North By Northeast East (East)
Most have already forgotten, but this past weekend saw the 14th annual NXNE music/film festival and conference shove into Toronto, bringing with it hordes of industry geeks, regular people, and oh yeah, bands. I scored two wristbands and though I wasn’t stoked on too much this year, I do enjoy scouring data and making lists, and I definitely enjoy wandering into venues with the freedom of the above mentioned wristband.
It makes perfect sense, then, that I would be out of the city (out of the province!) for the festival. Months prior, I’d taken advantage of a cheap seat sale to fly east and visit the family for a week, not realizing the overlap. NXNE apparently didn’t care about my absence and carried on anyway. Jerks:
CBC Radio 3 Showcase
Not wanting the wristbands to go to waste, I conducted a rigorous audition process to select the worthy recipient, one Shaun Axani of Toronto, to be my personal roving North By Northeast East East (I was on the east coast, get it?!) reporter.
THURSDAY JUNE 12
I’m pretty sure I sat on my ass at my Dad’s and re-read some Douglas Coupland and watched Whose Line Is It Anyway? Meanwhile, Shaun caught seven showcases! Good work, Shaun. The night’s winner seemed to be Halifax’s Mardeen (who snagged a great spot playing to a packed Rivoli for Two Hours Traffic fans). I listened to them afterwards and dig those meandering pop hooks.
Ottawa newcomers Eastborough (http://myspace.com/iloveeastborough) warmed Shaun’s heart too, and he assured me it was not entirely based on the bias of having his favourite bass player, his brother, in the band.
Next, The New Odds (which is essentially the old Odds, minus Steven Drake) apparently drew members of Sloan and Kids in the Hall to their set at the El Mocambo. And although Shaun only caught the tail end, he said the place was “filled with an awesome energy.” That energy is called a culmination of my adolescence in one room while I did jack-all billions of miles away in the room of my adolescence.
FRIDAY JUNE 13
Another jam-packed evening for NXNE reporter-by-proxy Shaun. The night started out with his annoyance at Bill Priddle’s latest post-Treble Charger effort at the Reverb, telling me through a LIVE TEXT MESSAGE UPDATE that Priddle’s “band members’ ages combined equals mine and I think he just woke up.” I was annoyed too because I had eaten a lot of pizza for dinner and my stomach was hurting a lot.
The night only got better because Shaun got to see the Great Lake Swimmers while I made my way to see M. Night Shyamalan’s new masterpiece, The Happening. Can we talk about that, by the way? [Ed.’s note: no.] INCREDIBLE. THAT IS ALL.
I guess at this point Shaun braved the rainstorm Toronto was having to be a faithful Moneen fan and check out their typically Moneen (read: good) show at the El Mocambo, as I tempted fate, nearly throwing my dad’s pick-up truck into a deer’s ass after dropping my sister off post-movie. Damned dark country roads.
Shaun saw more indie rock as I breathed into a paper bag and man, NXNE is exhausting and scary.
Also amongst his travels this night, Shaun wandered into the Horseshoe and was really confused as to why the place was so packed for some weird guy singing Christina Aguilera’s “I Am Beautiful,” wasn’t impressed, so he turned and walked out. The guy was Evan Dando.
SATURDAY JUNE 14th
Guess who made it back into town for the Saturday night NXNE shenanigans? Hint: me. It was actually less fun than doing nothing in the Maritimes and receiving text message stories about it all, but I guess it was good to experience some of the festival for myself. Thanks to some crafty maneuvering of the sturdy NXNE wristband (go scotch tape!), I was able to re-inherit the other wristband Shaun had ‘loaned’ out. Sharing is good!
We only caught three showcases this night, one of which (Philidelphia’s Adam and Dave’s Bloodline at the Kathedral) was embarrassingly non-attended, a pretty big flaw of the festival – too many bands, some of which travel a good distance, playing to empty rooms.
We decided to go upstairs to the Reverb for the always shiny happy Foxfire, and from there had my hopes of seeing The D’Urbervilles dashed as we walked up to the huge line at the Horseshoe hours before set time.
Lots of places were lined up for the 11pm/12am slots so we decided to kill some time by walking up to Lee’s Palace for iconic rockers Redd Kross. It was disgustingly hot in the venue, but Shaun got to hug Dave Foley, so even if Redd Kross weren’t awesome (they were), the night was worth it. Then we left because it was late and we are old.
Special thanks to Shaun Axani for all the footwork, which allowed me to vicariously take in the sights and sounds while in nowheretown, and for unintentionally dissing Evan Dando, which is way better than intentionally dissing Evan Dando.