The top 20 shows to see & avoid at NXNE Toronto 2013
As NXNE 2013 approaches, it's hard to imagine what a Toronto summer would look like without the annual influx of bands, artists, filmmakers, media, and comedians (media and comedians, because one is not like the other).
Now, the week-long NXNE reigns as one of Canada's biggest festivals. And while the bookings are less inspired than those at Pop Montreal, or even smaller festivals like Sled Island and Obey, it's a hell of a lot more exciting than Canadian Music Week, or (we're guessing) last week.
2013's festival will kick off slowly on Tuesday, June 11th, and pick up speed by the day: Thursday through Sunday will see big name live acts playing free shows at Yonge and Dundas Square, and venues all over Toronto will host 1,000 bands and artists from around Canada and across the globe.
This year, we're not going to give you a list of shit you need to bring like a water bottle, phone charger, or sunscreen. You're grown ass people. We're going to let you know what your ticket options are, and try to get you up to speed on the storm of art and not quite art that's hitting Toronto next week.
Ticket options for NXNE aren't that complicated. Don't buy your pass or wristband until you decide what you want to see. Then go here. If you only want to see free stuff at Yonge and Dundas, then you don't need a pass. If everything good is happening Thursday, then you just want a one-day wristband. If you need to see Calexico or FLAG, you want in on the "Spotlight Series."
Oh, and given that you're likely to be snapping away while you're out and about at shows, why not tag your pics on Instagram with #NXNE13 and we'll post the best of the fest on the homepage.
Feeling ready? No? OK, take read on for our 2013 NXNE pre-game yearbook.
MOST ANTICIPATED ACT
The way people in the state of Georgia say "Luda" is one of the best vocal idiosyncrasies ever: that pride, that drawl! After Big Boi canceled his summer tour due to injury, NXNE enlisted fellow Atlantan Ludacris to cover the empty headliner slot on their Yonge & Dundas rap line up. While Torontonians won't infuse the artist's name with the same divine southern flavour, appreciation for Luda's unique and decade spanning career is strong and his name will be buzzing all week.
His sound: Southern crunk
See him: Yonge & Dundas Square, Sun June 16 9PM
As it should be (um?), the most hate-able band on the festival marquee is the one in the largest font: The National. Check out this writer who wrote like 1000+ words examining his deep, sometimes overwhelming hatred of the Brooklyn-via-Ohio band.
While I have to admit that I get it, The National also seem like honest, hardworking dudes: see this Hayden VS The National #dad2dad interview.
Their sound: Dad indie. Which is a thing now, congrats.
See them: Yonge and Dundas Square, Fri June 14th
We're rooting for DIANA, and not just because everyone else is. This pleasant Toronto band has got it going on in every direction (mostly into our ears).
Their sound: Hazy pop
See them: The Horseshoe, Thurs June 13 10PM
Who isn't making a some kind of comeback at NXNE 2013? Kidding aside, let's go with Induced Labour, a heavy, insane former Toronto underground band featuring members of Doom Tickler, Pon De Replay, Soupcans, Disguises and Thrashed Gene re-uniting for (apparently) one night only.
Their sound: Like totally freaking out noise-complaint-inspiring jams.
See them: Double Double Land AKA Rehearsal Space, Fri June 14th 10:45PM
Winnipeg rocker boys The Bokononists took this one easily: Bokononism is a religion invented by the late Kurt Vonnegut in his novel Cat's Cradle. The satirical faith, which had its own extensive vocabulary, was based on the idea that a set of harmless "untruths" could better society. We're all suckers for campy literary references.
Their sound: A night out in highschool (if you had a backpack covered in patches)
See them: St. James Gazebo, Thurs June 13 6PM | Rivoli, Thurs, June 13 1:30AM
No question it's Montreal's Majical Cloudz. Devon Welsh's former experimental, sax infused indie band Pop Winds were really cool. Then, as he embarked on his solo project, super friend Grimes gave the debut tracks a hand up, so while it wasn't surprising to see a talented, connected (his dad was on Twin Peaks! Awesommme) guy get signed to Matador Records, that name will always creep me out. The incorrect "j" and "z" added to the grade seven stoner vibe the moniker carries might serve a meaningful purpose for Welsh (e.g. proving that a band with such an MSN messenger-y name can get a record deal is basically performance art).
His sound: Experimental pop
See him: BLK BOX, Sat June 15 12AM
That's right, we're employing a terrible non-adjective right after making fun of Majical Cloudz. Deal. I've put a lot, I mean a lot, of thought into what act will get you the most likes on Instagram. Then I got bored and picked Marker Starling (formerly Mantler), because chances are he'll be wearing a white suit and sitting at a huge Rhodes piano, singing his heart out about movie theaters, broken hearts, and regret. Make us cry, Marker Starling.
His sound: R&B / jazz / soul / outsider pop
See him: The Piston, Wed June 12 12AM
MOST STREET CRED
We'll be proud to say we called it: Ryan Hemsworth. From his recent Back Street Boys bootleg remix to his daring DJ sets, Hemsworth is delivering a reckless art into the Toronto/Halifax electronic scene. He'll be one of those names the NXNE haters drop like, "Fuck NXNE, except Ryan Hemsworth obvs."
His sound: Perfect web graphics
See him: BLK BOX, Sat June 15 1AM
What are teens into nowadays? Many exciting kinds of music. Yet most NXNE shows are 19+, so that leaves teens with fewer choices. I also don't know many teens, so I can't speak as to what the general rumble is. Of the all ages shows, what SHOULD teens attend? Let's pick Maylee Todd because she's bright, she's cool, and as Eric Boshart discovered recently, she gives the pop diva thing a radical twist. She's also playing at the free Live in Bellwoods series, which guarantees green grass and good vibes.
