Music Vice was out in force for North By Northeast (NXNE) music festival in Toronto this year. Natascha Malta reports with her lessons learned from her first full week at NXNE. Also check out part’s one and two of our NXNE round-up for full festival reviews and photos.
NXNE Festival 2010 round-up part 3: lessons learned
North by North East may have been in its 16th year of gloriously showcasing new music in this fair city, but for me this is my first year really doing the festival properly and not just picking an odd show out of the listings in the NOW Magazine. It was a weekend packed with more music than a single person could hope to see in a whole month, let alone one single weekend. I saw 19 acts in 4 days at 7 different venues across the city. Some of them were fantastic and a few of them were god awful. Here’s what I learned at my first year doing the NXNE festival.
Lesson One: Don’t be afraid to go it alone
On day one of the fest I resigned to the fact that I had a press pass that none of my friends had, giving me access to things that they did not have access to. So I gave it a good shot and went at it alone. I had more fun and went to more venues than any other night of the fest because there wasn’t anyone to slow me down with their complaints that they didn’t want to see this band, or that there were too many people at the venue (well what were you expecting, it’s Iggy fucking Pop) or wanting to go for food at prime festival hours (11PM-1AM). Friends are good, and I think we should keep them around and bring them to music festivals- but if they’re not music fans, then maybe its better to leave them at home because as much as compromising for the comfort of friends who drove all the way from out of town to see me is the right thing to do, I don’t have that awesome story of having seen The Stooges. I don’t regret that because Iggy’s not going to be there to answer the phone when my mom’s in the hospital and make me feel better, but no more coaxing people to come to shows they’re just not interested in either.
Lesson Two: Bike
I did two nights of the fest on my bicycle and two nights on the TTC. You get a 20 minute window between shows. Most of the venues are in the downtown core. If you have a bike, you can get from almost any venue on the bill to almost any other venue in 20 minutes. Sometimes you have to wait 15 minutes just for the streetcar. You do the math. As for driving, don’t even think about it. Between the Friday night downtown gridlock and lack of parking, it’s a huge waste of time and money that you could spend on beer now that you’re not driving.
Lesson Three: Party like a Proletariat
Some people can afford to pay 55 bucks to do the wristband thing, and that’s worth it if you have the weekend off to party until 4 AM, checking out different venues across the city. But if you can’t do that, hit Yonge and Dundas Square where the concerts are free and the bills are better than anything I saw in the clubs. Will you have to put up with a little audience apathy? Not if you start your own dance party. Which brings my to my next point:
Lesson Four: It’s a rock concert, have fun
I know sometimes the band sucks, and that doesn’t exactly make for a fun atmosphere. But when fest organizers as well as the government of Canada and the City of Toronto shell out cash to provide us with a free party, it just looks, well thankless if you don’t dance. I’m not crazy, on Sunday night I saw Chicago hip hop up and comer Kid Sister twice- once at the free venue at Yonge and Dundas and then again at Wrongbar later. And hey, if you can’t shake your ass to Kid Sister, then what can you shake your ass to? Lighten up, uncross those arms and live a little.
Lesson Five: Do your homework
No matter where you go during this festival, you’re bound to stumble onto some great little band you’ve never heard of before. But here’s the thing, it’s a fest of the best little bands you’ve never heard of before and if you want to make the most out of it, then it’s worth doing some homework. I know I wish I had done a little more. Read Toronto’s free weeklies NOW Magazine and Eye Weekly to check out which shows are causing quite a stir, or check out reviews from SXSW (as many of the same bands played there earlier in the year) to see which bands brought it, and which flopped. Listen to CBC Radio 3 to get a great sampling of many of the artists that you’ll see later at the fest. Or if you’re not willing to do all that work, both the CBC and NOW (as well as a host of others) have put together entire nights of performances that they think you should see.
Lesson Six: Be adventurous
Yes go see the big names if you like them, but remember that it’s a new music festival so go and see a few bands you’ve never heard of before at some of the smaller venues. On Friday night I couldn’t get a friend into the Horseshoe for Man or Astroman because there was space only for laminate pass holders. Did we cry? Nah. We went to the Rivoli next door and saw Whale Tooth who ended up being great.
© Natascha Malta, Music Vice
You can check out my day by day coverage of the fest, including reviews of all 19 acts I saw on: greetingsfromtoronto.wordpress.com
More coverage from NXNE 2010 on Music Vice:
Full NXNE 2010 festival review and photos by Brian Banks
More day by day review coverage by Andrea Mateka
Review and photos of Eagles of Death Metal at Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto
Review and photos of Iggy and the Stooges at Dundas Square, Toronto