NXNE 2012

Bands to check out on night one of NXNE 2012

If you're a fan of live music and you live in Toronto, you already know that North by Northeast (NXNE) is finally upon us. With almost 800 bands and artists playing in various venues across the city for the next five days, picking and choosing which ones to see is no easy task.

Tonight, the music portion of the festival gets underway. There's a ton of up-and-coming bands taking the stage — some you've might have heard of, and some you haven't. To help you decide what's worth checking out, we'll be offering nightly picks for the remainder of the festival in addition to our main preview post. Here are my highlights from Wednesday's music programming at NXNE 2012.

THE DRAKE UNDERGROUND

Eternal Summers (10 p.m.)
This indie-pop trio out of Roanoke, Virginia are set to release their sophomore LP, Correct Behavior, in July. Thus, it's safe to say that they'll probably be showcasing some new material. The first single, "Millions," is endlessly catchy, and the second cut, "Wonder," is a quick-and-dirty little number with a main riff that will get stuck in your head for hours.

Porcelain Raft (12 a.m.)
The one-man brainchild of Brooklyn-based musician Mauro Remiddi, Porcelain Raft is dream-pop at its finest. Give a listen to most any of the tracks on Strange Weekend (released this past January), and you'll instantly be lost in its soaring synths and haunting vocals. This is one raft that you'll definitely want to take a ride on.

EL MOCAMBO (Main Floor)

Gus & Scout (10 p.m.)
There's an undeniable chemistry that exists between Gus Wenner and Scout Willis. Listening to their music (namely, songs like "Gone, Gone, Gone" and "Don't Bother You Much"), it's clear that this duo is poised to break out. It's really just a question of when. Wonderful stuff.

Amos the Transparent (11 p.m.)
A recent discovery for me, I just can't stop listening to this seven-piece out of Ottawa. If the videos and reviews that I've come across are any indication, their live shows are truly something to behold as well.

Sacred Balance (12 a.m.)
The band's official site refers to their musical style as "electro-visionary trip rock" in the style of bands like Radiohead and Muse. They also have a very similar sound to Portishead, so if you're a fan of such bands, this is a show you'll want to check out. Thumping bass and haunting, desperate lyrics are definitely in abundance here.

EL MOCAMBO (Upstairs)

Enjoy Your Pumas (9 p.m.) One of the highlights of last year's NXNE was the performance from this Winnipeg indie-rock quartet, and it's fairly safe to assume that they'll kill it again this year. Frontwoman Rosie Blais may draw comparisons with Emily Haines (and indeed, the band does have a very Metric-like sound), but don't get it twisted - these guys are their own entity, so give 'em a listen.

South of France (11 p.m.)
South of France is gearing up for the release of their debut LP Another Boring Sunrise, and this will be the first time that they've played NXNE. Their music is clearly influenced by classic '60s surf-pop, and it's impossible not to tap your feet and nod your head to their catchy jams. I reckon that this is a band you'll be hearing quite a bit from in the near future.

THE GLADSTONE BALLROOM

Portage & Main (9 p.m.)
Led by Harold Donnelly and John Sponarski, these Vancouver boys specialize in folk rock, in the vein of Neil Young and The Band. They also have a sound that is strikingly similar to Blue Rodeo. Their lyrics are musical storytelling at its finest, and this one comes highly recommended.

The Belle Game (12 a.m.)
Their mini bio on the NXNE website says that this Vancouver collective is "taking aim at Broken Social Scene or Arcade Fire's indie-rock-classicism crown." This may be at least partly in jest, but there's no denying the fact that they have a very similar style to both of those bands. Could they be the next big thing? Hard to say, but this show is definitely worth a look.

Top Less Gay Love Tekno Party (1:15 a.m.)
Vancouver continues to be well-represented this year with this borderline-insane pop/electro group. Wild and frantic live shows are their trademark, and their music will definitely be hit or miss with a lot of people. Their catalogue has some true gems, though, including the achingly beautiful and simply awesome track "Danger Love."

THE HORSESHOE

The Heartbroken (11 p.m.) This Toronto-based alt-country band describes themselves thusly: "(We're) what would happen if Johnny Cash and Bowie meet for a drink at Willie Nelson's bar and Linda Ronstadt tries to pick a fight with them." Hell, if nothing else, that description alone should pique your curiosity.

THE RIVOLI

D-Bonez (9 p.m.)
The Rivoli is where you want to be if you're a fan of quick-and-dirty hip-hop sets. It's refreshing to hear motivational and witty rhymes in hip-hop, especially when they're being spit by a young up-and-comer like D-Bonez. He may only be 19, but his music makes him seem wise beyond his years, and his smooth flow and clever lyrics will leave audience members hypnotized.

The Antiheroes (11:35 p.m.)
The first thing you'll notice from this Toronto-based hip-hop duo is their immaculate production. Their beats are absolutely sick, and they're no slouches when it comes to their lyricism, either. If you're not familiar with these guys, you soon will be.

THE SHOP AT PARTS & LABOUR

K-Holes (1 a.m.)
I've included K-Holes on this list simply because they're one of the most batshit-crazy groups that I've come across in a while. They sound like a surf-rock band with extremely bare-bones production and a manic edge that really has to be heard to be believed.

Photo of Porcelain Raft courtesy of blikeng on Flickr.


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