Thursday, June 27, 2013

Currente calamo: NXNE 2013 (Sunday)

NXNE 2013 (Sunday, June 16, 2013)

While these shows are relatively 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.

9 p.m.: the beverleys @ The Garrison

To close out the festival, I decided to just stay put in one spot again, which was actually an easy pick given the combination of familiar local talent and highly-touted imports to investigate. I'd actually seen the controlled frenzy of the beverleys' punk/grunge a few weeks previously, but I was excited enough that I was fully eager to see them again.

It was a pretty similar setlist, but instructive to compare sonically the difference between the modest PA at Clinton's and the roar-generation system at The Garrison.1 The guitars bled feedback, the voices had a tear-yr-throat-out edge, but the real revelation was hearing Audrey Hammer's drumming reverberating through the room.2 That combined to give the band a thunderous edge, and the middle of their set felt like back-to-back-to-back hits. The performance was, as always, a quick one, but it felt like a statement of vindication: the band announcing they'd said their piece and nothing else was required. And enough to cement my opinion that The Beverleys are certifiably among the next wave of great T.O. rock bands.3

Listen to a track from this set here.

10 p.m.: Ell V Gore @ The Garrison

That also left me eager to hear what the goth-punk howls of Ell V Gore was going to sound like in this room, after a somewhat-muddy result at the Pretty Pretty showcase a few nights previous. And indeed, there would be a weath of sonic detail audible here, from drummer Jay Anderson's little cymbal accents on "Her Vicious" to the strangled sounds of a beer bottle being used as a slide on Elliott Jones' guitar.4 Playing to a darkened stage (though still not as entirely black as we'd see a bit later on), the band had a lot of energy despite having played a full slate of official and unofficial festival sets.

Still celebrating the release of the Sex Static EP, the band was in menacing top form here. Given the mastery of their material they've been exhibiting, the most inneresting thing to see in the months ahead for this band is how they keep a sense of danger on stage, staying knife-sharp without becoming musically rote. But I reckon this isn't a group that's going to fall into easy predictability.

Listen to a track from this set here.

11 p.m.: Lower @ The Garrison

The night's second half brought a change of scene from Toronto to Copenhagen, with a pair of affiliated bands that have been touring North America together. There was a false start for Lower's set, with a bass cabinet futzing out in the first song. That led to a momentum-sapping break while a congregation on stage got things sorted out. And in the meantime, this was not a band particularly eager to engage with the crowd during the downtime.

Vocalist Adrian Toubro has a voice a bit reminiscent of G.W. Sok, but projecting despair instead of anger. He was the only member who really seemed to acknowledge the crowd, but it in a sort of ancient mariner sort of way, stoppething the passers-by as he leaned forward to tell them the story of his friends perishing in a car crash, or about a particularly grim fishing-boat accident, or something like that. He looked to be on the verge of breaking down throughout, and it occurred to me that if someone were to simply hop up on stage and give him a hug, the set would probably no longer need to continue. Behind him, the band ground out some corresponding post-punk dirges — hints of early Fugazi on quaaludes — looking bored and ignoring the crowd.

Musically, this was all right, but eventually all the sadness started to just feel a little over the top. I liked the band more after fifteen minutes than I did after a half-hour.

Listen to a track from this set here.

Midnite: Iceage @ The Garrison

The night's "secret guests" were fairly-widely known about relatively early on, though it didn't create a huge influx of patrons as Iceage took the stage. The room was full but not packed, even when people were leaving open space up front for mosh-y activity. Coming in, I had no strong opinions on the Danish quartet, though I knew they had a divisive live rep, and, I was told, a propensity for ignoring the crowd.

And while they presented a façade of youthful sullen uninterest, I think this was more of a carefully-crafted band persona. That they were more wry (and less gloomy) than they wanted to let on was hinted at in the way that guitarist Johan Wieth noodled out "Pop Goes the Weasel" while setting up. And, after taking the stage in pitch blackness, the manner in which vocalist Elias Bender Rønnenfelt implored the photographers to move back felt like total bullshit. There's no light, it's a festival, there's heaps of media folks up front (to say nothing of the camera-toting hordes) — so we can only assume that the goal all along is to have a sort of crowdsourced strobelight effect with flashbulbs going off in a continuous stream once the set began.

And, even in the dark, Rønnenfelt moved with a lot of self-aware preening, like he'd majored in Frontman Studies (perhaps with a thesis on The Birthday Party). Musically, the base of the band's sound was credible (if somewhat generic) hardcore, so their differentiation factor — at least at this stage of their career — is that they want you to think they're bored while doing it. They're all still very young, so they might find some animating joie de vivre yet, but in the meantime, I could be bored at home — so why should I bother going out to see a band cultivating it?

1 And given the amount of time I've spent tracking the patient and gradual transformation of The Garrison, I'd be remiss if I didn't note how this was the first occasion for many to see the venue's grand new illuminated sign overlooking Dundas Street — a most welcome assertion of permanence.

2 The drums, in fact, would sound great all night, and on one of those nights where The Garrison lived up to its rep as a LOUD venue, kudos are due to soundtech Ryan for keeping everything sounding so good.

3 If you need proof, the beverleys will be playing at Measure (on Brunswick, formerly Annex Live) this Saturday (June 29, 2013).

4 A frequent prop for Jones, the beer bottle here also found employment at the show's, er, climax, spraying forth while being held against his crotch.

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