The top 10 unofficial shows during NXNE 2014
Unofficial shows at NXNE are often the most exciting part of this jam-packed week. There's no doubt you've heard about all of the amazing bands coming to Toronto for NXNE, but not all the noise being made in the city is part of the festival. In fact, independent shows pop up each year to give music lovers the choice to go their own way. Over time, a few of these traditions have been swallowed up by the fest, such as Dan Burke's infamous NeXT series and Tim McCready's 159 Manning BBQ, but as NXNE grows, I hope to see more and more unofficial shows taking place in small venues and loft spaces all over the city. Just remember, your festival wristband won't get you in the door.
Here are the 10 best unofficial concerts happening during NXNE this week.
Merchandise / June 17 / Horseshoe Tavern / $15
I'm surprised DIY punk collective Stuck In The City aren't doing a full weekend of shows at their new S.H.I.B.G.B's space on Geary, but they're helping kick off the week with one of the highlights from last year's NXNE. Tampa's Merchandise will preview songs from their upcoming After the End LP (out Aug. 25th on 4AD) tonight at the Horseshoe. Led by the Morrisey-influenced crooning of frontman Carson Cox, Merchandise stand out from the retro-gazer set by adding equal parts dub and kraut soundscapes with the cut and paste aesthetic of early post-punk. Their early sets at Soybomb HQ and Parts & Labour were chaotic and intense affairs - let's hope they can translate that energy to the stage at the Horseshoe. Check out the video for "Little Killers" below.
Negative Approach / June 17 / Opera House / $22.50 advance
Former Dead Kennedys leader Jello Biafra is, with good reason, one of the most well-known names in punk rock, and he brings his new outfit the Guantanamo School of Medicine to town. But the real draw for this show is reformed Detroit hardcore legends Negative Approach. John Brannon's seething, scathing roar is as menacing today as it was in 1982. Since reforming, the band hasn't missed a beat. Expect to hear most, if not all, of the band's classic self-titled EP and the best parts of "Tied Down." This video of NA performing on Detroit public access should act as a primer for the uninitiated. Skip to the 5:20 mark for the live set.
Judge & H20 / June 19 / Hard Luck / $24.50 advance
Speaking of hardcore reunions, New York hardcore band Judge carry the youth crew torch well into middle age. Led by Youth of Today guitarist Porcell and frontman Mike Judge, you can expect lots of sing-alongs and stagedives at Hard Luck on Thursday. Although I was never big on NYHC outside of the Cro-Mags (who will be in Toronto August 1st at Sneaky Dee's), recent reunions by Youth of Today and Gorilla Biscuits have had me smiling from ear to ear. Video from last year's This Is Hardcore fest hints that Judge can still bring it.
Black Flag / June 19 / Coda / $26
Sick of punk reunions yet? I am! This show could go either way. Not to be confused with the Keith Morris-fronted Flag, this is the Greg Ginn-led lineup of the band with professional skateborder Mike Vallely taking over vocal duties. The jury is still out on this one, but Ginn is a guitar innovator and seeing him play should be incredible no matter who is doing karaoke up there with him.
Construction / June 20 / Double Double Land / $5-$10 / all-ages
This line-up curated by Fucked Up's Mike Haliechuck features London synth pop up-and-comers New Zebra Kid with Toronto's Wild Highways and Zoo Owl. The Construction series is on a roll having presented last week's Comet Control record release and a sweat-drenched party with The Dirty Nil. With the sliding scale pricing, teenagers on a budget will be keen to check this out.
Lauryn Hill / June 21 / Sound Academy / $60 advance
Former Fugee and five-time Grammy Award Winner Lauryn Hill brings her blend of R&B, neo soul, hip hop and reggae back to Toronto. I recently got into an argument over whether or not Hill was a one-hit wonder with "Doo Wop (That Thing)" but between her classic The Miseducation Of album and her Fugees tunes, Hill will be belting out a full set of familiar songs.
Summer Melt / June 21 / Soybomb / $10
Local DIY labels Telephone Explosion and Pleasence have teamed up for a stacked line-up at Soybomb. Cleveland post punks Pleasure Leftists make their Toronto debut after car trouble prevented them from playing a recent support slot at the Horseshoe with Cloud Nothings. The band's newest LP on Deranged Records (Fucked Up, White Lung) mixes the plaintive wailing of Siouxsie Sioux with the jagged guitars and driving rhythm of Unknown Pleasures-era Joy Division. The bill boasts some of the best Toronto acts not appearing at NXNE including Teenanger, Das Rad, Petra Glynt, Toronto Homicide Squad, and Wrong Hole, plus expect some fun surprises.
Dusted / June 21 / Sonic Boom Records (Bloor & Bathurst) / free / all-ages
Baby Eagle / June 22 / Sonic Boom Records / free / all-ages
If you miss Dusted's Friday night appearance at Smiling Buddha, you can catch them in-store at Sonic Boom on Saturday. With Brian Borcherdt's main band Holy Fuck touring again, I highly recommend you catch his side project whenever you can. If you don't feel like sawing off your feet from standing until 4am all week, Sunday's in-store line-up is not to be missed. Steve Lambke of Constantines and You've Changed Records performs as Baby Eagle. Army Girls, Courtney Barnett, and Weaves round out the bill. Both shows are free and all-ages.
Zacht Automaat / June 22 / Artscape Gibraltar Point / $10
If Toronto Island is left standing after the epic Vice party on Thursday, you can wind down after the weekend with the excellently curated Unaffiliated 01, brought to you by No Visible Means, Weird Canada, and artists Julia Dickens & Halloway Jones. In addition to visual art and delicious snacks, there's a full line-up of art-damaged music including Zacht Automaat, Man Made Hill, Halifax's Old and Weird, and a special secret guest.
Secret Show / June 22 / Smiling Buddha / all-ages
I haven't leaked the details about this show yet, but cryptic messages from Just Shows' Twitter account suggest this is going to be something you won't want to miss. Trust me!
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Writing by Mark Pesci. Photo of Teenanger by D Andrew Reid.