Tag Archives: Northbynortheast

5 Moments From NXNE 2015: The Sadies, Comet Control And More

The Sadies at the Horseshoe Tavern during NXNE 2015

The Sadies at the Horseshoe Tavern during NXNE 2015

The ringing in my ears has stopped, my feet no longer hurt and my two-a-day restorative naps seem to have made my left eyeball stop twitching. This must mean I’ve survived yet another NXNE.

Here’s a notable performance I saw on each day of the festival:

Giant Hand
Cameron House
Wednesday, June 17

Giant Hand’s Kirk Ramsay says “I sing about death mostly” in his Twitter bio and that statement is a very literal and sometimes uncomfortable truth. A slight, singular presence on stage with his guitar, Ramsay’s songs are diary-like confessionals, filled with references to family, friends and a need to be part of a simpler, more natural world. That, and death. Always death. The Grim Reaper is never far away in the music of Giant Hand and when Ramsay is singing about how he doesn’t want to die you can actually sense those dark forces circling around and that his songs are keeping them at bay.

Comet Control
Silver Dollar
Thursday, June 18

The lineal descendant of psych act Quest For Fire and, before that, garage rockers The Deadly Snakes, Comet Control are readymade to dominate a world where events like Austin Psych Fest and Vancouver’s Levitation festival are quickly becoming a thing. Led by Chad Ross (vox/guitar) and Andrew Moszynski (guitar), Comet Control aim for something a little more focused, a little darker and less technicolor than The Desert Sessions. The biggest revelation from watching Comet Control live was the situationally perfect keys from Christopher Sandes. Something of an afterthought for Comet Control on their self-titled album, on stage his explorations help take the band to a place where Deep Purple decide to set controls for the heart of the sun.

George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic
Nathan Phillips Square
Friday, June 19

Not actually a part of NXNE, George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic’s free show at Nathan Phillips Square was actually a kickoff event for the Toronto Jazz Festival which was taking place at the same time. My expectations were modest from Clinton. The man, after all, has lived a life that could make Keith Richards blush. But as friend David Dacks’ radio documentary from a couple years ago revealed, Parliament Funkadelic have some deep connections to Toronto and the opportunity to see them play at city hall felt like there might be something special to it. Unfortunately, special might have been an overstatement. The band, buried deep in a marquee VIP tent with its flaps up so the common folk could see the stage, felt sequestered from the audience. Clinton, meanwhile, made only token contributions to the set, frequently ceding the stage to his younger, healthier, more able colleagues. Most concerning though was the not-so-funky-levels of funk on display. I get that Clinton’s only one part of a big machine, and I get that Parliament Funkadelic are a dynamic act that can swerve from rock to blues to soul to rap to jazz effortlessly, but their raison d’etre is the funk. And beyond the anthemic “One Nation Under A Groove,” for much of the set I was left asking mommy, where’s the funkadelic?

View of George Clinton & Parliament-Funkadelic set at Nathan Phillips Square

View of George Clinton & Parliament-Funkadelic set at Nathan Phillips Square

The Auras with Tess Parks
Smiling Buddha
Saturday, June 20

Whether it was discovering dad’s Nuggets box sets, a heretofore previously unknown millennial appreciation for 13th Floor Elevators, or seeing Brian Jonestown Massacre documentary Dig! as teens and deciding for some peculiar reason it was aspirational, The Auras and their associated label Optical Sounds have carved out an entirely quality niche by mining 1960s psych, 1990s Creation-gaze and early-’00s garage rock. A late start due to some technical problems was certainly a hitch to The Auras’ showcase set, but starting 10 minutes late probably made them play 10 per cent faster, which was entirely fine for their tripped out boogie. Calling on Tess Parks (who they collaborate with on a split single) for the last couple songs was a solid change of pace as well and helped push the band to be more.

The Sadies
Horseshoe Tavern
Sunday, June 21

It’s easy to take The Sadies for granted. They play Toronto multiple times a year and their albums are always reliably good in a sorta comforting way. But to pass The Sadies off with a simple “Oh yeah, I dig those guys” is a disservice. The band — Dallas and Travis Good, Sean Dean and Mike Belitsky are very good. And it’s not until you see them play live — in this case for a free hangover cure Sunday afternoon matinee at the Horseshoe — that you remember, “Oh yeah, these guys are spectacular.” The proof was in the effortless set that cherry-picked from their Internal Sounds and Darker Circles albums as well as deeper catalog songs. The Sadies masterfully guided us through a wild west of psych rock, bluegrass, spaghetti westerns and country reels, reminding everyone why they’re masters of their craft.

Planet-Creature-nxne-500

Planet Creature at Smiling Buddha as part of Optical Sounds’ NXNE showcase

no-joy-nxne-500

No Joy at the Silver Dollar as part of NXNE

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NXNE 2015 Recommendation Triple-Shots: Zola Jesus, Warpaint, Votiiv, More

Zola Jesus

Zola Jesus

The North by Northeast music festival kicks off today in Toronto and with it hundreds of bands will descend into the city’s clubs.

