Thursday, June 19, 2008

NXNE 2008 - Day 3

concert review: NXNE @ various venues (Toronto, Ontario), June 14, 2008

Jeff McDonald (Redd Kross) @ Lee's Palace (June 14, 2008)
Redd Kross' Jeff McDonald at Lee's Palace: photo by Michael Ligon

Julie Doiron [MySpace] / Calm Down It's Monday @ Sonic Boom (6 pm)

It was serendipitous that Sonic Boom added Sackville's Julie Doiron for an early evening instore set which I was able to attend since I missed Julie's set at the Horseshoe the previous night (due to choosing to see Young and Sexy at Sneaky Dee's instead). Performing with her Calm Down Its Monday other half Dick Morello on drums with Julie on guitar and vocals, it seemed as if Julie's been revelling in her recent Eric's Trip shows as her guitar sounds during this set were of the fuzzy electric variety. That combined with the drums, there was more oomph in the instrumentation and even in her vocals which I don't normally associate with Julie's usually gentle almost fragile nature. She's no Broken Girl anymore. Unplanned it seemed, she asked if anyone wanted to hear some Calm Down It's Monday songs and then with a little encouragement her and partner switched rols. Instrumentally, there was little difference between CDIM's and Julie's set, though CDIM's songs were IMO had a rootsier flavour. Julie on drums at one point mentioned her fifty something mother was taking drumming lessons and was technically a better drummer than her but Julie said she taught her a few licks.

Catnip [MySpace] @ Rancho Relaxo (9 pm)

Saturday was riddled with public transit troubles as I found out. I headed down to Harbourfront to kill some time and check out what was going on for Luminat'eau. Quarter to 9 I decided to head to Rancho Relaxo by streetcar only to find out that there were some changes to he route (ie. I had to take one streetcar, transfer to a bus, then take another streetcar). Basically it made me late for Australia's Catnip who had likely took the stage promptly at nine as I think I arrived there around 25 minutes after and barely caught a couple of songs. Having sampled their hazy, ambient pop soundscapes over at their MySpace and liked what I head I was somewhat disappointed that Catnip were performing as a duo rather than a full band. I guess it's not necessarily fair of me to judge them based on only a couple of songs but with only Nerida Trask on vocals(and melodica at least on one song) and a guitarist, and without the benefit of at least a drummer, their set didn't capture the atmosphere of their recorded output which had drawn me to them in the first place. Take this as constructive criticism and not a slight against them.

Adam and The Amethysts [MySpace] @ Silver Dollar (10 pm)

Montreal's Adam and The Amethysts (which features Adam Waito who also plays in Miracle Fortress) chose NXNE as their live debut and Adam and the three other members(two females on guitar and keyboards, and a gent on drums) seemed to make a good impression their first time out. All in all it was your standard, simple indie pop/rock fare performed with a nonchalance but above all the songs had some nice melodies. Their female vocalist used a toy microphone on one song to provide some echo(but only half successfully) to her background vocals and on a few songs they brought out another young gent to play some extra percussion. In a rare NXNE occasion, the crowd convinced them for an encore, which Adam eventually provided but only him solo performing a somewhat folky, rootsy number. Hey, does anyone think Adam's a deadringer for Jamie Oliver? Adam and The Amethysts next play in Toronto on July 26 at Sneaky Dee's with Think About Life and Miracle Fortress.

Aleks and The Ramps [MySpace] @ Rancho Relaxo (11 pm)

It was a hop, skip and a jump back to Rancho Relaxo, which in a way was a blessing since it conserved my energy for what would be a somewhat tiring ordeal for the rest of the night after Australian band Aleks and The Ramps' set. From the getgo I knew they were going to be interesting given their 80's gym attire. Their lone female member wore a 80's tank top/shorts outfit and looked adorable. One of the guys wore a t-shirt which read 'Italians Do It Better'. They started out their set on the floor in front of the stage doing some co-ordinated dance moves before picking up some percussive instruments lined up on the floor in front of them then running around the venue and dancing before jumping on to the stage to perform the rest of the set. At their heart they're a zany indie pop band (who reminded me of Architecture in Helsinki) with all the usual rock band instrumentation plus banjo but with an experimental/noisy element. At times I wondered if their experimental/noisy side was just a coverup for a lack of musicianship but then realized it wasn't - it was just an element they chose to incorporate into their sound (think Wilco and "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot"). Sometimes I wished they'd tone down their experimental/noisy side and let the melodies shine through but that's just my preference. Even a song like the Magnetic Fields-ish "Hey Owl" (heard on their MySpace and which drew me to them in the first place) suffered IMO somewhat under the weight of the denser instrumentation they chose to perform the song this night. That said, it was still my favourite song of their set.

This Is Radio Freedom @ Holy Joe's (12 am)

Public transit was shit even more than usual with a combination of route changes and detours due to construction and the neighbourhood festival happening in Little Italy. A combination of walking/running and catching at least one streetcar and I finally made it down to Holy Joes but only to catch the last few songs of UK's This Is Radio Freedom's set. As small as a room as it is it still wasn't packed to the rafters but their were a good number of people there for the size of the room which made it appear respectable. The song I most wanted to hear, their single "Bombthreat", they saved for last making my whole ordeal just getting down there all worthwhile. Fantastic single. The few other songs I'd heard weren't quite up to that level but still worthy listens. Their brand of melodic anthemic rock music (with some electronic elements mixed in at times) seems ready-made for an outdoor festival stage, apparently something they've experienced in their native UK, and hopefully sometime they'll get to experience in North America in the future.

Redd Kross [MySpace] @ Lee's Palace (1 am)

I was never a huge Redd Kross fan. I could and can still only name two songs of theirs by name ('Jimmy's Fantasy' and 'Lady In The Front Row', both of which they performed this night). But, it turned out to be an exhiliratingly, good time and what better way to end off my NXNE. A set of glammy, pop numbers, insanely great guitar work by Robert Hecker, a band decked out in nice cool suits, and the extremely witty and charming banter of lead vocalist Jeff McDonand all contributed to a thoroughly appreciated set by the fans in attendance. At one point, Jeff pulled a digital camera and started to film the audience in order to gather evidence for his preteen daughter(apparently a Jonas Brothers fan) that people in Toronto really like Redd Kross. I'm sure we gave her more than sufficient evidence [check out the video at about the 4 min mark].

And so ends my NXNE for another year.

Check out my photos from Day Three of NXNE over at my Flickr.

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