NXNE: North by Northeast

450 artists. 40 clubs. 4 nights. 1 city.

June 7-10, 2007

by Cameron Stuckey

Pre-NXNE Showcase
Friday June 8th, 2007 8pm
Cities in Dust vs. The Carps
Location: Well and Good Clothing Gallery 561 Queen Street West

The Well and Good Gallery was jammed to the rafters for this pseudo battle of the two Toronto-based indie bands. Passing off one song each back and forth trash talking each other through the set, The Carps brought their funk laced crunchy garage-rock while Cities in Dust delivered straight-edged indie rock n’ roll. They both put on loud, raucous sets but the clear winner in the battle was Cities in Dust with their sheer loudness and musical assault. The Carps held their own though…firing friendly ‘disses’ before each song. Luckily they are still friends giving much needed respect at the end of the showdown.

Friday June 8th, 2007 9pm
Location: Kathedral 651 Queen Street West

Not surprisingly, Cauterize’s debut album was co-produced by Greig Nori since they have obvious similarities to Sum 41’s Nori-produced Half Hour of Power EP – but a bit more hard-rock and less pop-punk. Having three guitarists, Cauterize definitely delivers in the rock department; they are loud and heavy but drop in loads of vocal melodies bringing My Chemical Romance and Blink 182 similarities, but without the ‘cheese’. The MCR and Blink similarities stop there since Cauterize sound like they would eat them both for breakfast. With very tight musicianship, they seemed like seasoned veterans, but they have yet to release their debut album (out on June 12th, 2007). The set started strong but they seemed to fade near the end of the set. The frontman sported a stylized mullet, but somehow pulled it off!

Friday June 8th, 2007 10pm
ok city ok
Location: Holy Joe’s 651 Queen Street West

ok city ok is a Japanese 3-piece that opened their show by wearing Orbital-style flashlight headgear in total darkness. This didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the set since they played middle of the road stoner rock and turned on the lights following awkward chit-chat with the soundman after only one short song (about 2 mins); it took away any value to the already clichéd lightshow. After only a couple songs, they completely lost my attention since there was nothing new or innovative in their sound or stage presence. I moved on to see other more exciting acts.

Friday June 8th, 2007 10 pm

Location: Kathedral 651 Queen Street West

After seeing ok city ok, I needed a serious pick me up and saw that an “emo” band was playing at Kathedral that hopefully would give me the kick in the pants that I needed. Sydney had loads of energy on stage but unfortunately must have read the Emo 101handbook. They filled the emo checklist perfectly: Tall skinny singer with hair in eyes – check, bass player with dyed jet black hair – check, high pitch shrieking vocals – check, second vocal with deep guttural metal screaming – check, singer pogo dancing on stage – check, throwing mic from hand to hand – check. The comparison to Taking Back Sunday was completely accurate and fans of TBS would really like what Sydney are doing. It was an emo “cookie cutter” set and not at all ground-breaking, but entertaining enough. At least they didn’t have flashing headgear!

Friday June 8th, 2007 11 pm
The Vulcan Dub Squad
Location: Holy Joe’s 651 Queen Street West

When reading the NXNE write-up in the directory, I was drawn to The Vulcan Dub Squad since they sighted comparisons to The Cure and My Bloody Valentine. I didn’t hear either My Bloody Valentine or The Cure, but they did have good pop melodies. The singer took away from the strength of the song writing by being an ‘over-the-top’ performer – picture Jarvis Cocker on crack. They charged through a set of catchy, jangling pop songs although the vocals were weak and sometimes out of tune. At times, they sounded like Ash doing Cherry Bomb or Pulp doing Common People. They are definitely worth checking out – lots of potential.

Saturday June 9th, 2007 12 am
Dance Yourself to Death
Location: Cameron House 408 Queen Street West

I hope the name was supposed to be ironic – although I don’t think it was. Dance Yourself to Death was just a standard indie rock band with a Juno keyboard added in to the mix. Their songs were not really danceable and the entire room was sitting for their set, which made me think the name was wrongly chosen. DYTD was a standard girl rock band with no edge at all – very middle of the road sound. Nothing special here.

