Entries in nxne (6)


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


NXNE 2016

North By North East has always gone by in a bit of a blur, usually a week full of trips all over Toronto.  For many it felt like a challenge to see and experience as much as possible.  Certain aspects of the festival have been controversial in recent years.  Proximity clauses, artists being met with protests and petitions, and then a mysterious change in the team that put the event together left us with a NXNE that was altogether different from previous years.  That doesn't mean that there wasn't a serious list of performers to get excited about, and some tough decisions on what to do. 

The primary focus seemed to be on a two day event set up on a site near Cherry Beach.  There were also countless club shows, though substantially less than in previous years, events at Yonge and Dundas, and conferences were part of the event as well.  It seems like each element of the NXNE experience has changed recently, or was completely brand new.  The community in Toronto has been vocal in the past that everyone didn't always love what NXNE did here in the city anyway, so why would 2016 be any different? 

It was Ghostface who took to the stage for the first truly memorable moment of our NXNE.  That was one name that stood out when the lineup was announced and the show itself didn't disappoint.  He was joined by Sheek Louch of the Lox, and together they ran down a lengthy set of solo classics, greatest hits from the Lox and the Wu-Tang Clan, with an energetic audience singing the lyrics right back at them.  Highlights of the night were Ghostface and Sheek bringing a fan from the audience who performed Old Dirty Bastard's verse to near perfection.  The lineup put Daniel Caesar in the between the Wu-Tang legend and Top Dawg Entertainment's Schoolboy Q.  That transition made for a truly unique experience and the spirit of the Manifesto Festival to NXNE.

Click to read more ...


NXNE 2015

Last week we had the pleasure of running around downtown Toronto with the hopes of checking out as many bands as possible for the annual madhouse that is NXNE. We saw a lot of reallt great things, but here are out 11 favorites:


Hundred Waters: The four piece band  from Florida took the stage at The Phoenix. Playing their own blend of organic and electronic music, the rather large crowd was treated to an abundance of music from "The Moon Rang Like a Bell". Vocalist Nicole Miglis and company belted out favourites that included Murmurs, Down From the Rafters, and [Animal]. The audience join them in singing Happy Birthday to drummer Zach Tetreault and as the set neared its conclusion, the band left the stage leaving only Miglis to sing "Show Me Love" 


Shad: When Shad took the stage, all controversy around the Sunday night show at Yonge and Dundas faded away.  Backed by an incredible band, he passionately and perfectly delivered every heartfelt line from 'Flying Colours', 'The Old Prince' and 'When This Is Over'.  Joined by special guests and Toronto all stars Saukrates and Eternia, Shad gave Toronto a night to remember for all the right reasons. 


Casey Veggies: Sunday night the young Los Angeles rapper known as Casey Veggies delivered a lesson in positivity, dedication and hard work.  It had been 2 years since the first time he performed in Toronto.  That show at the Mod Club was a great one, and with new music and time to 'Live & Grow' as his new album title suggests, he had the crowd at Yonge & Dundas in the palm of his hand.  

Best Coast: Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno brought music from 'California Nights' and Toronto absolutely fell in love.  The sound of Best Coast has evolved over the years, and the addition of new band members has given new power to an already great band.  Yonge and Dundas square was a perfect setting on a Saturday night, giving fans of the band and those passing by a chance to get in on the fun.

Lucius: The Brooklyn band deliver a passionate performance in our first visit to the new and improved Adelaide Hall.   Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig have incredible chemistry and have an absolutley enchanting effect on any audience, and it's amplified in an intimate setting like this.  They even revealed a brilliant new song from the follow up to the worldwide favourite 'Wildewoman'.

HEALTH: Few acts at NXNE could match the energy and intensity that HEALTH brought to the Horseshoe Tavern.  Songs from their self titled debut, 'Get Color' and the upcoming 'Death Magic' made for a dynamic set.   The show's highlight for us was the unexpected moment where the band played their cover of Pictureplane's track 'Goth Star'.   

Heems: The crowd grew to nearly capacity at the Drake Underground in the moment leading up to Heems' set.  He walked out of the crowd onto the stage, somewhat surprising the audience and providing an interesting beginning to an unorthodox show.  He moved through music from 'Eat Pray Thug' and older tunes from the days of Das Racist, playing beats from his phone but performing with such charisma you'd soon forget that detail if he didn't acknowledge the anti-climactic moments in the show.

Diana: A hometown favorite - we will never ever get enough of Diana.  They play live so beautifully and turn any room in to such a special place.  Anyone who already knew them in that room was in awe of yet another incredible show and anyone who didn't was certainly won over.

