Entries in EMP (1)


NXNE Port Lands 2017

The return of the North By North East Port Lands festival landed on one of the busiest and most exciting weekends in Toronto.  The lineup delivered on incredible local talent, buzzworthy artists from all over, and some names that you better know by now.  With the headliners Post Malone, Kaytranada (stepping in for Tyler the Creator), and Passion Pit the event promised to be eclectic to say the least.  In this day and age of a seemingly endless list of festivals taking place NXNE brought some serious talent to the Port Lands, and added to the festival from the first year's set up.  Rides and games made the space feel a bit like a midway, and the comedy tent was certainly a refreshing addition.

The fun really began when Toronto's EMP took the stage, led by a dj tearing through some big tunes to warm up the crowd.  Followed by Eestbound taking the stage for an unexpected guitar solo before being joined by Milly Manson and Pree.  This performance was larger than life.  Similarly their collaborator River Tiber brought the soulful, captivating sound of his album Indigo back to his home of Toronto for the first time in a while.  The storms had passed, the sun came out, and then what followed was a show we'll never forget.

Twin Peaks fired up their dedicated following within seconds of the start of their show.  One fan in particular screamed so loud that Clay Frankel invited her to join the band, stating they 'can't scream like that anymore.'  The show found the Chicago band in the midst of supporting their album Urbs In Horto and their 7" series.  There's no doubt in our minds that many spent the following days with 'I Wanted You' stuck in their heads.  Looking back, that hook feels like it could have been a message from a festival to the fans who never showed up.


Sleigh Bells is a band we've loved for a long time, follow with each new release, and wouldn't miss the chance to see live.  So the moment they take the stage for a less than stellar turnout is bittersweet.  While some in the crowd complained, some took to social media, others felt for the artists, something became clear to us.  As the way the world takes in and discovers music changes, so will the way we see it live.  Within that grand experiment it's become too easy to lose track of those moments and appreciate that this may be the best seat I'll ever have to see Sleigh Bells.  The defiant, underdog spirit of their song 'Comeback Kid' makes it a personal anthem for tons of their fans, and it took on new life in that context. 

For artists like Post Malone, Kaytranada, Passion Pit, Bleachers, and Sleigh Bells alike, this could be the closest you'll ever get to their performance.  Several acts noted it had been some time since their last Toronto show, and who can say when their tour schedule sends them back this way.  For Bleachers, this was their first show outside of the United States since last year.  Jack Antonoff stated that it was the first time they'd done so since America elected it's 45th President, and joked that they felt slight shame in representing The U.S. as a result.  They took that moment to further draw in an audience that at times seemed indifferent and uninterested in the performances.

Bleachers ended their set with a jam that included Antonoff singing a part,that was then played back on saxophone, then urging the audience to sing it back to him.  What followed was a moment that's tough to describe, and hard to forget.  Where we approached the Bleachers show curious about this often buzzed about band, we left reminded why the fuck we all show up for things like this in the first place.

Sure the event was heavily sponsored by a few different companies.  That's the cost of doing business when it comes to festivals these days, for better or worse.  We overheard audience members complaining of the lack of amenities in the VIP, and even comparing the NXNE Port Lands to the disastrous Fyre Festival.  While it's truly a matter of expectations, the major difference is that the Port Lands actually happened, that inexplicable, magical element of live music was there if you were open to it.  

It was a privilege to join in, and we want to voice our appreciation for everyone who contributed to this event.  From the organizers, to the artists, the on site staff, technical crew, security, and the volunteers, we appreciate you. 

NXNE has changed. the beauty of it was travelling around the city.  Headliners like Spoon and The National performed at Yonge and Dundas square, and a Saturday night could mean seeing Chad Valley at the Great Hall and then crossing Queen Street to the Drake Underground to see Smif N' Wessun.   It still possesses the exciting possibility of discovering brilliant new music, and seeing your favourites up close and personal, just in a different setting. 

-Words and Photos by Scott Mitchell