Her sound: Street style funk
See her: Trinity Bellwoods Park, Thurs June 13 time TBA
MOST LIKELY TO WEAR CORPSE PAINT WITH SUNGLASSES
Toronto's Man Made Hill is a Pleasance Records staple, and while his weird outsider dance proj is unpredictable, I'm most intrigued by what he'll be wearing.
His sound: Deformed beats & psyched out synths
See him: Double Double Land aka Rehearsal Space, Thurs June 13 11PM.
MOST LIKELY TO LEAVE GLITTER ON STAGE
Fin's gem covered electronics, minimal beats and waves of delay, backwards loops and sweet, low strained intonations are a rare thing to witness live (tip: she might only play for a minute, so don't be late). The visual artist's solo project is the closest thing NXNE will have to Grouper this year, but that's not meant to be a comparison: this woman is making a reality of her own.
Her sound: Baltimore's DIY lofts under two miles of ocean
See her: Creatures Creating, Sat June 15 9PM
The fact that Joey Bada$$ is good. Winner of second dumbest name at NXNE, this up and coming Brooklyn rapper will deliver a solid set at Yonge & Dundas. I know this because my smartest friends keep bugging out about it.
His sound: Lo-fi / old school meets new school
See him: Wrongbar, Sat June 15 1AM | Yonge & Dundas Square Sun June 16 8PM
How do you say Tonstartssbandht? Learn it now because that's the secret tagline for NXNE this year. If you can say "Tahn-starts-bandit", then boom, you're cool. Note: Montreal/NYC via Florida band get a hall pass because they're actually fucking great.
Their sound: Lo-fi experimental psych
See them: BLK BOX, Thurs June 13 1AM | Comfort Zone, Sat June 15 12AM
BEST DRINKING GAME
Take a shot (pack a flask or you'll go broke) every time you overhear the phrase "member of Fucked Up". Also works all year as a Toronto drinking game (nsfw if you work in media). Not drunk enough? Replace with "Broken. Social. Scene." There, you are wasted. Happy NXNE.
Their sound: Guitars, synths, other shiny instruments.
See them: You can't not.
The show you'll most likely hook up at depends on what you're into. Right? Wrong. It's this hot and steamy Ell V Gore 12" release. Everyone is going to be sky high... with pride for Toronto's sexiest alley rats. The show also includes Kontravoid, Jubal Brown, No Joy and Tonstartssbandht playing until super, ultra late. It will be dark. Everyone will smell awful. No one gets out alive... alone.
Their sound: dirty gothic punk
See them: EP release: BLK BOX Thurs, June 13 11PM | 2nd show: The Garrison Sun June 16 10PM
Dan Deacon tours in a school bus that runs on vegetable oil and he dresses like a dude who really, truly believes unicorns once existed and could again. Search out his smartphone app before you check out the Baltimore composer's technicolour electronic odyssey live.
His sound: Experimental, but fun!
See him: The Horseshoe, Thurs June 13th 12AM.
MOST LIKELY TO WEAR PLAID
Every second Canadian musician (and fan) at NXNE will be wearing plaid. Possible drinking game: one shot per set per band member wearing plaid. Don't drink and drive. We're not going to tell musicians how to dress, but we do ask that they look for meaning within bottomless pits of flannel. What does a seemingly diverse closet of identical shirts in slightly varied colours and line widths say about you as a musician? Deep questions.
Plaid is the uniform of the working man. While it insists: "I'm really into not being into looking like I'm trying to be special", it also says "I am really not special and there's no reason for me to be up here: we are all equal, join me brothers and sisters". Whoah, culty conspiracy, or just a trend that needs to meet its Hegelian inevitability?
Their sound: Probable guitars.
See them: If you don't see them, the bartender should cut you off.
MOST LIKELY TO TALK POLITICS
Illustrator and musician Alex MacKenzine's new-ish solo project Petra Glynt is gaining steam, but we know she'll never be an archetypal buzz act because she's busy pursuing truth and being, you know, an artist. She's also one of the most approachable public faces in Toronto. Petra Glynt's NXNE performances promise diverse percussion and electronic instrumentation, powerful vocals, and challenging themes.
Her sound: lo-fi soul hallucinations
See her: Creatures Creating, Thurs June 13 11PM | Comfort Zone, Sat Jun 15 9PM
TOP NXNE DATE NIGHT
Montreal's BRAIDS can take forever to soundcheck which can get everyone a little up tight, but their nice spacey pop and pretty vocal harmonies should get everyone into a dreamy, handholding state. Plus this show will be wall to wall bodies so you and your cute date with basically have to get real close (pro-tip: if your date has anxiety and wants to leave, do the right thing and walk them outside for a cigarette/vom in the alley).
Their sound: Psychfolk electronic whispers
See them: The Comfort Zone, Thurs June 13th 11PM.
Punk night at Yonge & Dundas. Punk is old news and things still suck: bands treat it like a job now and if you're into that, have fun moshing around I guess. Wild West inspired Social Distortion are headlining.
Their sound: Self proclaimed "cow punk" rocker dudes who won't say anything about Turkey
See them: Yonge and Dundas Square, Thurs.
Grunge is dead but there's something about Roomrunner, a plaid (sigh) clad band of dudes from Baltimore, that makes us want to ruffle their hair and say hey, it's alright. We'll make room for Roomrunner.
Their sound: Hardcore infused everything's-funny early-Sebadoh stoner vibes.
See them: The Garrison, Thurs June 13th 11PM
PS: Don't leave, because US Girls is playing afterward! Awesome.
Who did we miss? Leave us your pre-game yearbook nominations, NXNE drinking games, and one liners in the comments.
Lead photo by Denise McMullin