If you still have joy in your heart for music you will find it extremely difficult to see all the things you’ll want to see during the fest. That’s why, as a personal service to you the reader, I’ve compiled a list of recommendations to help you prioritize what to see when you’re pounding the pavement.

Wednesday, June 17

8 pm Etiquette @ Danforth Music Hall

Electro-Sade as interpreted by smooth operators Julie Fader and Brian Borcherdt.

11 pm White Cowbell Oklahoma @ Silver Dollar

Though they’re more proper boogie rock and less perverted minstrel show these days, a NXNE Cowbell show is a 15-year tradition at this point.

12 am Zola Jesus @ Lee’s Palace

There are a LOT of Zola Jesus imitators playing the fest this year. You might as well start at the top and work your way down.

Honourable mention: Murder Murder @ Handlebar at 11 pm. They mostly sing songs about murder.

Thursday, June 18

8 pm Lydia Ainsworth @ Phoenix

Where Grimes and Kate Bush intersect in a Venn diagram.

9 pm A Place To Bury Strangers @ Opera House

“Do you like Jesus And Mary Chain?”
“Totally, dude.”
“Awesome. Me, too. Let’s start a band.”

11 pm Comet Control @ Silver Dollar

A photo of stars in space

Friday, June 19

9 pm George Clinton @ Nathan Phillips Square

George Clinton is playing a free show at Nathan Phillips Square. It’s not part of NXNE. If you’re downtown you should probably go to that.

10 pm Votiiv @ Garrison

[Young woman discovers older brother’s Nitzer Ebb records. Enjoys them.]

12 am Warpaint @ Adelaide Hall

When faced with a viewing conflict (Warpaint vs. No Joy at midnight), ALWAYS default to trying to see the international act. You’ll probably have less chance to see them in the future.

Saturday, June 20

4 pm The Holy Gasp @ St. James Gazebo

People think I’m nuts because I want to see some kooky bongo band, but this totally looks crazytown bananapants.

8 pm Best Coast @ Yonge-Dundas Square

Now that the hype has long since evaporated you can judge them on their merits alone.

11 pm The Auras @ Smiling Buddha

Smiling Buddha has a super-pysch-y bill going all night. This is probably the peak, maaaaan.

Honourable mention: Heartless Bastards @ Horseshoe Tavern at 11 pm.

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NXNE 2014 Reviews: Rhye, Pizza Underground, Swans And More

White Cowbell Oklahoma's Clem Clemsen standing on the bar at Magpie Taproom.

White Cowbell Oklahoma’s Clem Clemsen standing on the bar at Magpie Taproom.

NXNE 2014 finished up last week and it left Team Risky Fuel with the requisite sore back, sore feet and sore ears. We reviewed a number of acts for Huffington Post Music Canada and you can find the write-ups at the following locations:

June 18 — JPNSGRLS, White Cowbell Oklahoma

June 19 — Odonis Odonis, The Pizza Underground

June 20 — Spiritualized, Swans

June 21 — Rhye, Alvvays, The Golden Dogs

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The Pizza Underground Talk About Pizza

The Pizza Underground

The Pizza Underground

One of the most curious additions to the 2014 edition of the NXNE festival was The Pizza Underground, a band who take the songs of The Velvet Underground and change the lyrics so the songs are all pizza-themed.

It is… interesting.

Sarah managed to speak to the band about all things pizza.

To read her story head over to Huffington Post Music Canada by clicking here.

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Reggie Watts On Canada, Comedy And Big Hair

Reggie Watts

Reggie Watts

Reggie Watts, he of the bountiful hair and strange combination of comedy and music, was in Toronto for the recent NXNE festival.

This was reason enough for Sarah to talk to him about Canada and some of the other things that make him tick.

To read the interview head over to Huffington Post Music Canada by going here.

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NXNE 20 Years, 20 Memories: A Look Back At Two Decades Of North-By-Northeast Music Fest

Yonge-Dundas Square NXNE crowd in 2012

Yonge-Dundas Square NXNE crowd in 2012

It’s the NXNE festival’s 20th anniversary this year so we took the opportunity to check in about what’s new with director Michael Hollett as well as pick his brain about some of the best acts he’s seen at the fest over the years.

As an added bonus I also included some of the notable acts I’ve seen over the years like Peaches, Flaming Lips and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.

To read the story head over to Huffington Post Music Canada by going here.

 

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NXNE 2013 Reviews And Photos

Mickey Avalon

Mickey Avalon

The 2013 edition of NXNE has finally ended and I can say with a certain sense of shock that I didn’t end up developing my annual case of paralyzing bad back from it (though I do appear to have a cold).

Over the course of NXNE I ended up seeing the following acts: Brendan Croskerry, Calexico, Santiago x The Natural, Sunfields, Brendan Canning, Wordburglar, D-Sisive, Elaquent, Sunclef + Peroff, By Divine Right, Hayden, The National, Blowfly, Brave Little Toaster, CTZNSHP, Weaves, The Lytics, Catl, White Lung and Mickey Avalon.

Some of whom I wrote up about in the NXNE wrap story for Huffington Post Music Canada. You can read that by clicking here.

I also took some photos of varying quality. Check those out below.

 

 

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