Tuesday, June 22, 2010

NXNE in Toronto (June 17, 2010)

  Best Coast: photo by Michael Ligon

This year's NXNE was arguably the best Toronto's had since it's exception in 1994, at the very least the best I've experienced since I started regularly attending the festival in 2004. Although the festival officially kicked off on Wednesday June 16, it was the next day[Thursday June 17] that the festival kicked into high gear with most people, like myself, beginning their venue hopping. Having booked off June 17 and 18 from work, I devoted some of my free time on the 17th to finally give the NXNE schedule a good look, eventually coming up with a rudimentary schedule that had me confined to the Queen West corridor for my first night of NXNE. Here's how it went:

(09 PM @ The Great Hall) - Demon's Claws (Montreal, Quebec)
Having read about this young garage trio from Montreal touring with the likes of Black Lips and King Khan & BBQ Show piqued my interest to check them out. That, combined with the fact that their set preceded bands Women and Best Coast who I really wanted to se who were also playing the same venue later that night. Unfortunately, whatever qualities the band have didn't seem to be on display that night. While the venue was far from full at the time, neither was it empty, so really there was no excuse for the band not to bust loose and show some energy. The performance seemed a little studied, like they were trying to hit all the correct notes and rhythms, and in the end it seemed they hardly broke a sweat.

(10 PM @ The Great Hall) - Women (Calgary Alberta)
It wasn't my first time seeing Calgary indie four-piece Women live. I'd first saw them live at last year's Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona, Spain whose angular instrumentation, jagged melodies and solid rhythms made an impression on me. By this time of the night, the venue had nicely filled in, obviously people there to start off their night with Women, or at least set themselves up comfortably for buzz band Best Coast who were coming up next. The pace of the set progressed nicely, so nice, that at the end I was left wanting more. The band's debut album Women was released through Flemish Eye / Jagjaguwar in 2008 and the band will be releasing their follow-up Public Strain through the same outlets on September 28.

(11 PM @ The Great Hall) - Best Coast (Los Angeles, California)
It's always fun to catch a buzz band or two during a music festival, and one such band of this year's NXNE was Los Angeles trio Best Coast. Marrying sunkissed-California pop music with Shangri-La's garage rock with just a touch of melancholy, it's a formula could be limiting but fortunately the band write such delectable melodies that they transcend those limitations. It was a bit seredipitous that the band were on just as their beloved Lakers were in the final minutes of securing their win in the NBA Finals over the Celtics. Vocalist Bethany Cosentino prompted the audience for the score with a member of the audience yelling out that Boston sucks and Ms. Cosentino responding back cheekily 'you suck'. I'm neither a Kobe hater or Lakers hater, but I was going for the Celtics myself so 'boo' to Bethany for cheering on the Lakers but 'yay' to the band's great set. The band's as-yet-untitled and label-less debut LP is apparently to come out later this year according to Pitchfork.

(12 PM @ The Great Hall) - CocoComa (Chicago, Illinois)
The midnight timeslot wasn't written in stone for me although I'd tentatively pencilled in seeing Toronto's The Coast down the street at the Gladstone Ballroom. Before I took off, and partly on Mechanical Forest Sound's recommendation, I stayed for several songs during the intriguely-named CocoComa's set. Featuring the husband & wife duo of Bill & Lisa Roe, TJ Brock on bass and Anthony Cozzi on organ, the band's sound has been described as garage-punk. They were as authentic, energetic and adept at their genre as I'd hoped and really made up for Demon's Claw's lacklustre set earlier that evening.

(12 PM @ Gladstone Ballroom) - The Coast (Toronto, Ontario)
While I'd been enjoying CocoComa's set over at The Great Hall, I made a conscious decision to leave partway to catch Toronto's The Coast who I hadn't seen live since their instore at Sunrise Records last year as part of NXNE. The four-piece outfit consisting of Ben, Ian, Jord and Luke, was also featuring a fifth member who I'm not sure is a permanent member of the group, but was adding some keyboards and background vox on occasion. As young as the core members are, this fifth member looked even younger than them. Unfortunatley I only caught several songs, none of which I recognized, and I believe some and or all were new songs. The band seems to have strayed from their Brit-infuenced, anthemic beginnings, opting nowadays for a more straightforward pop-rock sound. It doesn't leave me as breathless like they used to but, they still hit the mark more often than not. For the intimate settings of the Gladstone, it was a fairly full house, and if one thing is consisent, the band continues to maintain a loyal female contingent.

(01 AM @ Wrongbar) - Glass Candy (Portland, Oregon)
The final set of the night for me would be to see Portland, Oregon, electro-disco duo Glass Candy playing down the street from the Gladstone at Wrongbar. The last time I'd seen them play live was back in October 2009 at The Garrison. As Glass Candy initiated me into the then-new-to-me venue The Garrison, this time around the duo did the same with Wrongbar, a venue I'd never been to before that night. Like The Garrison, the packed house onhand for Glass Candy in Wrongbar made for a warm venue. While the duo's set back in October 2009 had the benefit of being a full headlining set, NXNE's restriction of set times to approximately half an hour in length meant that Glass Candy's set was over far sooner than anyone felt it should have. Glass Candy were pretty hot almost right from the start, producer/keyboardist Johnny Jewel at the helm of keyboard/sampler duties and working out the grooves with vigor and skill, and lead vocalist Ida No the very definition of disco-soul diva, prancing around the stage and singing and playing up to crowd. And the crowd were eating up every last bit of it. Too band it was over so soon.

Photos: NXNE in Toronto (June 17, 2010)

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