Monday, June 10, 2013

NXNE 2013: Preview (Part I)

As always, there's way more to take in during NXNE than I could possibly wrap my head around. There's a lot of good bands spread over a full slate of showcases from Wednesday to Saturday, so if you have the stamina to go out every night, this is one festival where the price of a wristband can be justified. Tomorrow, I'll present a heaping helping of bands that it'd be worth seeing if you're skipping around from place to place [now posted here!], but for today I'll start with a whole bunch of shows that it would be worth going to if you wanted to settle at one spot all night long.

N.B. All samples below are live recordings from my previously-posted field excursions, and should give you some idea of what to expect from these artists.

Wednesday, June 12

Afrofest @ The Gladstone Hotel Ballroom
Njacko Backo (8 PM) / Tich Maredza Band (9 PM) / Madagascar Slim (10 PM) / Foly Asiko (11 PM) / Trinity (midnite)

Afrofest is one of Toronto's great summer traditions (this year on July 6 & 7), and this year they'll be celebrating their twenty-fifth anniversary. They'll be complementing their lineup announcement with this night of some of the best local African musicians. Njacko Backo's drumming and storytelling styles will give you a good jolt of energy to lead off the night and the rest of these bands will get you dancing. If you want to put your badge or wristband to use in discovering new music, here's a whole other continent you can explore.
Listen! Njacko Backo - James Brown Style
Madagascar Slim - Mbo

Tin Angel @ The Piston
Bernice (8 PM) / Ed Askew (9 PM) / Two Wings (10 PM) / Devon Sproule + Mike O'Neill (11 PM) / Marker Starling (midnite) / Opal Onyx (1 AM)

England's Tin Angel records maintains some strong T.O. connections, helping release some fine local talent on the other side of the pond. I'm more familiar with that contingent in this showcase, and I can attent that they alone make it worth parking yourself in the Piston's back room all night. The sophisticated grooves of Robin Dann's Bernice reveal a true understated gem, just now starting to play more gigs and get some notice, while the songs that Devon Sproule and Mike O'Neill recorded in town together earlier this year now have a release date set (September 24th) and will be eager to show their colours and Marker Starling (formerly Mantler) will guarantee you a good time with their Wurlitzer pop stylings. Meanwhile, I'm intrigued with the opportunity to see Ed Askew, who released a freak-folk album on the esteemed ESP label in 1967.
Listen! Bernice - Body Motivation
Devon Sproule - Colours
Marker Starling - Childman

Thursday, June 13

Pretty Pretty @ BLK BOX
Dream Affair (8PM) / Black Marble (9 PM) / Cellphone (10 PM) / Ell V Gore (11 PM) / No Joy (midnite) / Tonstartssbandht (1 AM) / Kontravoid (2 am) / Jubal Brown (3 am)

If you believe that only darkness has the power, then this appropriately-named venue will be the place to be. Elliott Jones' party infrastructure-cum-record label veers between his own Ell V Gore's goth-punk (which is using this night to celebrate the release of their first record) and darkwave synth-based music, like that of co-founder Cam Findlay's Kontravoid. In between is everything from Cellphone's spazz-out stylings to No Joy's volumizing shoegaze. I haven't caught a set from Tonstartssbandht yet, but my sources indicate they put on a great live show.
Listen! Ell V Gore - Scandals/Her Vicious
No Joy - Ghost Blonde

Wavelength @ Creatures Creating
Home Alone (9 PM) / Miss Elizabeth (10 PM) / Petra Glynt (11 PM) / PROGRAM (midnite) / doomsquad (1 AM)

Helping to keep NXNE interesting, Wavelength is curating its own mini-fest over three nights at Dundas W. gallery space Creatures Creating. There's piles of local talent here, and you can consider these shows to be your best stand-by if you don't know what else to do with yourself. On this first night, there's bent dance music from Miss Elizabeth, Petra Glynt (whose Alex Mackenzie is also filling the space with an art installation) and doomsquad, plus the exacting guitar-rock of PROGRAM (who have recently renamed themselves from Volcano Playground).
Listen! Petra Glynt - Sour Paradise
Doom Squad - Born from the Marriage of the Moon and a Crocodile + Eternal Return
Volcano Playground - Everything at Once

