that gave them the appearance of a well-oiled touring machine more than guys who casually picked it up after such a long gap. Switching back and forth on lead vocals, the songs sounded a bit like variations on "Pirate Love", but I totally mean that as high praise. The band were focused enough on executing that there wasn't much in the way of stagecraft, but the audience was so buzzed at the start of each song that the set never lacked for palpable excitement.

It's perhaps a sober realization of age and experience over youth's dazzling energy that it seems clear that these guys could stick together and make a totally credible go of it, but that (from all reports) they don't feel the need to extend this reunion past one show — one burst of rock'n'roll glory instead of a return to the spirit-breaking slog.

Listen to a couple songs from this set here.

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