Warpaint: Arguably the main event for us this NXNE, one of our favorite bands came all the way from LA to bless us with their wonderful music - the one and only Warpaint.  Wasting no time and leaving no die hard fan disappointed, the dynamic foursome stayed incredibly focused and played a fantastic selection of tracks from across their catalog.  Again, this was the best show ever.

Cairo:  We have to start this by doing one thing we rarely do.  Make a complaint.  This show was not long enough.  However, after a late start and before an early finish Toronto's own Cairo made it clear that they are fucking awesome. They sounded pretty much perfect in every way, and head a near full Rivoli on their feet with their phones away, which is a feat in and of itself. Anyways, Cairo doesn't have any bad songs, only great ones.  Make sure you get out and check out this band.

New Pornographers:  Pulling out the Y&D headline spot and ultimately the top bill for this entire festival were none other than Vancouver supergroup the New Pornographers.  This was our second time seeing them this year and they were clearly having more fun than ever.  One thing that's great about this band is that they have so much music, you never know what's coming at a show - but they always surprise and delight with a high energy mix of classics old and new.  We also can't help but comment that Kathryn Calder and AC Newman are fucking AWESOME, and make the New Pornographers one of our favorite bands.



Review: Marc Maron at NXNE


What happens when Marc Maron is the key note speaker at the 20th year of your music and arts festival?  He walks onstage and tells the captive audience that there's no answer for success.  There's no road, no path, no guide posts to tell you that your toil is progress and not pointless.  He'll embarass himself just a little with a clip of an old stand up special of his from 1994 where he denounces computers as toys, and their users as tools.

One thing for certain is that Marc Maron will be honest.  When tells his listeners what he experienced in the time leading up to the first episodes of his now famous WTF podcast, he is blunt.  He discusses the suicidal thoughts next to the need to keep up the dialogue he'd started with his stand up and radio work.  That ever pressing need to use the available outlet to keep trying to make sense of the world and his own life, led him to a new form.

When Maron tells the audience in his conclusion that podcasting saved his life, each and every person in the audience can tell it is the truth.  When he says that he shaped what the relatively new medium has become, he isn't boasting, he's stating a fact.  As he tells it, the Robin Williams episode and following that the Gallagher episode really put what he was doing with WTF into a new light.  From there the audience has grown, and unlike so many of the people at the forefront of their field in the digital age Marc Maron does not claim to be an expert.

Later that night, Toronto's Comedy Bar hosted the Wednesday night Chuckle Co. show.  This week was a bit different than the average Wednesday.  NXNE brought with it a larger audience than usual, and a surprise guest headliner.  The local comedians all showed us why you should see them each and every Wednesday, and why a few are appearing a Just For Laughs later this year.  The collective irreverence is matched only by the unique approach and personality of each of them.  The audience was clearly having such a good time that we didn't really need a special guest after all.  


But NXNE is all about going one better than you expect.  Marc Maron took to the tiny stage for a room of about 30 people and at first it didn't quite seem real.  He announced that he was going to work on some new material, and the crowd couldn't have been happier to hear that.  What we got was another unique look at one of the most insightful talents in comedy ever.  Yes, ever.  


He walks through why he doesn't like the excited 'WOO!' that comes from the crowd sometimes, cracked us up over his love and hate relationship with ice cream, and in the end left us with a resounding thought that remained present throughout the rest of the week, and will probably stick around forever...


Maron talked about the short distance between contempt and empathy, and used the example of someone's haircut.  His first reaction is 'FUCK that guys haircut', and a split second later with a different vantage point the thought changes to 'Oh, shit.  He's sad'.  Making both Maron and I wonder why the hell we cared so much about what the next person is doing anyways.


Without realizing it, and potentially without Maron intending it, I spent the rest of NXNE a whole lot more accepting and welcoming of everyone and everything.  Yet again the great mind of a comedian has taught me a lesson about how I live my life in a way that I laugh at, learn from, and might not listen to if it came from anyone else.


One thing is for sure, the world is a whole lot better off with Marc Maron in it.
-Scott Mitchell (@yahohyah)

The 20 best things we saw at NXNE's 20th Anniversary


20. The Lytics at Adelaide Hall - One of the many highlights of Saturday night at Adelaide Hall, Winnipeg hip hop supergroup The Lytics brought so much more energy than any of us could have been prepared for.  These guys were absolutely dope out of this world, sounded perfect, and had one of the livest hip hop shows we've seen in quite a while.  They also have a new album on the way, so make sure you don't sleep on that.

