Bands to check out on day three of NXNE 2012
It's Friday morning, which calls for congratulations - you've survived the first two jam-packed days of this year's North by Northeast. Don't put down that frayed schedule just yet, though, as the weekend holds even more great music, film, and interactive workshops, ensuring that you won't have a single moment to stop running around like a maniac.
In terms of music programming, Friday sees the big shows get bigger, the smaller shows get much more plentiful, and the amount of non-official (and possibly free!) showcases and in-stores increase substantially. It can be a lot to take in - our compiled preview post can help with that - but for a more focused approach, here are my picks for what to see on Friday.
Unless otherwise specified, all shows are 19+. Admission with a NXNE wristband/pass or cover at the door.
Freeman Dre & the Kitchen Party (1:00 a.m.)
With a gruff voice and a knack for storytelling that naturally recalls Tom Waits (but might actually be more reminiscent of Bruce Peninsula's Neil Haverty), Freeman Dre and his backing band have a homespun, rootsy sound that's sure to suit the Cadillac Lounge perfectly in the wee hours of the morning. The band are impeccable musicians and have plenty of solid material on last year's Red Door, Second Floor to draw from, so this local collective is sure to be a hit at this year's fest.
Cousin (9:00 p.m.)
Not to be confused with the similarly-named Cousins or Rose Cousins, this Toronto-by-way-of-Niagara four-piece is sure to start the evening off right with their fast-paced jagged pop gems. Once again playing a Young Lions Music Club showcase, like they were in March for CMW, the band's sound invites easy comparisons to slacker-rock luminaries Pavement and Silver Jews. Boxing them into a niche would be reductive of their music, though, which melds folk, rock, and a pinch of surf into a familiar sounding but unique debut album. Not one to be missed.
Teenage Kicks (1:00 a.m.)
Towards the end of the YLMC party are local upstarts Teenage Kicks. Their bio describes them as "a band on the run, raised on their parents' record collections," and from the sound of their urgent recordings and the recent buzz surrounding their high-energy live shows, they seem like a sure bet for a band that combines many influences into their own brand of catchy power-pop. More than a couple of our writers are excited for this set, so this is definitely one of your best late night options.
Bidiniband (9:00 p.m.)
Former Rheostatics frontman Dave Bidini brings his new, aptly titled project to open the Horseshoe's Friday night festivities. Playing in support of the band's solid second album In the Rock Hall, the Canadian legend is a seasoned performer, and Rock Hall is a record that would likely fare best in a live setting with its raw, off-the-floor feel and anthemic tracks. And who knows, maybe we'll get a song or two from Rheostatics classic Whale Music? One can hope, but when the new material is this strong it's by no means a must.
Andre Williams & the Sadies(midnight)
What do you get when you take one of Toronto's most insanely proficient, hardest working bands and put them in a room to jam with an R&B legend? Why, one of the hottest tickets of this year's NXNE, of course. Having previously collaborated over a decade ago on the album Red Dirt, the Sadies have one again joined forces with Andre Williams on this year's Night and Day. Williams keeps a relatively sparse touring cycle - hey, the man's in his seventies - but he's still very much the showman and musical tour-de-force that found initial fame in the '60s, when he was working with Stevie Wonder, Ike Turner, and many others. This one's going to be sweaty, raunchy, and awesome.
John Maus (1:00 a.m.)
This much-hyped songwriter hailing from Minnesota has been given considerable attention lately, due in part to his academic career (he's a PhD candidate in philosophy, a subject with few apparent semi-famous musician pupils) and his controversial remarks concerning the music industry (a comment was taken out of context, claiming that he wished for the end of the record store). Luckily, when it comes down to the actual music, none of this really matters. Maus creates a hazy, singular musical landscape out of layered synth textures, samples, and muffled vocals. His most recent album, We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves, is an enthralling listen, and while I've heard that his live show is basically a warped take on John Maus karaoke, it should still be interesting execution of some great songs.
Hooded Fang (10:00 p.m.)
Toronto's foremost pop enthusiasts are still supporting last year's Tosta Mista, which found the group trading in their orchestral accoutrements for surf boards and beach balls. Despite losing a few of their additional musicians, the core of the group is still as solid as ever, with vocalists Daniel Lee and April Aliermo complementing each other perfectly. They're playing all over the place during the fest, including the M for Montreal-sponsored Bruise Cruise on Saturday afternoon.
