NXNE Day two Round-up
Friday June 18th 2010- DAY TWO
My initial thoughts for day two, the Friday night of the North by North East festival were to ditch the free Yonge and Dundas Square show and to go spend the night at the Gladstone Ballroom for the NOW Magazine showcase of artists. There were a bunch of artists that I’d read about when NOW Magazine first published the schedule, Mathemagic, Ghost Bees, DD/MM/YY, and Torro Torro. Also, one of my favourite artists from the Arts & Crafts Timber Timbre, who won me over first with his 2009 Polaris Prize nominated album of the same name- and then later with a smouldering TPL Make Some Noise performance- was scheduled for a performance that night.
So far I had experienced the North by North East festival by myself. A 55 dollar wristband is inexpensive for the festival, and covers itself in cost if you hit one venue every night, but its still out of reach for some people. And it’s not even worth it if you don’t have the whole weekend off to party because a lot of venues get too crowded for anyone but priority pass holders to get into once the evening really starts to get rip-roaring, which makes it tempting not to switch venues throughout the evening. Most of my friends are students, work retail, or unemployed right now. That’s okay though, because the festival has really gone out of its way this year to provide free shows at Yonge and Dundas Square that not only don’t suck, but have such a good line-up that its worth bypassing the early shows to go and party like the proletariat.
One of my best friends from forgotten high.schooldom, Karl Smyth, just moved into the area. One of the things that really brought us together in high school was our mutual love of a Halifax band that relocated to Toronto, Sloan. Karl and I have seen Sloan once together before at the Kool Haus, it would’ve been around the time when their singles album came out because they were playing singles. Much to my chagrin, Karl moved to Ottawa to pursue an education in psychology after that, where he also continued to follow Sloan whenever they would come to the city, as well as following their new releases.
I wasn’t as good a fan. I went to see them at Canadian Music Week in 2008 with another close friend Paula. I hadn’t yet started going to concerts constantly and addictively, so it was rare that I saw the same band twice. It’s an attitude I still take, tending to be a music explorer than listening to the same bands all the time. It was like my embryonic music listening stage. Shareware was new, and we could download singles of any popular band we wanted. Indie music was less prevalent on the internet then, finding it wasn’t as easy as just going to a BitTorrent site and just typing in the name of your favourite indie band and then just finding entire albums of artists that didn’t get airtime on Much Music. But then, I wasn’t listening to much indie music then, just punk. You bought the music at the shows and it was all DIY packaging, and it looked it. There was probably much more of a scene there then I remember, but the punk bands were the only ones touring to our tiny towns to play all-ages shows for all of us. So otherwise, my taste was whatever EDGE 102.1 or Q107.1 was playing.
Sloan was an indie band that did get a lot of play on the EDGE though, thanks to Canadian Content laws. And they were one that I’ve followed since their album Navy Blues released in 1998. (Holy shit, I’ve been a Sloan fan for 12 years). I kind of forgot about them for a bit. I haven’t picked up B Sides Win or Hit and Run although I really would love to hear the B sides at the very least. So I decided to change my mind and check out the free show. Why in the hell would I go to the Gladstone by myself to check out a bunch of indie bands I haven’t heard yet by myself? Sure you get hipster cred for doing things like that, but is it really worth ditching my sister, Karl, Chris, Jay, Pat, and Andrew for? Not really.
Also on the bill for the evening were Vancouver based Said the Whale, who I wanted to see, (but I wanted to stay on top of my festival coverage more) and Toronto hip-hop scene hero K-OS. I ended up missing Said the Whale, which is disappointing because there are always more chances to see a local band than one from across the country. But we did arrive in time to get a decent spot for the K-OS show. Miraculously there was still room to move around even though the event was well attended. On the right side of the stage where wristbands for the whole event or a single evening of NXNE fun were available, sponsors of the events were giving out products. But refreshingly enough, one thing they were giving out was a flavoured water product. I am generally against the idea of selling bottled water. It’s such a wasteful idea and apparently there’s more bacteria in it than tap water. But at events like concerts, its inevitable that you’re going to want some water at some point, and water fountains just aren’t common enough (you would need a lot for a concert, but you could actually do them in that concrete culture playground of Yonge and Dundas Square. There’s my suggestion to the mayoral candidates in the city of Toronto, why aren’t there 50-100 waterfountains in Yonge and Dundas square. Talk about cutting down on garbage.) But even if we cut the number of people buying water, waterbottles are always going to be at concerts because there will always be thirsty people at venues, and venues always want to take advantage of them at 4 bucks a pop, so it was nice to see that this time water was being given away.