Burn Down the Capital/Offerings @ Double Double Land
Famous Wildlife Movies (10 PM) / Man Made Hill (11 PM) / Drainolith (midnite)

The festival's propensity for absorbing some otherwise-unrelated shows means that some relatively "outside" shows are, randomly and amusingly, part of the NXNE orbit. Tad Michalak brings a lot of barely-classifiable bands to town through his Burn Down the Capital shows and is also involved with the defiantly-offline Offerings, which documents the local anomalous music scenes. Willing explorers with a wristband can gain admittance to these shows. This one is as well worth it for the undercard, with Mike Smith (formerly of Muskox) bringing his new-ish solo synth project Famous Wildlife Movies and the inimitable avant dance of Man Made Hill sharing the stage with the "twisted outing of solo guitar, synth & homemade drum pad manipulations" of Alex Moskos' (also of Aids Wolf) Drainolith project.
Listen! Man Made Hill - unknown

Friday, June 14

Wavelength @ Creatures Creating
Prom (9 PM) / Mexican Slang (10 PM) / We Were Heads (11 PM) / Ostrich Tuning (midnite) / Cellphone (1 AM)

Lots of new discoveries to be made here, on a night headlined by the gorgeous drones'n'waves of Ostrich Tuning, one of my favourite local bands.
Listen! Ostrich Tuning - unknown

Murderecords 21 Year Salute @ The Great Hall
Mike O'Neill (10 PM) / The Super Friendz (11 PM) / Sloan (midnite)

Nostalgists of a certain age will be attracted to this pop explosion, with Mike O'Neill (of The Inbreds) playing alongside two great bands that got their start in Halifax. The Super Friendz were a lot of fun at lat year's reunion show, while Sloan are promising to include a complete run-through of their career-launching Peppermint EP in their set.
Listen! Mike O'Neill - Don't Forget to Breathe
The Super Friendz - Come Clean + Rescue Us From Boredom
Sloan - Everything You've Done Wrong

Not Unlike @ Handlebar
Wizard Of (8 PM) / John Milner, You're So Boss (9 PM) / Elsa (10 PM) / bbigpigg (11 PM) / Digits (midnite) / THIGHS (1 AM) / Sailboats Are White (2 AM)

Giving Wavelength a run for their money, local label Not Unlike curates an excellent night at one of the festival's smallest venues, careening between dance music (Wizard Of, Digits) and spazzy blasts (John Milner, bbigpigg, THIGHS). In the middle of it all, check out the elegant restraint of Elsa's thinking person's guitar rock, which will appeal to fans of, say, Real Estate or later Feelies.
Listen! John Milner You're So Boss - unknown
Elsa - In Two
bbigpigg - New Tits
Digits - Because It's Wrong

Burn Down the Capital/Offerings @ Double Double Land
Brian Ruryk (10 PM) / Induced Labour (10:45 PM) / Bill Orcutt/Chris Corsano (11:45 PM)

Expect a literal junkyard bricolage to come crashing down at this user-unfriendly night, with Brian Ruryk's foundsound percussion/guitar spatter and Induced Labour ("perhaps as discomforting as their name suggests," I once noted) setting the stage for the free-noise collaboration between Bill Orcutt and Chris Corsano.

Saturday, June 15

Silent Shout @ Comfort Zone
Devan Boomen (8 PM) / Petra Glynt (9 PM) / Jay Arner (10 PM) / Prince Innocence (11 PM) / Tonstartssbandht (midnite) / Sexy Merlin (1 AM)

Silent Shout specializes in a specific grade of dark-edged electronic-based music, so you can feel secure showing up to this if your looking some a dance party with a menacing undercurrent. Expect things to get a little disoriented in the CZ's subterranean maze whether you're listening to Petra Glynt's revolutionary exuberance, Prince Innocence's icy chic, or Sexy Merlin's percussion-based wizardry.

