NXNE 2012 Preview

June 5, 2012

North By North East, Toronto’s biggest and best music fest is nearly here! It all starts next week from 11-17 June. There are a LOT of bands on the bill for NXNE. 650, apparently. That’s a lot of bands! Who is going to be able to see all of those bands? Nobody. Put your hand down. Don’t be silly. You can’t do it. Nobody. There is no other answer. Go look at the list. Have you ever even heard of more than a fraction of those people? I know I haven’t. Stop lying. Stop it. Neither have you. Stop. That’s what’s fun about this whole deal, though: the blind taste-testing mixed in with the half-crazed desperate attempts to make it into showcases of the year’s more buzzed-about acts. So that’s what this preview is: basically just a (very small) handful of cool/possibly cool suggestions of things to see from Wednesday through Sunday.


The Aves

The Aves @ The Painted Lady, 9 PM:
Never heard of them before, but the NXNE website describes them thusly: “Swaggering Aussie garage quartet with some fey C86 or Smiths Brit-influence to add some nous to their scratchy, panic-y guitar-pop.” And that sounds awesome. Granted, I am a total sucker for the words “garage”, “C86”, “Smiths”, “scratchy”, and “guitar-pop”, so seeing all of them in one sentence does give me a little bit of a bias-boner.

Pauly and The Blowbots @ The El Mocambo, 9 PM

Mac DeMarco @ The Drake Hotel Underground, 11 PM
Have you heard his Rock and Roll Night Club EP? That shit is off the hook. His songs have this really sleazy/sexy strangeness to them that’s hard to resist getting caught up in. It’s kind of like if White Fence spent more time trying to make you dance and less time fucking around with the tape.

Porcelain Raft @ The Drake Hotel Underground, 12 AM
If you’re unfamiliar, Porcelain Raft is this Italian dude who hangs around with the folks in Yuck a lot and writes that kind of straightforward melody-first singer-songwriter stuff that not too many people do anymore. He’s kind of a sonic wild card; his stuff runs quite a gamut of sounds, sometimes recalling classic singer-songwriter stuff like solo John Lennon (“Shapeless & Gone”) but mostly leaning more toward a very familiar kind of vaguely gothic 80s synth-pop. Should be good.

Editor’s pick:  Ages & Stages After-party at 568 Richmond St with Dinosaur Bones, Magneta Lane, The Two Koreas + secret special guest. From 7:00 PM. See the Ages & Stages movie screening at 4:30 PM at the NFB.


The Men - photo credit Angel CeballosThe Men – photo credit Angel Ceballos

The Men @ The Garrison, 1 AM
Honestly, not a whole lot of stuff scheduled for Thursday is catching my eye. It seems like this is the night that everybody chose to book all the blues-rock and “porch-folk” bands (I don’t know what porch-folk means, but it makes me think Avett Brothers), and that’s not really my cup of tea. I dunno, there’s White Rabbits, I guess, if you’re into them. And Bad Religion, who lots of people like very much when they’re twelve. I dunno! Thursday just looks kind of dry to my eyes. That’s just me though! I’m sure that lots of the Thursday bands are very good and I just don’t know anything about any of them! Some of us might need to get out a little more, and in this case, some of us might be just one person, and that one person might be me. Maybe I’m just doing it all wrong! I’m working on that! Everybody has to get their life together and be happy eventually, and I am working on that. BUT, until the day that we all reach total and complete self-actualization and subsequently – at least, one would hope – self-satisfaction, we have The Men to look forward to, and by jove, that’s pretty damn good consolation. The Men have broke through a fair bit this past year with the release of their second album, Open Your Heart, which rightfully got stupidly good reviews from all over the place. I expect blistering, raw, exhilarating rock n’ roll, which is pretty much all that these guys do. This is practically an awesome show guaranteed.

Editor’s pick:  Irvine Welsh’s Ecstasy @ Royal Cinema, 7:00 PM. The essential movie to see at NXNE 2012. A movie then concerts until the small hours of the morning? Sounds like a good Thursday night to me! And before that, I here there’s an #ABLoft afternoon rooftop party going down…


Hooded FangHooded Fang

Hooded Fang, Parlovr, TOPS @ The Silver Dollar Room, 10 PM, 11 PM, 1 AM respectively
Friday is the opposite of Thursday! Lots of cool stuff on Friday. Lots of cool stuff. For starters, there’s the Silver Dollar Room, which seems to be hosting a fun-time Canadian indie-pop night, so if you’re really into that kind of thing, just camp out here for the evening. Hooded Fang have that twee deal going on, but they usually don’t get swept up in their own cutesiness which is a common problem with that kind of group. I saw them years ago at what was at the time only their third show, and they were fantastic. I haven’t seen them since, so I’m relishing the opportunity to check out how they’ve developed as a live act. Parlovr takes the stage immediately after, and if you’ve never seen them before, GO. I’ve seen a fair amount of rock and roll shows in my relatively limited time on this planet, but theirs is still one of the most fun I’ve ever had the pleasure to experience. TOPS is a new act out of Montreal who put out an EP called Tender Opposites that was a pretty good take on that whole 70s AM radio lounge-rock revival stuff that Ariel Pink kind of cornered the market on. Oh, and in between Parlovr and TOPS is Bleached, a female power-pop duo from California that will help wash the taste of that disappointing new Best Coast album out of your mouth.