The show was being broadcast live on show sponsors’ Sirius Satellite Radio’s all Canadian radio station, channel 85 The Iceberg. One of the hosts for the evening was Iceberg DJ Della, who wasn’t very charismatic. She introduced K-OS onto the stage for his 40 minute set. He sent his band on first to warm us up while he made an entrance, and I took this to check out the band. Karl and I had attended one of The Order of Good Cheer’s June resident spots at the Piston, and one of their special guests had been a buddy they introduced as Scuba Steve, guitarist for K-OS. He was there. Then the man Kheaven himself took the stage. I was worried at first that it was going to be a low-energy show. At first he came off as a little too chill and no one was answering the call-back, but once the band and the crowd warmed up a little bit, I began to understand why my sister had told me K-OS was the highlight of EDGEFEST for her last year. His rapping was producing some unpolished sounds near the beginning of the set, but that didn’t last long. And his singing was spot-on sitting on top of the sound of his very talented band. He played some crowd-pleasers like “Valhalla”, “Crabbuckit”, and “Sunday Morning”. Just to make sure we were awake, he and the band played a 15 second sample of “O.P.P.” and then “Space Oddity”. For his last song he invited a friend from the world of early hiphop on the stage. I didn’t recognize him, but I was with a friend who did. I’ll get back to you on that.
Some people were calling for one more when K-OS left the stage, but there are no one mores for sets like this. After a short wait, Damien from Fucked Up came out to introduce the headliners Sloan to a now very filled out crowd. They played a very long set of mostly singles, with a few songs with Andrew singing mixed in. The set started off “The Good in Everyone” which got the crowd jumping. They also played “Money City Maniacs”, “Everything You’ve Done Wrong”, “The Other Man”, “The Rest Of My Life”, one of my favourites “People Of The Sky”, and if I remember correctly they closed the set with rock anthem from the album that was written to help them break the American market, “If It Feels Good Do It”. The band left the stage to thundering accolades, and then the crowd started off the call to get the band on stage again. SLO-OAN! SLO-OAN! I explain to my sister this is always the call to get the band on stage. And they don’t disappoint us, taking to the stage for 4 more songs for us to rock out to, including another tune from Andrew and “Coax Me”. I ask my sister’s hip-hop friend how he’s liking it. He says the energy is infectious. And it is. Like a lot of the Canadian bands I know from when this band was getting famous, they put on a damn good live show- and maybe a few people who came out to the show just because it was a free event who’d never heard them before might have come out of the show fans.
By the time the show ended it was 11:10. That didn’t leave time to bike to anywhere and catch a show since all the shows start on the hour and only lasts for 40 minutes. We decided to grab some refreshment and head to the Horseshoe Tavern to check out Man or Astroman’s 12AM set, but we got there right at 12 and priority passes only got in the door. I had one, but Karl didn’t so we went over to the Rivoli. I’d never heard of either of the bands, and under the advice for the last band of the evening it was listed “if you like Linkin Park“. That band, Prototype-A, ended up being as distasteful as I could have expected from that description. Their sound was together, but they were all sizzle and no steak. Their sound was somewhere between two of my favourite least favourite bands, Fall Out Boy and Linkin Park. They brought their own fog machine, spotlights, back lighting, and strobe lighting. Unfortunately they didn’t bring “it”. Whatever that is. But Whale Tooth was very cool. The guidebook offered on them “if you like The New Pornographers“. (Why yes I do). At first I didn’t see the link. The female lead was wearing a mid-thigh length pencil skirt and an untucked button-down red shirt with a black tie. Her lips were painted red. She was foxy, and her voice was sexy, high energy pop. But eventually the smart but catchy pop rock grew on me, and I could see the comparison. There was one song about lusting for the tropics in Toronto cold called “Coastline” and another about that was about and maybe called night city lovers. I wanted a cd, but they’re a local band and there’s a new release on the way. Hopefully there’ll be a cd release to attend some time in the near future.
Well there’s my wrap up for day two. If you go out tonight there’s a great free show at Yonge and Dundas Square by The Raveonettes at 8PM and Iggy Pop and The Stooges at 9:30PM. If you do go to that show it won’t get out until 11, which writes off an 11 PM show. But make haste because if you don’t have a priority pass you might not get into the venue if you cut it too close to midnight. And make sure you have a back-up plan so you’re not disappointed if you can’t get in.