Monday, June 12, 2006

NXNE - 08 June 2006

concert review: NXNE @ various venues(Toronto, Ontario), Thursday June 8, 2006

The Duke Spirit @ Reverb[NXNE]: photo by Mike LigonThe Duke Spirit(9 pm @ Reverb): UK's The Duke Spirit's appearance at this year's NXNE came as quite the pleasant surprise as they were one of the few bands I knew and liked amidst the pool of obscurity that comprised this year's NXNE lineup. It would also make up for me missing their previous show in Toronto at Lee's Palace from a month or two back. It's too bad they got stuck with an early slot but otherwise they did their darndest to warm up the early meagre-sized crowd. It seemed obvious that some people in the audience were already fans, and the rest seemed to take a liking to them quickly. Black-spandexed, blonde lead vocalist Liela Moss was quite fetching to look at and proved herself a worthy frontperson with her swaggery vocals and confident stage persona. Their fuzzed out guitars and primal drum sound was matched nicely with just the right amount of melody to keep things interesting. Fans of PJ Harvey and Yeah Yeah Yeahs would enjoy them but in general The Duke Spirit are appealing because they aren't copping the indie/post-punk sounds that are currently in fashion these days. Sincerity in rock music is hard to come by nowadays and I fully expect greater things from this hard-working group in the future.

Listen: The Duke Spirit @ MySpace

City Field @ The Silver Dollar[NXNE}: photo by Mike LigonCity Field(10 pm @ The Silver Dollar): I walked down Queen St to Spadina then took the streetcar up Spadina to The Silver Dollar in time for Toronto's City Field. I've mentioned before that I'm a fan of their sole "Authentic City" EP release and while their set was musically enjoyable there was a certain lack of stage presence. City Field's set definitely lacked the energy of Matt Murphy's previous bands Super Friendz and The Flashing Lights but part of that I can attribute to City Field's slightly mellower pop sound. I think also the fact that City Field haven't played live much makes me think they're still working out their stage legs. Guesting on bass guitar was Camouflage Nights/ex-Thrush Hermit/fellow Haligonian Rob Benvie. A couple of attempts at stage banter were lost amongst the chattery crowd but falling back on their music, there was still much to admire. "Authentic City's" songs(especially the 3-way alternating lead vocals of "Pretenders") were terrific but it was new songs "Make That Shape Lace Face"(with it's killer guitar intro) and "Linda's Hair" that clinched it for me. Especially, "Linda's Hair" - when it came to Matt's sublimely melodic vocal part, it sent shivers down my spine.

Listen: City Field @ MySpace
Listen: City Field @ New Music Canada

The Two Koreas @ The Silver Dollar[NXNE]: photo by Mike LigonThe Two Koreas(11 pm @ The Silver Dollar): I stuck around for The Two Koreas' set since I hadn't seen them perform live for a while. Though they've been quite obvious in the past with their Fall-influenced sound, down to lead vocalist Stuart Berman's deadpan vocals, I'm thankful that their sound's moved forward to encompass more creative guitar arrangements and even something close to approaching pop melodies. Still, it is without a doubt, the band's urgent drum and bass guitar foundation which propels the music and keeps Mr. Berman in perpetual dancing mode, even jumping down from the stage to the floor to get his groove on.

Listen: The Two Koreas @ MySpace

Sleeping Kings Of Iona(12 am @ Richmond Lounge): Since I had work the next day, I decided to check out one last show for the night and call it an evening. Next up on my agenda were Buffalo, NY's Sleeping Kings Of Iona. Consisting of three young gents and one young lady, their music was completely unknown to me before I checked out their audio sample on the NXNE site(eventually leading me to check out their band website and their MySpace page). Their sound for the most part consists of shimmering pop melodies dutifully played on guitar and drums but augmented with electronic sounds by way of keyboards and electronic beats. Keeping things interesting from song to song were alternating lead vocal duties. Surprisingly, it was the male vocals that I enjoyed more than the sole female vocalist because at least some of the songs featuring lead male vocals featured an electro-pop sound which veered towards a delectable Junior Boys-ish quality. Also, there was something slightly unconvincing about the petite, and way-cute female vocalist singing during one song, the lyric "I swear I will kill you". Otherwise she fared better on other tracks. Encompassing a variety of tempos and moods, their music went from Junior Boys-sounding electro-pop, to female-vocals based trip-hop, washes of keyboards ambience and ended on an emotive post-rock curiosity. Lovely. It makes me even consider driving down to Buffalo to catch 'em live if they don't come back to these parts anytime soon. Update: They will be back in Toronto at Savoy on July 28th according to their MySpace site.

Listen: Sleeping Kings Of Iona @ MySpace

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