DIIV, Oberhofer, John Maus @ Lee’s Palace, 10 PM, 12 AM, 1 AM respectively
DIIV is a side-project of one of the guys who play guitar in Beach Fossils. Weirdly, they’ve garnered a whole bunch of attention and momentum in the last few months, and lots of people seem to like them for reasons I’m not sure of. They’re pretty okay, don’t get me wrong. They’re basically a beefier sounding version of Beach Fossils, and I love Beach Fossils (especially that first album; “The Horse” = just…the best). But let’s be honest, Beach Fossils were already mining some pretty derivative sounds (ie. hazy, ‘verb-ed out nostalgia pop driven by spindly post-punk guitar lines, which literally every third band was playing three years ago) and I don’t understand why DIIV is supposed to be different and special. But anyway! I digress! I am being grumpy! Pay no attention to me.

“Go to bed, you grumpy old hag.”
– You.

“When I was your age, we didn’t live underwater and we had no space meat.”
– Me.

So, yeah. DIIV! Could be cool! Maybe!
Also, Oberhofer are playing, which could be fun if you miss Passion Pit or something. “Man, when is Passion Pit going to put out another album?” That’s you. That’s a thing you say to your friends at least once a month. They hate you for it. “Wanna go see Oberhofer? They’re kind of like Passion Pit.” That’s also you. Your friends told me to tell you that they are all sick that night.
And John Maus is playing too. I’ve never seen him before, but in pictures he always looks like a small child in the middle of a terrible fit. And I find the idea of a grown man acting like that in front of a crowd and getting paid for it to be immensely appealing.

PKEW PKEW PKEW (gunshots) @ The Rochester, 12 AM
All I know about these guys is that when I saw that name on the NXNE website, it made me laugh out loud. For reals. So, I’m in. Well, it was actually more of an appreciative smirk. But still. Pretty good name.

Phedre @ Sneaky Dee’s, 12 AM
Because “Gwen Stefani’s/Lying oh so still/So many lovers/In need of organs” was the catchiest/weirdest/best dance hook to come out of Toronto this past spring.

Bass Drum of Death, The Men @ Wrongbar, 10 PM, 12 AM respectively
Bass Drum of Death’s self-written (I assume) description says “The songs are about drugs, trying to make it with religious girls, panic attacks, stealing stuff, mild to severe depression, Elvis appearing in your dreams and giving you advice, gravity bongs and the devil living inside your brain.” That’s accurate, so if you’re into all of those things, or even just some of those things, then this could be fun for you. Also, The Men! Again! A second chance for those who screwed up their Thursday night by somehow NOT spending it at their Garrison show.

Matthew Good @ Yonge-Dundas Square, 9:30 PM
Matthew Good is one of those guys who’s been around long enough that you’re probably aware of him already and have formed some kind of opinion about his music. I don’t really need to write anything about it here, do I? If you like Matthew Good, by all means, go! If you don’t, then maybe don’t go. It’s free! So, for those of you who have decided to go, isn’t that great for you? Free stuff is great.

Editor’s pick: Reigning Sound @ Horseshoe Tavern, 1:00 AM


The Flaming Lips at Osheaga music festival 2011, Montreal - photo by Liz Keith, Music Vice

The Flaming Lips @ Yonge-Dundas Square, 9:30 PM
The Flaming Lips are playing. For free. Everything I said about Matthew Good applies here. You know the Flaming Lips, and you know whether you like them or not. But even if you don’t like them, you should probably go, because this has a very high chance of being awesome. I don’t even like the Flaming Lips that much, but I would go if I could. I can’t though, because I will be at Radiohead that night. I know, poor me. Oh! And Ceremony is playing at Yonge-Dundas as well, but earlier in the afternoon (3:00 PM, if you want to get all precise and finicky about this). So, hypothetically, you could stop by and see Ceremony in the afternoon, go play a really crazy city-wide game of hide and seek for six hours, and then come back and see the Lips. Doesn’t that sound like a good day? You should do that.

Editor’s pick: See above. If you’re not going to Radiohead, then you’ve got to see the ‘Lips!


Action Bronson, Killer Mike, Raekwon & Ghostface Killah @ Yonge-Dundas Square, 7 PM, 8 PM, 9 PM respectively

Editor’s pick: NXNE Rockers V Rollers Annual Charity Football Match @ Lamport Stadium, 1.30 PM. 

So, that’s NXNE this year. Some of it, anyway. You should probably do some research of your own. You’re an adult and you are capable of these things. We all have to grow up some time. But have fun! Let’s all have fun together. Stay safe and be polite to others.

“No fighting.”
– Wyclef Jean

© Justin Santelli, Music Vice

Internet links: NXNE

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J. Francis

J. Francis is a freelance music critic that sprouted like an unsightly growth from the suburbs of the Greater Toronto Area and eventually ended up in Kingston, Ontario. He is a man of deliriously firm, contradictory convictions, with a life-long dream of dismantling high-art/low-art hierarchies. He loves pop music with a passion that many find unsettling and is often mistaken as being somehow ironic or insincere (nothing could be further from the truth). His favourite album is Meat Loaf's Bat Out Of Hell. He knows that you think that's ridiculous. Regardless, he hopes you have a good day.

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