19. The Exclaim / Jagermeister BBQ - It was our second year to be invited to this feel good jam.  Believe us, this party has it all:  lots of drinks, lots of smiling familiar faces, free snacks and some unlikely djs playing tons of great music.  The decks were graced by the likes of Badbadnotgood, Metz and Tokyo Police Club, and the challenge of filling up your stamp card for free drinks was nothing if not an ambitious endeavour.  We did our best, and left feeling pretty damn good about what awaited us on Friday night.

18.  Beach Day at Wrongbar - This fun trio from Florida is a bit of well kept secret at this point, but everyone should be ready to be in the know. If you made your way West on Queen Street to Wrongbar Thursday night, you know Beach Day is something very special. The band played a great set that came to a rocking conclusion with their single "Boys" and finally a cover of Bobby Freeman's "Do You Wanna Dance".  Something tells us next time Beach Day is in town, it will be a triumphant return.

17. Cai.ro at Rivoli - After some brief schedule confusion on our own part we were suddenly left with an open spot Friday night at 10pm. With very little info we stumbled in to the back room at Rivoli and were greeted with a pleasant surprise. What we found was Cai.ro. A five piece, cinematic folk pop band from Toronto. They kept the fairly large crowd engaged with their unique mix of tribal drums, sweet melodies, and engaging vocals. The band is currently in the process of recording their first full length album, but those who want a small taste of what is to come can slip over to their website and listen to their entire "Young Love EP" for free.  

16. Lowell at The Porch - The stellar lineup at Universal's rooftop party at The Porch above Rock N Horse Saloon and Adelaide Hall was highlighted for us by local supertalent Lowell.  She always puts on an extra energetic set and gives it her all, and the whole crowd was definitely feeling the vibes.  Thursday afternoon was extra hot but this event was the perfect oasis and the perfect primer for the evening.

15. Sleigh Bells at Tattoo - Originally, we had to check this show out because a local favorite of ours, Allie, was playing as well.  Early Wednesday morning the good news was announced that the noisy wonders known as Sleigh Bells would be the secret headliner.  We were more than happy to wait it out through a bunch of other great acts so we could see them in the smallest venue we will likely ever get a chance to, and of course our minds were blown.  Loud guitars, massive drums, and the otherworldly presence that is frontwoman Alexis Krauss set the bar so exceptionally high for the rest of NXNE, it was truly an honour to be a part of the crowd for this show.

14. Ryan Hemsworth at Adelaide Hall - Truly an innovative force to be reckoned with, Ryan Hemsworth headlined Friday night at Adelaide Hall after a selection of his own favorite artists.  When he finally graced the stage, every person in their was absolutely blown away.  From track one, it was so obvious that this is a man who loves what he does and gives it everything he's got.  A couple highlights were him dropping "One For Me" almost right away, him enjoying some chicken mcnuggets mid set, and sharing some Big Macs with his adoring fans.  Make sure you see this guy if you ever get the chance.

13. DJ Sliink at The Hoxton -  The Hoxton wasn't as wild a party as we're accustomed to, but what we saw was DJ Sliink showing in deep concentration.  The crowd of devoted fans were treated to a swiftly mixed collection of the wide array of styles that Sliink mixes with ease, drawing the audience in with his originals and incredible remixes of well-loved classics.  The sound of New Jersey was welcomed with open arms, and felt like an undiscovered and unorthodox gem in a festival where the dance artists are a highly revered select few.

12. Let's Ruin It With Babies at Bloor Hot Docs - We had the pleasure of checking out a couple films for NXNE and this gem definitely stood out.  It's one of those movies that really has it all; comedy, incredible acting and directing, perfect casting, and enough surprising turns that you will definitely thinking about it all week.  Make sure you check out Let's Ruin It With Babies.

11. Marc Maron's Keynote Speech - The interviewer, the comedian, the unmistakable Marc Maron took an insightful look at his own journey. From starting the famed 'WTF' podcast and then stepping into the forefront of the medium and helping it grow, he shared the story of needing to keep talking.  The true beauty of the experience was learning that the purpose for the interviews on his show is the same as the reaction his listeners have; a connection between people created through storytelling and conversation.

10. Danny Brown at Yonge and Dundas -  It was with very real joy that Danny Brown announced to his audience that he was very excited to be doing a show like this in the middle of Toronto.  Just about a year prior he was met with significant trouble in attempting to cross the border into Canada to perform.  Joined by his DJ Skywlkr he showed the city a great time, and tremendous energy.  The notoriety about his live performance is well deserved, there's no explaining it until you see it and feel it for yourself.

09. Rhye at Massey Hall - Sometimes a band and a venue just go hand in hand. That was the case when it came to seeing Rhye at Massey Hall Saturday night. Playing in front of his parents on their anniversary, Torontonian Milosh along side Danish producer Robin Hannibal played what can only be described as a perfect set from this R&B duo. Even the band themselves seemed to be taken aback with what they were hearing inside the historical walls of Massey Hall. 

