NXNE Festival 2010 round-up part 2: further reviews
The Festival: North By Northeast (NXNE) 2010
Where: Various venues across Toronto, Ontario, Canada
When: 14-20 June 2010
In One Word: Girrrly
Music Vice was out in force for North By Northeast (NXNE) music festival in Toronto this year. Our writer Andrea Mateka gives her take on the bands that she caught. Also check out the festival review and photos by Music Vice editor Brian Banks, plus writer Natascha Malta’s lessons learned from NXNE.
Lester Bangs once wrote, “Balls are what ruined both rock and politics, and I demand the world be turned over to the female sex immediately.” As a member of the fairer sex, part of me reveled in his statement, even though I don’t think it’s entirely true. Well, with the exception to the political part. That’s probably spot on.
But it’s true. Rock’n’roll is something inherently masculine. Maybe it’s the ego thing, I couldn’t tell you. There have not been many women who have been able to hold their own in this world, and those who did, could have probably taught the men a thing or two. History has shown that with a careful balance of feminine wiles, heavy eyeliner, and a scowl that says “Take your best shot”, women can rock it out. Hard. I don’t think I’ve ever given my sex its proper dues. That was until this past weekend. NXNE has delivered some women worth admiration.
Bella Clava took the stage at The Hideout around 9pm on the Thursday night. Personally, I wasn’t planning on attending the show, but after a late start and a quick shift in my scheduling, I went with fate and jumped off the streetcar just as it past by the venue. With bluesy rock grooves and the keys actually sounding like keys, I was kicked back into 1975. The scene set was complete with fringed dresses and hippy hair. Jefferson Airplane would have been proud.
Backed by her masculine band members, Caitlin Dacey, lead vocals and keys, drew my attention. She never let her spastic male counterpart, Steve Suttie, take too much control. The exuding energy from this band was as epic as Steve’s mustache.
I was in love, and ready for more.
After her set, I followed Caitlin’s painted cat’s eye to the El Mocambo, where she was the newest member of Toronto rock duo, Little Foot Long Foot. The band, a usual guitar and drum set, now had the addition of keys. I cannot compare the sound to the band sans keyboardist, never having seen them live before now, but overall it felt well rounded; a welcomed augmentation. This being their first show as a threesome, I figure they are still in the experimenting process, and I have two words for them: Keyboard. Solo. Enough said. With all due respect to Isaac Klein, a driving force in the drum department, it was the women’s show tonight. Joan Smith, lead guitar and vocals, is a force, acting like she could kick the shit out of a trucker, and she played like it too. Their closing song, “She Looks to You” should be on everyone’s playlist. Now.
So far, my Thursday night was ruled by the women, and it wasn’t going to stop there. But there was a bit of the guys thrown in for good measure (of course there was.) The boys of Turbogeist, a London, UK based punk band who played at the Silver Dollar Room around 11 pm Thursday night, got me riled. Like the good Brit punks they are, they gave it to me hard, fast, and under three minutes. Just the way I like it. With song titles like, “The Rats”, written after a trip to NYC, I really couldn’t have asked for more. Though, like the length of their songs, their set was a bit on the short side, and once again I was back at the El Mocambo for some female inspiration.
Fox Jaws is a band I have seen every NXNE year ever since I knew what NXNE was, which is arguably only three years, but still. This band always delivers, which is why I make that special effort to see them. Carleigh Aikin shows that a woman in a band can be not only be beautiful and rock the tambourine, but can also be an incredible talent. Take that, Nico. For me, her frantic spirit was the glue to this band. Like all great front (wo)men, her performance had its own gravitational pull, leaving the rest of her band to just unobtrusively focus on musically supporting her. And support they did. They seamlessly jumped between a country twang to a heavy metal interlude. It was a great way to end off my first night of NXNE.
But ok, I hear what your saying. What about the boys?
Well, for the boys, I can’t say much. What I can tell you is about an old man, an Old Man Luedecke. One man with a banjo, witty remarks, and a good sense of self. To say his music was of the uplifting sort would be an understatement and quite possibly an insult. He sang songs like they were stories, reciting life from the slower, relaxed part of the Canadian country. Songs about little birds and naptimes, foreign tongues and a life on the road. There was even a seemingly off-the-cuff performance of a recently written song about having a horrible show in Maine. Everyone in the Dakota Tavern on that early Friday night was singing along and sipping beers. Inspiringly enough, I went home that night and got some of my favourite songs from the evening off itunes. Hands down, my favourite show of the weekend.
As for the rest of the Friday, well, other than the random black out that left me wandering Queen and Spadina in search of electricity, I don’t think there’s anyone else worth talking about. This is simply based on the fact that I can’t recall any of the bands, which says that they probably weren’t worth remembering in the first place. The only exception to this would be Ten Bears, once again at the El Mocambo, who played some solid pop rock so well rehearsed, it could have a been a studio recording. Then again, I only caught their last song, a cover of an early 90’s dance hit, “Pump Up the Jam”. Not exactly my cuppa tea.
Saturday Night. If you weren’t at Iggy, then I don’t care where you were. I know where I was, and that was 3rd row in, getting bruised, but loving every minute of it. Iggy’s first step on the stage had the crowd go wild, bodies crushed to take up any space that wasn’t already filled. Somehow with these things, I always find myself sandwiched between a big sweaty, fat dude, and a girl with an overprotective boyfriend. Not ideal, but at least they act as good crowd control. I was near enough to Iggy to see that he wasn’t a young man anymore, not by a long shot, but do you think his age slowed him down? Not a chance. He ripped through each song like it was still 1970. His performance of “I Want To Be Your Dog” was a highlight. He takes a stance, down on both knees and microphone hanging from his mouth, and starts the sexually suggestive song. The crowd singing along with chorus as Iggy crawled up the steps of the Yonge and Dundas stage on all fours. It’ll be a performance that I’ll never forget.
I’m issuing a formal apology now to the bands that followed in his wake. After experiencing something and someone as altering and influential as Iggy Pop, anything witnessed directly afterwards isn’t going to hold much of a flame. Both The Zeros at the El Mo and Teenager at Silver Dollar that Saturday night left me a bit bored. By 2 am, the haze had receded slightly as I moseyed my way into the Horseshoe, physically and mentally exhausted from the past weekend but still wanting to drain every last drop that NXNE offered. The Stanfields were my closure and a suiting one at that.
The Stanfields; A group of rowdy, seafaring men hailing from the East Coast took on the issues of dirty drunks and awful one-nighters. With the flair of punk rockers, the Celtic influences of their hometown, and the crassness of drunken bar hoppers, they left the few night stranglers of the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern entertained. The boys knew how to put on a show. I took their advice in “Crocodile Tears” and left NXNE, because there was no room left in this festival for my exhausted tears.
Toronto. Good night.
All in all, my lessons learned:
– Watch out, boys. The girls are back in town and they aren’t taking shit from no one.
– Men with banjos can be quite charming.
– At no age are you too old to rock it out.
– And I need to head out to the East Coast, cause they sound like they know how to party.
© Andrea Mateka, Music Vice