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My NXNE 2011 Round Up

NXNE this year was awesome, at least what I was able to catch of it was.

As I was still feeling awfully sick, my NXNE didn’t start on Wednesday as it should have. I took the night off to watch an embarrassing hockey game that everyone told me I should watch (where the Canucks lost epically and then the people of Vancouver destroyed their own city!?), and sleep. That meant missing out on David Bazan and a few others I would have loved to see, but so it goes.

So by the time Thursday night came around I was itching to see some live music again, and after realizing I missed out on seeing my lovers Zeus at the Verge rooftop party (!!!), I popped some Cold FX, packed my purse with Kleenex and headed out to see some shows.

First I attempted to see Peter Elkas at the Rivoli, as my favorite band changed their name to this super cute song of his so I figured he might have something good going on. Unfortunately I couldn’t even get in as it was apparently packed. Kinda pointless to get a media pass when they don’t leave room for media. That sucked. I would give some highlights now, but I can’t.

I considered staying for Imaginary Cities as I saw them open for the Pixies a little while ago and they were fantastic, but in the spirit of new music decided to check out Mookie and the Loyalists at the Supermarket instead. I had no idea what to expect having never heard of them before, so when they stepped on stage in adorable matching black suits/ties I knew it would be at the very least, fun.

Their sound is something you don’t hear all that often in the Toronto music scene – a total 50s throwback. And as good as their originals were, I was officially on board when they covered both “Runaway Sue” and “Do You Love Me (Now That I Can Dance).” The 60s are my musical home, but they wouldn’t have happened without the awesomeness of the 50s rockabilly and Motown scene, so it is awesome to see a local band celebrating that sound, and doing it so well.

Mookie Morris has incredible stage presence (I heard he was on Canadian Idol at some point? haha) and a voice made for this style of music. What I would consider their single, “Here’s Your Warning”, had everyone standing and dancing immediately. They’re the only band I saw all week who had the audience cheering for one more song at the end of the set (and they delivered).


After Mookie it was time for my favorites to take the stage – Poor Young Things. If you don’t know how great I think they are by now, you must not be following me on Twitter. I first wrote about them during Canadian Music Week and as much as I loved them then, they have improved massively in the past three months. Writing a whole bunch of new tunes, they have completely grown into their own sound.

Back in March I struggled trying to describe them because it was obvious they were in a transitional phase, stuck between a heavy southern rock influence that their former MoneyHoney name was known for, and the new modern indie rock/pop sound they were striving for with Poor Young Things. Throughout a residency at Supermarket in April/May they developed that sound to perfection, and it is by far my favorite thing happening in the Toronto music scene right now.

They opened with “Runnin'”, a powerhouse song that musically matches it’s title as the beat constantly pushes the song forward, following it up with the only song that they also played during CMW – one of my all-time favorites written by bassist Scott Burke – “Trophy Kids”. “My Constellation”, and the tune with my favorite guitar work in any of their songs “The Americanist”, came next (I truly can’t wait to hear this one professionally recorded). “Blame It On The Good Times” followed, and I don’t think I need to ramble on about how much I LOVE this song. Listen below and see if you can catch why I’m more than a little obsessed with it. I consider it my new theme song (sorry Elliott Smith).


As my only disappointment with their CMW set was them not playing “Heavy Sound”, I think my constant praise of the song convinced them to finally resurrect it. It is a track that is truly meant to be played and heard live, and I get incredibly happy every time I hear the first note at one of their shows. Their decision to play it at NXNE was a good one (I’m always waiting for the slow songs when I see a band live).

After playing “Fire” they then pulled out what I now think should be their single (these guys write so many single worthy songs it blows my mind), “The Reckless Young”. I heard this song in it’s early stages when it was still called “Right Through The Sun”, so I can’t help but prefer that version, but even with the slight change in lyrics it completely embodies everything I love about music: strong songwriting, pretty guitars, audience participation, hand clapping, tambourines, Beach Boys level harmonies and driving drums. (The sound quality on this video is bad but don’t let that stop you from listening to the whole thing, it’s a fantastic song).


They closed the set with Florence and the Machine’s “Dog Days Are Over” which might be my favorite cover they’ve ever done (side-note: I was finally able to see her perform the song live the week before at Bonnaroo)! That song alone was a big reason I survived the epically shit year that 2010 was, and I absolutely love when men sing female songs and vice-versa so it was an amazing finish to the Supermarket show. Poor Young Things will hopefully have an EP or at the very least a 7 inch featuring some of their new songs out soon, so look out for it.


Following that I went to the Silver Dollar as they had shows till 4am, so I checked out a garage pop/rock band that came highly recommended – Sandman Viper Command. As it was incredibly late and I was still unfamiliar with their music, I don’t feel I can give an accurate review, but I definitely loved what I heard (clearly these guys love early Sonic Youth and that’s enough to put them on my radar). I have plans to see them/properly review them when they play Edgefest in a couple weeks. Check out the track “Rough Love” on the link above.

