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So, NXNE 2014- what’s good?

June 17, 2014

Up until about a week ago, greetings from toronto was feeling pretty stoked about NXNE. This would be my 5th consecutive year of participating in the week long, all-day/all-night music & culture bingeing that is North by North East. I’ve been working on my party stamina all month- with a strict regimen of staying up late, day drinking, and putting in appearances at the right parties across the city’s diverse music scene. Last year I really upped my festival game by participating in NXNE as BOTH an artist and a volunteer with the inauguration of NXNE ART. Under the pseudonym “Natty Emme”, I took my band drawings to a whole new level by launching ongoing project #Iwanttodrawyourband. And possibly the coolest part was that I was actually invited by the festival to do this project. I had actually only applied to volunteer for NXNE ART (which as a purveyor of art projects spanning the art & music scene, I was pretty stoked to see NXNE including visual art in their scope)- so imagine my surprise and delight when they invited me to come and make band drawings as an official part of their festival!

It was pretty great! Until then I had really only done music coverage for Music Vice, and participating in NXNE ART really opened the doors to let me do music coverage for my own project. As I turned my art into a regular practice and pushed myself to provide better & more frequent work, I really saw my practice beginning to pay off- with more invitations to provide artistic coverage of events, and more opportunities to show work. (I participated in 9 shows last year between April-November, 2 of our own curation). I’ve started to lay down the frame work to co-create with some really great & diverse collaborators, and I’m excited to see greetings from toronto growing into a truly collective effort that is going places.

And yeah, I felt like participating in NXNE really helped with giving me the confidence I needed to feel like a player in this scene. We threw our own unofficial NXNE (unofficial WORLDPRIDE, official BIKE MONTH) art bash at the Black Cat this past Saturday as a kick off to the fest. I’m headed back to the Black Cat tonight to be a part of the officially sanctioned NXNE Photo Show– so you can understand why I’m pretty bummed out to not have received official NXNE media status this year. We applied for passes, but only got back a stock response saying that due to the huge number of applicants this year we didn’t get the privilege of covering it. I thought the stock response was a little cold, but we fared better than our Music Vice mentor Brian- who was given 2 passes, only to have his status revoked mysteriously 2 days later in spite of his ongoing support of the fest. We weren’t the only indie publications to be left out in the cold. I was even more surprised to learn the Mechanical Forest of Sound was cut from the list of well, which is frankly a wonderful and on point, local indie publication. NXNE & NOW are the big game in town as far as the “independents” are concerned, and we’ve always had a good relationship- so I’m a little disappointed to see them ring in the 20th anniversary of their fest by breaking with their ties in the indie community- rather than celebrating Toronto’s lush network of artistic independents, working together to keep the scene vibrant for little more compensation than their own passion.

I know what you’re thinking. Just buy a wristband already! They’re so affordable!

OH, but wait! The wristbands have actually more than doubled to $149 this year- a last minute expense that as an emerging (read most unpaid) arts worker, I can’t actually afford. Ehab and I actually frequently pay for entrance to shows to the shows we end up covering- which is by no means industry standard. However, we think it’s important to support these kind of ferociously creative, independently curated events monetarily so that they can happen.

But even though I’m rather disappointed to not be doing NXNE in any official capacity this year- that also doesn’t mean we’re skipping our favourite festival of the year. Here’s our round up of the events we’re most excited for this year, including WHY NXNE SUCKS– a free panel Fri June 20th at 1 PM where NXNE will be taking comments and criticism on the event.

Here are our top picks:

1) LE1F @ VICE ISLAND party- Thurs June 19

It’s taken me a while to really get the hang of really rocking NXNE. It’s not all about the events listed on the schedule. There are also a bunch of day time events being hosted by various publications, labels, etc.- where you can hob nob with music industry types and super fans- all while getting blitzed on a weekday. So far I haven’t made it to any of these day time BBQs. The biggest & most debaucherous of these looks to be the VICE Magazine bash on the Toronto Island- so I figured that would be a good place to start. They are also hosting the performer I am most excited to see, queer hip hop artist LE1F. However, you can only come to this day time debauchery if you have RSVPed in advance (sorry it’s closed now), or if you have a magical NXNE wristband. Arrive early, as it’s going to fill up fast.


So apparently the cover band fronted by Macaulay Culkin, and rewriting songs by the Velvet Underground to more pizza centric lyrics has been less than a hit. They were booed off stage in the UK, but I’m hoping that this experience will fall into that “so bad it’s good” category of artistic endeavours. Because of my tendencies toward tacky, this rates highly with me. There is nothing I want to do more than eat pizza with M. Culkin, while listening to his hoakie cover band- and there are 4 chances to do it. I’m planning on catching their free performance at the Edward Day Gallery at 10:30 AM, while hung over from VICE ISLAND debauchery. That just seems perfect.


Complain though I will about the hike in fest passes this year, the hands down- best part about NXNE is that the biggest shows are free in Yonge & Dundas Square. Yes, you will have to hack it out with all the casual concert goers who are bound to swarm the square- and yes you will have to arrive early if you want to get a halfway decent viewing position- but it is worth it! I have often neglected great sets at smaller venues even when having full Media access to every venue in the city to check out these hot, free shows. This year boasts St. Vincent (which I will definitely attend), as well as performances by Sleigh Bells, Alvvays, Swan, and Juicy Jay all promising top notch outdoor entertainment for those willing to brave the crowds. (Check the schedulizer for more info.)

4) Even more free music!

Check out even more free music and events all weekend long at Edward Day Gallery  (also host to a pretty cool indie label fair on Sunday) and at the Great Heart Festival put on by the Live in Bellwoods music series. Our favourite pick is Doomsquad, and they’re performing sets with both.

5) Thursday night dilemma, Wavelength or FUCK BUTTONS?

Well the Thursday night dilemma just got a little easier because half the reason I want to go to Adelaide Hall has mysteriously pulled out of the show. I don’t know any more about it, but Egyptrixx (who I was really looking forward to seeing) is no longer featured on the Adelaide Hall Thursday night bill, also featuring FUCK BUTTONS. Wavelength is also hosting a show the same night at the Great Hall, featuring Tim Hecker and White Poppy and Fresh Snow! Definitely a show for those who looking for the best in both genre-defying, and high quality experimental music curation. Also, there’s something nice about the community feeling of a Wavelength show after a bunch of free shows with less than appreciative audiences.


Don’t have a festival pass? Not to fret. It’s taken a long time to learn, but some of the best NXNE shows are the unaffiliated ones. Petra Glynt is playing our 2 favourite picks for UNOFFICIAL NXNE shows, including a Saturday night Unofficial Festival Rager at Soybomb, and Unaffiliated 01 at Artscape on Sunday.


It’s the only official show Ehab is really excited about. They play the 1 AM slot on Friday at the Horseshoe Tavern.


-If you see someone with a sketch book at NXNE, that’s us! Say hi, and maybe we’ll give you a copy of the free zine we’ve put together to celebrate 1 year of #Iwanttodrawyourband @ NXNE & beyond!



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