concert review: NXNE @ various venues (Toronto, Ontario), June 13, 2008
The Pack A.D. @ Sneaky Dee's (June 13, 2008)
Ted Leo and The Pharmacists [MySpace] @ Yonge Dundas Square (9 pm)
It was a dream come true for me that NXNE got Ted Leo and The Pharmacists to play a free set in the heart of downtown Toronto. Ted and the group played mostly old faves plus several new tunes with the incendiary spunk they're known for and one of the musical highlights was their integration of Daft Punk's "One More Time" during one of their own tunes(which title escapes me at the moment). I half expected some political banter though Ted did make some some humourous comments along the lines that Canada's motto should be the country of polite discourse, making some sort of reference to some comments being made to him by fans near the front of the stage. Ironically, there was some older man in the crowd waving an American flag and spitting out expletives about Canada I think and and how the US was better, or at least that's what I think he said. A little later on, some younger guy started ingratiating himself to that older guy, then suddenly took the US flag out of the guy's hand and threw it away and then had a laugh about it. He had it coming. As the thunderstorm clouds gather over us the rain started to fall slowly and then faster as Ted and the band finished out their set in fine rock n' roll fashion just as the full-on downpour began. Good thing I had my umbrella.
Great Lake Swimmers [MySpace] @ Reverb (10 pm)
I originally had nothing on my sched for 10 pm but with the torrential downpour I decided to go to the Reverb to check out the pastoral, folk-rock sounds of Great Lake Swimmers, moreso because it was only a streetcar ride down Queen St for me (and no I hadn't even realized the irony of the torrential downpour and seeing Great Lake Swimmers). Playing as part of a CBC Radio showcase, I only managed to catch a few songs of Tony Dekker and his band who were playing to a packed house. Following Great Lake Swimmers was Toronto's Laura Barrett. I wonder how much of a crowd stuck around for her because it seemed like half the crowd(me included, though I was only leaving because I wanted to check out Young and Sexy at Sneaky Dee's) was exiting the venue after Great Lake Swimmers' set.
Young and Sexy [MySpace] @ Sneaky Dee's (11 pm)
I've been meaning to see Young and Sexy live for a while and had managed to miss every one of their past shows in Toronto. I'm not particular familiar with their catalog save for a select few songs but still those few songs I've heard were impressive works of pop sophistication albeit performed with an air of nonchalance. I've read accounts that they aren't a great live band, and perhaps on a certain level they don't have much of a live show, but like seeing that other west coast pop band The New Pornographers, sometimes the songs are enough. Young and Sexy had some nice melodies, with instrumentation that was sometimes airy but other times adding a little more intensity. Some insane fan at the front of the stage was dancing up a storm, initially entertaining, but then it was just a distraction. Vocalist Lucy Brain acknowledged him and mentioned to the crowd that he was a superfan from back west who came to many of their shows.
The Pack A.D. [MySpace] @ Sneaky Dee's (12 am)
I stuck around for The Pack A.D. who I'd heard good things about and the female guitar/drums duo did not disappoint. They were one of my favourite sets of the festival. The White Stripes comparisons are accurate but more specifically only as it relates to The White Stripes garage rock interpretation of the blues. Guitarist plays with a fiery intensity, playing some great guitar riffs and bluesy slide guitar and she sings like Janis Joplin, while drummer Maya Miller keeps the beats simple allowing Becky's voice and guitar to really take centre stage. Fave moment of the night was when Becky laid her guitar on the floor and strummed it with reckless abandon.
The Diableros [MySpace] @ Silver Dollar (1 am)
This was the first time in a while of seen The Diableros live and the first time since the personnel changes in The Diableros who's only original members are founder Pete and guitarist Ian, and now add Keith[on guitar] of Hamilton Trading Company, Mike [on drums] of Proof of Ghosts and Craig [on organ] of Fjord Rowboat. The songs blend of groaning organ, ringing and washes of guitar and Pete Carmichael's vocal yelp were great to get acquainted with although it seemed they played mostly newer songs becaues I think I only recognized one tune off of their debut. With the addition of Mike on drums, he's added a little more rhythmic texture as I'd always found orginal drummer Phoebe Lee more simplistic - not a bad thing per se, but I think I like Mike's drumming better.
Check out my photos from Day Two of NXNE over at my Flickr.