Call & Response: NXNE Edition

For the past couple years, I've used my Call & Response posts to both learn more about bands/artists I'm interested in and to help raise awareness about their upcoming shows and releases.

I attended a lot of NXNE events this year and decided to give you a Call & Response-style account of my experience... from Broken Social Scene's surprise show, to The Juan MacLean's dance party, to Wintersleep's free show, to lots of great indie talent from around the world.

Day 1:

I started the festival off right: At the first Arts & Crafts NXNE Showcase at the Courthouse. After great sets by Jason Collett, Years, The Happiness Project and Apostle of Hustle, Broken Social Scene were the not-so-surprise headliners, but that didn't make it any less amazing. Feist joined the band on stage (something that doesn't happen very often anymore) and "Almost Crimes" with Feist singing her part was probably the highlight of the whole festival for me. Here's some footage I found on YouTube of "New Country", a new song featuring Feist:

Kevin Drew stage banter highlights: "You gotta fight to celebrate", and "you still gotta know how to look someone in the eye and tell them how you feel".

Day 2:

I started my night at the i (heart) music showcase at the Drake just as Ottawa post-punk trio The Balconies started playing. They were really good! Lots of energy and solid vocals from all three band members. I spoke with drummer Liam after their set:

blogTO: How long have you played together?

Liam: We started The Balconies in December of 2007. Jacquie (guitar, vocals) and Steve (bass, vocals) are bro & sis and played together a lot when they were younger. Jacquie and I started dating in 2006, and I was playing with For the Mathematics; she was playing with Jetplanes of Abraham, and after about a year and a half we thought it would be fun to start playing together, since we all were working on material that was not suitable for our current bands. Since then, FTM broke up, and Jacquie is no longer with JPoA, so The Balconies has become our main focus.

You just finished your first album. Where did you make it and with whom?

We recorded the bed tracks in Toronto with Carlin Nicholson and Mike O'Brien (of ZEUS) at their studio. All the rest was done at our apartment in Ottawa. We are putting it out ourselves.

I hear you're moving to Toronto. What inspired that?

I grew up in Toronto, moved to Ottawa for school in 2002. I want to move back to Toronto; Jacquie and Steve are wanting to leave Ottawa, so it makes sense. Toronto also has a much larger music scene and we play more Toronto shows than Ottawa shows, so it makes sense in that way too. We love Ottawa, but feel like the move to Toronto will be good for us.

I saw some "industry peeps" at the Drake for your set. Anything cooking there?

Not that we know of! Our band is still relatively new, and we have heard about people coming to check us out here and there. It's very nice to hear, but I think signing a deal with a label would be a little premature at this point. Our first record we hope will generate some interest in our band. That and playing as many shows as possible!

When is your next Toronto show?

The Horseshoe on Saturday June 27.

Oh No Forest Fires played a high energy set after The Balconies, and then I hurried over to Tattoo Rock Parlour to catch The Field play a cool set of repetitive, melodic techno. I was expecting a one-man electronic show but it was a trio with live bass and drums.

And then The Juan MacLean absolutely tore the roof off the place with their high energy dance party vibe. I have been looking forward to hearing their hit "Happy House" live ever since it was released last summer. I did not disappoint. The song lasted about 15 minutes and everybody was dancing around me. Amazing. I had a quick chat with John MacLean after their set and we both agreed they should play Wrongbar next time...a much more appropriate venue for them. Day 2 for me ended with a very fun 2am set by local electro punks OPOPO. It's so much fun ordering booze after the normal last call!

I was a bit tired after drinking past last call the night before but I started Day 3 off at Yonge Dundas Square for a free performance by Wintersleep (pictured above) to hundreds of loyal fans, casual fans and startled tourists. That's the interesting vibe at Yonge Dundas Square...it's kind of like a box of chocolates. Wintersleep always puts on a good show - lots of emotional ups and downs. "Weighty Ghost" naturally got the biggest response from the crowd.

The rest of my night was spent seeing great performances by Provincial Parks at Rancho Relaxo (who have a new album coming soon according to Scott) and Fox Jaws at the Supermarket (a new incarnation of the now defunct Doris Day).

Day 4

I spent the first part of my night at the annual Joao Carvalho Mastering NXNE party, which included amazing live sets by Belgium hard rock trio Triggerfinger and Icelandic electro band Bloodgroup.

I caught the last bit of Brian Borcherdt's fabulously mellow set at the Whippersnapper Gallery, then rushed over to the Horseshoe to catch some quirky, 2am indie rock care of Montreal's The Lovely Feathers. After bit of a break out of the spotlight (getting a new label and management), they have a new album out now (the self-produced Fantasy Of The Lot) and their live show is just as entertaining as ever.

And then I crashed. Hard. Thanks NXNE. See you next year.

Call & Response is usually a series of Q&A's with bands from or playing in Toronto. Photo of Jason Collett's band: Matthew Braga.

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