IdeaCity monopolized my Friday so I didn’t get to see Sheezer and the others I had planned on checking out, but I heard it was awesome good times. “All female Weezer cover band” is pretty much synonymous with awesome, so no surprise there. They only play Weezer’s good (aka first two) albums, so don’t let fears of “Beverly Hills” raping your ears stop you from checking them out if you’re unfamiliar.

Saturday was nuts. First Stars had a secret show at the Edward Day Gallery with Chad VanGaalen opening. It was too early a set time for me to make it there but they were cool enough to stream it online, so I watched and wished I was there instead. Amy just had a baby and she’s already back on tour. Amazing. (If you don’t already know and love Stars you are too far behind the music game for me to help you… go buy Set Yourself On Fire).

Then I ended up having the good luck of finally being able to cross Brian Wilson off my “musicians I must see before they die” list, which, while not really a part of NXNE, they did give out 50 tickets to NXNE pass holders so I think that justifies mentioning it here. He somehow managed to pull off a super long set, first half all Beach Boys tunes, then after an intermission he came back and played a bunch of Gershwin songs. He was backed by an outstanding group of musicians that basically carried the whole performance for him, but that didn’t make it any less brilliant. I have now watched Brian Wilson sing “God Only Knows”, and that is really all that needs to be said.

After that I headed to the El Mocambo to see Gentlemen Husbands, another band I’d heard a lot about but was still rather unfamiliar with. I loved what they played that night, but crushing news about Clarence Clemons passing reached me during their set so that bummed me out/distracted me, and then some fool in the audience spun his open beer all over everyone covering me and many others in some nasty smelling shit, kind of ruining the set for me. They have a catchy if somewhat mainstream rock sound, and I hope to catch them again at Edgefest, this time with a better knowledge of their songs.

I caught a little bit of  The Coppertone before heading to a different venue, and I remember thinking “I should stay for this” as soon as I heard her sing. This girl has one of the sexiest female voices out there in rock music, and I can’t wait to see a full set of theirs. Click their link to listen to my favorite track “I Know The Dead”.

Comfort Zone was next. I unfortunately missed Topanga earlier that night for Brian Wilson, but had heard those guys rave about playing with Peelander Z so I had to see what they were about. Only caught the end of their set but I felt like I walked into that scene in Lost In Translation at the karaoke bar. It was awesome/strange. Comfort Zone is a strange place to begin with… there are glow lights all around and it’s in a dirty little basement. In my almost 8 years living in Toronto I have never been to it until then, as its proximity to the Waverly Hotel led me to believe it was a “massage parlor”. Not a venue I see myself attending much in the future.

Finally finished off the night by heading to the Horseshoe for Wildlife, who easily earned my Best Show of NXNE title. They are incredible. As you may have read in my Topanga/Wildlife review, I had an issue with the lead singer in the band the first time I saw them and I wrote all about it instead of their music. You will be happy to hear Dean Povinsky contacted me after a friend asked him “What the hell did you do to that girl” lol which led to him reading my post and providing what I considered a rather genuine and heartfelt apology for ignoring us that night, which I accepted. Had he not got in touch with me I would still be telling you how great Wildlife is, because after seeing them twice in a few weeks and absolutely loving their performance both times, I couldn’t let a little attitude (that was actually just the factor of a rushed night) stop me from fully praising the music this time.

Strike Hard, Young Diamond is an intense record that has quickly risen to the top of my Best Albums of 2011 list. You need to own it, and you need to see them live. Beyond the epic opener “Stand In The Water” are songs like “Drunken Heart” and “American Eyes” that not only sound amazing live, but are just gorgeous tracks with perfect instrumentation and killer lyrics to back it up. I’m pretty sure I will be at all their Toronto shows from now on just so I can hear them end the set with “Killing For Fun”. What a fucking perfect closing song. They are gonna be big. If I’m sure of anything happening in the local music scene right now, it’s that. Do yourself a favor and pick up that album. At the show they announced that it is now available on vinyl (!!!).


Sunday I ended my NXNE by heading to Trinity Bellwoods park to see Teenage Kicks do a little acoustic set, as I had to miss their Saturday show because of Brian Wilson as well. That was a crushing thing for me as I’ve been Teenage Kicks obsessed since I first heard Rational Anthems. The Live in Bellwoods set was super short and they didn’t play anything off the EP, so that was a bit of a let down, but they can sing anything and it would sound good to me so I didn’t mind.

They slowed down my favorite from the 7 inch that originally caught my attention, “I Get What You Give”, and it is such a strong song that it works  just as well with the band’s full electric sound as it does acoustic. They also covered The Beatles “Two of Us”, which, as embarrassed as they may have been messing it up, was the highlight for me just watching how quick they were to help each other out. They are playing The Horseshoe again July 16th and I wish that was tomorrow, as the anticipation of seeing the full band is killing me.


Good things come to those who wait on tables.

(This song should be the theme song for every good band that played NXNE.)