08. Deebs at Adelaide Hall - Early in the evening Deebs took to the stage, and provided an unpredictable soundscape to match the creative stage design.  Glowing clouds, ancient ruins, and the fascinating projections made for an unforgettable experience.  Much like a dream it seemed to go on forever, and then once it was done felt like it had only lasted a minute, as if a dream you can't quite remember clearly but the sense of beauty and serenity lingers.

07. Spoon at Yonge and Dundas - After missing out on the "not so secret" show at Horseshoe Tavern, seeing Spoon on the big stage at Yonge and Dundas was a must. The now veteran indie rock band treated the crowd to favourites like "The Way We Get By" and "Turn My Camera On", as well as teasing us with some new material from their upcoming album "They Want My Soul." With wonderful weather, and amazing tunes, you'd be hard pressed to find a better way to spend a Saturday night out in the city.

06. A l l i e at Tattoo - A favorite of ours since we saw her a while back with local Motown tribute band The Big Sound, as soon as we saw A l l i e was on this bill we knew we had to be there.  She has such an exceptionally beautiful voice and a style that is all her own.  This was her second of four NXNE shows, and the only one we could make it out to see and we were ecstatic to have been a part of it.  It's always gratifying to be able to support such a humble and talented person.  Huge respect to A l l i e.

05. Chuckle Co. with Marc Maron at Comedy Bar - Near the conclusion of his keynote address at NXNE Interactive Marc Maron mentioned he was doing something at Comedy Bar that night.  That evening the NXNE twitter account announced that he was the special guest of Toronto's Chuckle Co. and we found our way to one of the most memorable stand up shows we can think of.  Several of Toronto's finest kept us laughing as they would on any Wednesday night, with an added degree of excitement in the small room.  Maron took to the stage and connected with his audience almost instantly, and reminded us what we can learn as we laugh at his insightful perspective.

04. Reggie Watts interviewing Suroosh Alvi - When someone like the co-founder of Vice magazine Suroosh Alvi talks, people listen. When that person is being interviewed by the super talented and hilarious Reggie Watts, you show up early to get a front row seat. And that's exactly what we did. In an hour that seemed like ten minutes the two managed to explore what made a small publication from Montreal into the enormous international multimedia brand it is today. Amazing stories were told, including going broke early on, passing on signing Bloc Party, signing Gnarls Barkley, and the relationship between Vice and Spike Jonze. By the end, the message was clear that Suroosh and Vice got to where they are now by keeping creative control, making mistakes along the way, and sticking to their core values. I'm sure the whole room could have sat in that room all day with those two talking.  

03. St. Vincent at Yonge and Dundas - Something Annie Clark said near the beginning of the flawless St. Vincent performance stood out as representative of why NXNE is such a special thing.  'A special welcome to the freaks and the others' was met with cheers and a sense that no matter who you were or where you came from, you were a part of something special.  The stunning beauty of the eccentric, irreverent songs of St. Vincent was pervasive for both long time fans and newcomers to the strange new world alike.

02. Tune Yards at Massey Hall - A Tune Yards performance is something you have to see live to really appreciate, and lucky for us, we got the chance Thursday night.  The amount of energy and musical talent that comes from Merril Garbus and the rest of the band, matched with large stage dressings and the uncompromising sound that comes with playing at Massey Hall made for an unbelievable show. By the end of the set list no one was left sitting in their seats and most had made their way as close to the stage as was possible.

01. Run The Jewels at Adelaide Hall -  Adelaide Hall was the perfect place for this event, adding to what was already one of the most anticipated shows of NXNE for us.  The unstoppable movement that is Run The Jewels grew even stronger as the crowd on the main floor and the onlookers taking advantage of the otherwise unheard of 360 balcony went wild.  A small part of why Killer Mike, El-P and DJ Trackstar have such devoted supporters is that they give you the key to being a part of the monster this music has created.  See them live and they'll show you how to wear your 36" Chain.  In such an intimate venue the confident, determined, energetic, rebellious music took over each and every person, and created a palpable sense of community amongst the crowd.  They showed us something raw and brand new, up close and personal, and Adelaide Hall was the perfect place for it.

Final note:  NXNE was totally fucking amazing.  HUGE thanks to everyone involved.  Everyone at NXNE and Flip Publicity, we can't thank you enough for all of your wonderful work.  In our opinions, it was pretty much flawless.  We are humbled to be able to take part in such a mindblowingly positive event.  This was a good look for the city, for everybody.  Thank you so fucking much.

These words were written by Scott, Andrew and Colin.  The photos were taken by Scott and Andrew.  Respect!