Not Dead Yet Fest Toronto

The top 5 bands to sacrifice your hearing to at NDY 2014

Not Dead Yet's annual music festival for Toronto's DIY hardcore community is growing up. This year the heavy fest is set to descend from November 19-23, when nearly 90 punk and alternative bands including Code Orange, Perfect Pussy, The Marked Men, WarCry and more are gearing up to play at 11 venues across the city in by far its biggest and most exciting incarnation yet.

"I'd say it's the biggest thing of its kind in Canada." says Greg Benedetto, avid show promoter behind the Stuck in the City blog, guitarist for punk fivesome S.H.I.T., and the main force behind Not Dead Yet. The inspiration for the event comes from Fucked Up, who used to organize and headline their own mini fest every year around Halloween. Around 2009, critical success and an unending tour schedule began taking the band out of Toronto too often to continue participating, but Benedetto and his friends were determined to keep the tradition alive.

"People travel from all over North America, and increasingly the world, to come see what the Toronto DIY hardcore punk community has on offer," he says. "We love bringing people together in the city to celebrate this incredible and diverse scene."

That communal emphasis has indeed been successful in bringing together Toronto's most passionate punks with other internationally acclaimed acts from all over. The artistic interchange isn't limited to music, either; Not Dead Yet has recently begun inviting visual artists both local and abroad to create unique posters for each and every show (all of which you can currently view on the Stuck in the City blog). "There are so many wicked visual artists working in punk music and we're hoping to expose that more to people in Toronto," explains Benedetto.

With so many bands playing in such a short period of time, it'll be tough to decide who to see and where to mosh this year. If you need help whittling down your choices, here are our top five picks for bands playing at Not Dead Yet 2014.

Perfect Pussy - November 21 - The Garrison
We've spilled much ink on the hype for this band's previous Toronto shows already, but Perfect Pussy continues to do everything right as one of the harbingers of new noise. Singer Meredith Graves is one of the most compelling front-people in music right now - her devastatingly honest lyrics get washed in the rest of the band's fuzzy dischord, almost getting lost but managing to pierce through the chaos thanks to her fervent delivery. They play November 21 at The Garrison with a solid lineup that includes post-punks Pleasure Leftists and the psychedelic-tinged Destruction Unit.

Forward - November 22 - Hard Luck Bar
Since their inception in the mid-90s, Japanese band Forward have steadily built a hardcore legacy that's crossed cultural boundaries and is now internationally recognized. Ishiya is a gravel-throated bear of a frontman whose growls add intensity to the band's old-school punk and thrash metal leanings. Their Friday set at the Hard Luck Bar will be their first ever in Toronto, and they'll be joined by numerous other must-sees such as Massachusetts band Hoax and Fucked Up offshoot Career Suicide.

Puce Mary - November 21 - The Garrison
The solo project of Copenhagen's Frederikke Hoffmeier, Puce Mary is definitely one of the most experimental acts you'll find at Not Dead Yet this year. The noise-driven soundscapes found on her debut 2013 LP Success are certainly not for the faint of heart, the industrial pieces gurgling with violent feedback, overdriven spoken word and lots of ominous low end. For the adventurous and not-easily-freaked-out music lover, this is your best bet. The show's been moved up from Milk Glass.

Iron Lung - November 20 - Sneaky Dee's
It's not that easy to be loud as a two-piece band, but Seattle's Iron Lung are one of the few who can blow out eardrums easily. Drummer Jensen Ward and guitarist Jon Kortland play powerviolence at breakneck speed, their songs usually under-a-minute bursts of intense sludge-filled fury. It doesn't hurt that the duo have a bit of a rep for witty stage banter, either. For extra fun, stick around after their set on Thursday at Double Double Land to let loose at the karaoke after party.

Burning Love - November 21 - Soybomb
Local stalwarts Burning Love have a legendary pedigree, rising from the ashes of (sadly, aptly named) Cursed as well as Our Father back in 2007. Those roots in hardcore have given way to a sound that's a little more mature (or maybe just more world-weary), donning influences of feel-good classic rock n' roll and even daring to throw in some catchy hooks. Toronto punks in the know are proud to call these guys one of their own. Even better: their after-party set's at Soybomb, undoubtedly one of the best places to catch a heavy show in the city.


S.H.I.T. - November 19 - S.H.I.B.G.B.'s + November 21 - Hard Luck Bar
Of course, we can't really talk about Not Dead Yet without tipping a hat to Benedetto's own band. S.H.I.T. have become instrumental to the life of punk in Toronto today, whether it's with events like this or by opening their practice space to become DIY venue S.H.I.B.G.B.'s. Their passion for the scene bleeds right into their music, a flurry of derisive howls, reckless drumming and guitar tones drenched in battery acid. It all clearly pays reverence to the punk greats of yesteryear, and I have to think that future Toronto bands will be inclined to pay homage to S.H.I.T. themselves in the same way.

The shows for Not Dead Yet range in price from $5 to $25 and include both all-ages and 19+ events. Pick up advance tickets at Rotate This or at the doors. All ages shows are marked as such here.

Photo of Puce Mary via

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