Saturday June 9th, 2007 1 am
Republic of Safety
Location: Reverb 651 Queen Street West

Republic of Safety is your standard pop/punk band with sax thrown in – the inclusion sounds terrible on paper, but actually added a lot to their sound. They had loads of energy similar to the stage presence of The Grates but with a slight rockabilly feel to them. There were 2 girls (singers), guitar, drums, bass and sax – during the blistering aggressive set, they turned it into a party atmosphere. Republic of Safety are definitely a band to watch over the coming year.

Saturday June 9th, 2007 9 pm
Brown Brigade
Location: El Mocambo (Downstairs) 464 Spadina Ave

Don’t let the dodgy choice of name fool you – former Sum 41 guitarist Dave Baksh started the set with announcing “Get ready to have your faces ripped off!” and he delivered on his statement. He has left Sum 41 behind and with his new band sounded like they were channelling Judas Priest (Rob Halford coincidentally was in Toronto to talk at the NXNE festival this year) and Iron Maiden with the funk of Body Count and Bad Brains. It was heavy riffs, heavy bass, heavy drums – heavy metal! Dave has left the juvenile potty humour of Sum 41 and went straight for the Rock n’ Roll. I’m not sure how palatable Brown Brigade is for the masses, but they definitely knew how to blow the doors off the El Mocambo.

Saturday June 9th, 2007 10 pm
The Central Nervous System
Location: El Mocambo (Downstairs) 464 Spadina Ave

The Central Nervous system had an impressive stage set-up looking like you’d find their equipment inside the Tardis – very space-aged with interesting backdrop projections. The frontman (singer / guitar) has a strong stage presence and vocally sounds like classic Bowie (definitely a good thing). The visuals added substance to the sound and live experience while the pre-recorded, staged ‘super computer’ conversations and vocoder use between songs failed to impress, taking away from their solid songwriting.

Saturday June 9th, 2007 11 pm
Sebastien Grainger
Location: The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern 370 Queen Street West

The queue was around the block in anticipation for Sebastien Grainger (Ex- DFA 1979) playing at NXNE. I had to queue up in outside for a short while waiting for the 10 pm performer’s fans to leave the venue. While standing and waiting, I met Akira and Brett of Modernboys Moderngirls (http://www.myspace.com/modernboysmoderngirls) who’s set I unfortunately missed on Friday at the Bovine Sex Club. In the queue behind us, some drunken ‘reporter’ stumbled and fell onto a pile of bikes, and gashed the back of his head. Brett jumped right in to pull him to his feet, offering up ‘DIY’ first aid with a bit of whiskey and a Starbucks serviette. Akira and Brett from MBMG are top guys and you should definitely ask them for first aid tips if you need em.

Now back to the Sebastien Grainger set – after finally getting in about 10 mins before the show, the Horseshoe was jammed. The Death From Above 1979 sound can still be heard in Sebastien’s solo work, but it’s much poppier than his previous band. He had a good stage presence, leaving the drums and taking up guitar and vocal duties. The stand out track was Rhythm Method where he got onto his kits and banged out the tune while the regular drummer took the keyboard. It was the return of the DFA sound – the passion and soul, which was lacking in some of the other tracks.

Sunday June 10th, 2007 12 am
You Say Party! We Say Die!
Location: The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern 370 Queen Street West

One of the over-hyped bands for the festival was You Say Party! We Say Die!. They had a good stage presence with loads of energy, but this only goes so far. They are a five piece who play post-punk electronic indie rock and sound like Metric if only they had more energy. The show was full up and there was a queue around the block due to YSPWSD’s massive fanbase. It was entertaining enough, but fell short of my expectations.

Sunday June 10th, 2007 1 am
Idiots! – now known as Fighter/Lover
Location: Holy Joe’s 651 Queen Street West

Starting their set by announcing they had just changed their name from Idiots! To Fighter/Lover may not have been the best thing to showcase themselves at NXNE. Fighter/Lover are a two-piece (bass and keyboards) hailing from Toronto. They played through a set of simplistic electronic music – very minimalist with vocals sounding similar to The Rapture. Being a two-piece, they lacked charisma on stage but Fighter / Lover definitely could be of interest once they ‘beef up’ their live show and develop their songs further.

One Response to “NXNE: North by Northeast”

  1. Johna132 says:

    Nice read, I just passed this onto a friend who was doing some research on that. And he actually bought me lunch as I found it for him smile Thus let me rephrase that Thanks for lunch! fcaeecgadcek

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