Wavelength @ Creatures Creating
Fin (9 PM) / Os Tropies (10 PM) / Most People (11 PM) / Del Bel (midnite) / Fresh Snow (1 AM)

Wavelength's final show is also the launch of their first-ever tour, with the three bands in their artist incubator program taking to the road. It's an intriguing mix with Most People's bedroom pop, Del Bel's noirish atmospherics and Fresh Snow's kraut-inspired drones. Show up early for Os Tropies' neo-Tropicália.
Listen! Del Bel - Slave to The Deep
Fresh Snow - Nautical Smoke

Hand Drawn Dracula @ The Garrison
breeze (8 PM) / Cousins (9 PM) / Beliefs (10 PM) / Dusted (11 PM) / Tangiers (midnite) / doomsquad (1 AM) / Dream Affair (2 AM) / Greys (3 AM)

At the centre of this superbly-curated night from local label HDD is a reunion set from Tangiers. Josh Reichmann and James Sayce's band didn't quite get their due when they released the excellent Hot New Spirits in 2003, though they've gotten some renown in their later projects. The early lineup here (following up on a tasty front-room day party) is rather fabulous. Beliefs have gotten a lot of attention for their shoegaze-inspired popcraft, but the abstract jangle of Josh Korody's other band breeze shouldn't be ignored. Cousins bring a ramshackle, stripped-down DIY spirit to classic rock while Dusted, another duo, just might have some more new material to unveil.
Listen! Breeze - unknown
Cousins - Die
Beliefs - Catch My Breath
Dusted - Property Lines

Burn Down the Capital @ The Tranzac
Andrea Parkins (8 PM) / THIGHS (9 PM) / Lean Left (10 PM)

The arguable highlight of this year's festival takes place in the Tranzac's main hall, where the Terrie Hessels and Andy Moor (the guitarists from pioneering Dutch band The Ex) play alongside Paal Nilssen-Love (drums) and Ken Vandermark (sax) in a free-jazz/punk collision. Don't expect traditional structures from these excellent musicians, each of whom are equally capable of providing textural noise or stepping up to take the lead. A must-see. They'll be joined by the installation-y work of Andrea Parkins ("expect noisy disruption and soaring electronic feedback") and THIGHS' in-yr-face pigfuck squall.

Sunday, June 16

Ground Control Touring @ The Garrison
the beverleys (9 PM) / Ell V Gore (10 PM) / Lower (11 PM) / "special guest" (midnite)

As the festival winds down, there are still a number of respectable showcases on Sunday, but this one offers a one-stop destination for the night. the beverleys are one of the city's best young bands (think broken shards of Pretty on the Inside-era Hole and early Sleater-Kinney), and after a busy year with a lot of hours logged on stage, they're ready for their closeup. Another shot to see Ell V Gore here, and also Denmark punks Lower. That "special guest" isn't formally announced, but it's been widely discussed that their tourmates Iceage are taking that slot.
Listen! the beverleys - Anyway

Other tidbits and advice

These are all great destinations, and some even have the advantage that they won't be over-run by seekers of shallow "buzz". There's a lot of hype around some shows that the festival is holding at Yonge-Dundas Square, but unless you want to experience maximum human cramming and a vista of corporate tents blocking your view of the stage, it's best avoided altogether.

Otherwise, as you plan your festival, the best listings source is the gridtacular Showgopher, with streamable music from pretty much everyone playing the fest. There's a whole lot going on, especially in the daytimes, which are busier than ever with official and unofficial events. Keep an eye out for more popping up in the official offerings — as well as a whole lotta unofficial stuff.

Tomorrow: Plenty more recommendations, skewed to the show-hoppers. [Now posted here!]

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