Looks like the Silver Dollar is taking it easy on the blues this NXNE, opting instead to focus on throwback pop. The crown jewel of Thursday through Saturday's programming at the esteemed venue is a triple-header of Bleached, the new band formed by sisters and former Mika Miko members Jennifer and Jessica Clavin. They haven't released very much music yet, but what's apparent from their first few singles is that these Californians have quite the knack for a wicked pop hook. Rather than resembling Best Coast, though, these songs come off as Big Star indebted, blue-eyed nostalgia trips lacking irony or insincerity. And that's a good thing. Catch them now or Saturday night at 1:00, same place.
Bass Drum of Death (10:00 p.m.)
This Mississippi-bred duo bring classic NYC punk influence with a southern-fried execution, resulting in impressive riffs and anthemic shout-alongs that are no doubt going to get the Friday night crowd all riled up. They're hard at work on the follow-up to their killer debut album, GB City, and will likely be airing out a few new tracks. There's some extra significance to this performance too, as the band had to cancel their gig here opening for Japandroids last September due to unforeseen border snags. It's sure to add fuel to the fire this time around.
METZ (11:00 p.m.)
Out of every band on this year's lineup, METZ have possibly have gotten the furthest out of any act on the smallest amount of released material. With only a handful of 7"s comprising their 'discography' (although their first proper album is apparently in the can), they've made a name for themselves as one of Toronto's best bands going. And for good reason too, as their singles show off a band charging out of the gate with incredible chemistry and some serious nuance to their Jesus Lizard-influenced sound. On top of all that, they're touted as being fantastic live. They're also playing tomorrow night at the Phoenix, opening for Archers of Loaf - make sure you catch them to see what all the fuss is about.
The Men (midnight)
Brooklyn rockers The Men have been getting a whole lot of hype as of late. Toronto and North by Northeast clearly have some love for the band, as they're playing no less than four shows in two days during their stay here. One of my most anticipated acts for the festival, their new album Open Your Heart sees them trade in some of the skronk and noise of previous releases for a more streamlined, but no less intense sound. While drawing influence from a lot of '80s indie rock - you've got your Husker Du here, your Replacements there - the band achieve a sound of their own that's at once aggressive and melodic. Both of these qualities make for a great live show, as the band is likely to prove.
Eight and a Half (7:30 p.m.)
Made up of former Stills members and (former?) Broken Social Scene drummer Justin Peroff, Eight and a Half take a more electronic-tinged approach to the hook-laden indie rock both bands were known for. Their self-titled debut doesn't disappoint, and opening up the night's festivities at Yonge-Dundas Square marks one of their first Toronto performances. To make things even better, like the rest of the festival's Yonge-Dundas events, the show is free and open to all ages.
Matthew Good (9:30)
Matthew Good hasn't exactly dominated the Canadian music scene for a while now, but at his high-profile headlining gig at YDS, he's sure to pull out a bunch of old classics that will get you singing along to hits both solo and with the Matthew Good Band. In between Can-con rock radio classics, Good is sure to amuse with witty, topical banter, and when he plays "Apparitions" to a sea of Sears ads and raised lighters, you're sure to forget about the last couple albums of spotty material.
NXNEXPERIMENT II (1:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m.)
This not-so-little shindig in the backyard of El Gordo's (214 Augusta Ave) is sure to be a great way to start (and depending on your beverage intake, potentially finish) your day. Last year they boasted some serious heavy-hitters, snagging Ty Segall, Dirty Beaches, and many others to play their day/evening party, and this year shows no sign of slowing down. The lineup is once again eclectic, highlighting local Toronto mainstays Doldrums and Ell V Gore, as well as the Men, Bass Drum of Death, Mac DeMarco, and many more. Admission is $10 at the door (worth it just for the churros, seriously), and the show is all ages.
SECRET SPECIAL GUESTS (2:00 a.m.) - The Garrison/Bovine Sex Club
Who knows who these could be?! In the past, NXNE has had Fucked Up, Ty Segall, and many others play hot and sweaty shows in some seriously undersized venues. By the time this article is published, it's pretty likely that the festival will have announced who's playing where, so stay tuned to NXNE for the insider info.
Photo courtesy of METZ