Nadja sends NXNE to its doom at The Garrison
Nadja have a sound all their own (while NXNE billed them as doom/ambient/drone/psychedelia, some call them outright metal), and drew a mixed crowd: girls in cute summer dresses mingled with wrist-banded audience members whom I'd wager hadn't showered since the beginning of the week-long festival, while some dudes looked like they hadn't trimmed their facial hair since the last time the experimental duo was in town.
Nadja, a.k.a. bassist Leah Buckareff and guitarist Aidan Baker, got the ground shaking right away with their hands moving delicately over the table of pedals set up for the show. Neither said a word to the crowd during the set: Buckareff went on to spend most of the set with her back to the audience, while Baker's only contact was the occasional stare across the room. Yet the lack of showmanship, or at least strange idea of showmanship, didn't matter. The music was loud and bewitching enough, and the audience was content to stare at Baker as he strummed, plucked, bowed and played slide guitar, or twisted knobs on the table.
In fact, what made Nadja so impressive was that they appeared so humble and unassuming, yet someone without a view of the stage would have guessed an entire metal band was playing. Add that the band's heavy industrial drone sounded not evil or frightening, but pretty — genuinely pretty — and the allure of Nadja is summed up. I hope their next home-town show isn't too far in the future.
Nadja couldn't have asked for more suitable support than Toronto's Picastro, who, as guitarist/vocalist Liz Hysen was quick to point out, are not a metal band, but have found their moody doom-folk blends well with Nadja's experimentalism (the bands have toured together more than once, and they released a split and collaboration, Fool, redeemer, last year).
Brandon Valdivia (Not the Wind, Not the Flag)'s drums carried the songs, while Hysen's quiet vocals, straightforward lyrics and steady acoustic guitar playing reminded me of Phil Elvrum. Cellist Nick Storring added atmosphere, and sometimes screeching noise. It was dark yet chill, and a couple of crowd members chose to sit on the floor near the stage.
The "mysterious" (quote NXNE) Black Paradise, also local, started off the evening with what began as a run-of-the-mill drone that eventually built to a climax that sounded like a jet taking off, which then gave way to shrill noise over deep bass that reverberated through the venue. It was a good set for what I'm fairly sure was one of their first live appearances, and a fitting start to a unique NXNE line up.