NXNE Day one Round-up
Thursday June 17th 2010- DAY ONE
It’s the end of night one. I’m sitting on my couch, listening to my roommate and my best friend argue about whether or not its worth legislating that venues provide earplugs for sale. The conversation is making me want a pair of earplugs. And the buzzing of permanent ear damage in my eardrums is making me really wish I had brought a pair for the fest. (Since they don’t sell them at Lee’s Palace, FYI).
The night’s festivities started me off at King and Parliament looking for the Hyatt Regency Hotel. I get to the address 370 King St. East, but there’s no hotel there. Just an auto mechanic where google told me the hotel would be. Shit. I regroup and call my roommate. He has a brainwave and suggests 370 King St. West. Which thankfully is the right address, and I have no problem finding the huge North by North East pavilion inside of the hotel.
Once I have my pass, and my goodie bag I am flying by the seat of my pants. I have taken literally one look at the schedule, and maybe one skim through NOW’s 50 bands not to miss. I have narrowed the night down to 2 venues. I want to see LA’s Health listed in the guidebook as “noise rock”, but my interest in them lies in their links to my fav Toronto electropunks Crystal Castles. Also looking promising is the Outlaws and Gunslingers bill at Lee’s Palace. Jim Cuddy, Colleen Brown and Hawksley Workman are headlining the set and as far as big names go tonight, these are some of the biggest names playing tonight. And most importantly, one of the biggest names I can see without going to a dance or punk bar. It’s only day one. I’ve been up since 8:30, worked a whole shift, and have to wake up Friday morning to do it all over again. Wrongbar and the Social (even if Junior Boys is playing a 2 hour long set) is just going to have to wait for another night.
In that tone, I head out to my 3rd favourite venue for live music in the city- Lee’s Palace. In a trademark timing mistake, I make it to the venue for 10 which is when I think Cuddy is going on. But Andy Maize, Royal Wood, Amelia Curran, and whoever the ham was that they brought to play keyboards are entertaining enough. It was no pick of the night, but there was a funny moment when Amelia was mocking Andy’s silly but very heartfelt dancing. Then the main event came on. The room packed up and we got pushed up in front of the stage. The format of the set was this- three headlining entertainers with a back-up band. They took turns performing their material, and they each played 3 songs. Colleen was cute and earnest, and also- she proved when she kicked everyone off stage for her last song, a talented musician. Hawksley hammed it up, which was to be expected, but was the real crowd pleaser out of the 3- especially when he played his new single “Andy Warhol’s Portrait of Gretzsky”. And I know this comment is going to get me into some hot water, but Jim Cuddy was a little boring. Extremely talented yes, but also a little boring.
It’s heading into that 12 o’clock zone. Another debate. Do I stay to see my Dakota Tavern sweethearts The Beauties, or do I go to the Horseshoe to check out Elliot Brood? I decide to stay and watch The Beauties. At first the venue empties out, but it replaced with a new crowd. The fans have arrived. And those beautiful, intoxicated Dakota Tavern rock sluts. The Dakota really does have high calibre rock sluts. But will there be dancing, I wonder. I don’t have to worry. The band strikes up, the floor starts shaking and stomping. The Beauties fun mix of badass rock and roll and country stylings reminds me of our first time together, at that basement Ossington tavern. I learned that night that country music didn’t have to suck, and as shake my little booty all over the dance floor- I think to myself, why the fuck are these guys significantly more entertaining than Jim Cuddy? Maybe it’s just a generational thing.
I get talked into going down my second favourite venue in the city, the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern, to see this band called The Junction. (“They’ve been playing together for 10 years and you haven’t seen them!?”) So I head down there, which is a breeze because I had the foresight to take the bike out tonight. Except the band doesn’t get on until 2 PM, which is a little past my bedtime. Instead another Toronto act, The Ghost is Dancing, was on stage. The act was cute, very young, and if there is such a thing as “the indie sound” then they have it. They could’ve been tighter, but then they would have to be less excited. And excitement was the best thing about these guys. The bassist (I think) was all painted up in glitter pant. The lead singer stripped down to his boxer shorts while the female singer did a cover of “Letter From an Occupant” that would’ve made The New Pornographers blush. Oh and the crowd surfing. That’s a band that I’d like to see more of as they mature. That female singer was so spot on, whoever she is.
I didn’t stick around for The Junction, but was tidillated by the mention of a special guest at my first favourite venue in the city- the Dakota Tavern. There was a line when I got there, but for once in my life I was cool enough to bypass thanks to fancy media privileges. The special guest ended up being a real crowd pleaser- Japandroids. But although the set was solid, and a rare mosh pit had started up in front of that usually more country than rock and roll stage, my bedtime was fast approaching so I headed home.
Oh, and about the headphones- I have just turned my NXNE goodie bag inside out to discover a pair of earplugs in a convienient little package that can hook onto a set of keys. Its nice to know someone cares.