So that was my week. Had I not been unbearably sick and also covering IdeaCity for my day job I would have saw a whole lot more, but I know I caught most of the stuff I really wanted to see, so it was still great. Looking so forward to next year already.




Who to See at NXNE 2011

As I just got back from Bonnaroo and am unfortunately fighting off a brutal cold (in June, seriously Jebus?) alongside the Roo exhaustion, I’ve decided to skip my usual long winded recommendations on why you should see these bands and instead just show you the schedule I made for myself using the handy scheduler NXNE has so awesomely created for our use.

It is actually physically impossible for anyone (myself included) to follow this schedule unless you are capable of splitting into multiple people, but this list includes all the bands I think are worthy of your time. If two or three are at the same time, choose randomly and I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. I’m highlighting the ones I can guarantee will put on an amazing show in teal, if you’re feeling really lazy.

All the “special guest” listings have not been announced, and I’m not sure if they will be until they’re about to walk on stage, but I do think they’re probably all safe bets for some great live music.

Also, don’t forget most venues in the city have that sweet sweet 4am extended license this week.

And for the NXNE noobs, all the Yonge Dundas Square shows are free (which means they’ll be packed with annoying people who don’t actually like music).


Wednesday, June 15

TimeGiant 12AM @ Supermarket

Library Voices 12AM @ Rivoli

Suuns 12AM @ The Garrison

Yukon Blonde 1AM @ Rivoli

Die Mannequin 1AM @ Cherry Cola’s Rock n’ Rolla Cabaret & Lounge


Thursday, June 16

Fucked Up 8:00 PM-8:40 PM @ Yonge Dundas Square

Evening Hymns 8PM @ The Music Gallery

Forest City Lovers 9PM @ The Music Gallery

Peter Elkas 9PM @ Rivoli

The Dodos 9PM @ Phoenix Concert Theatre

Deerhoof 10PM @ Phoenix Concert Theatre

Descendents 10:00 PM-10:40 PM @ Yonge Dundas Square

Imaginary Cities 11PM @ Rivoli

Shawn Clarke 11PM @ Free Times Cafe

Poor Young Things 12AM @ Supermarket

PS I Love You 2AM @ El Mocambo (Main Floor)

Chains of Love 2AM @ Sneaky Dee’s


Friday, June 17

Library Voices 7PM @ Mod Club Theatre

Junior Battles 7PM @ Phoenix Concert Theatre

The Most Serene Republic 8PM @ Mod Club Theatre

Land Of Talk 8:30 PM-9:10 PM @ Yonge Dundas Square

Secret Cities 9PM @ Wrongbar

Modernboys Moderngirls 9PM @ El Mocambo (Upstairs)

Art Brut 9PM @ Mod Club Theatre

THE DARCYS 9PM @ The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern

Stars 9:30 PM-11:00 PM @ Yonge Dundas Square

Dum Dum Girls 11PM @ Lee’s Palace

Fast Romantics 12AM @ El Mocambo (Upstairs)

Dave Borins 1AM @ C’est What

Rich Aucoin 1AM @ The Garrison

Ty Segall 1AM @ Wrongbar

Sheezer 2AM @ Sneaky Dee’s

Dum Dum Girls 2AM @ El Mocambo (Main Floor)

Neon Windbreaker 2AM @ Bovine Sex Club

No Joy 2AM @ Silver Dollar Room

The Luyas 2AM @ The Garrison

Deerhoof 2AM @ The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern


Saturday, June 18

Stars (w/ Chad VanGaalen opening) 12:30 PM @ Edward Day Gallery

Forest City Lovers 4 PM @ Trinity Bellwoods Park

Men Without Hats 8:00 PM-8:40 PM @ Yonge Dundas Square

Teenage Kicks 9PM @ The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern

Devo 9:30 PM-11:00 PM @ Yonge Dundas Square

Topanga 10PM @ Comfort Zone

Gentlemen Husbands 11PM @ El Mocambo (Main Floor)

Still Life Still 11PM @ The Drake Hotel Underground

Shad 12AM @ The Ballroom

Dinosaur Bones 12AM @ The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern

Chad VanGaalen 12AM @ The Great Hall

Secret Cities 12AM @ Dakota Tavern

Special Guest 1AM @ El Mocambo (Main Floor)

Die Mannequin 1:00 AM-1:30 AM @ Gladstone Hotel Ballroom

Handsome Furs 1AM @ The Garrison

The Balconies 1AM @ Sneaky Dee’s

Wildlife 2AM @ The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern

Special Guest 2AM @ Bovine Sex Club


Sunday, June 19

Teenage Kicks 4:30 PM @ Trinity Bellwoods Park

Modernboys Moderngirls 10PM @ Sneaky Dee’s


If you haven’t made your NXNE schedule yet, you need to get on that immediately as the Film and Interactive sections of the festival have already started. Also, if you’re smart you will get to Lee’s Palace asap to be one of the 75 wristbands to get in to see one of my favorite songwriters David Bazan play tonight at 8pm.