North By North East music festival was another blurry fun-filled week of music and shenanigans in Canada’s music capital, Toronto. Everybody’s experiences are different, natch, but I will remember NXNE 2011 for a few reasons. Here’s my cut-to-the-chase look back at what mattered at NXNE 2011 to me.
Un: Jay Reatard movie premiere Better Than Something
At 5.30pm on Saturday afternoon at NXNE I joined an audience of a not much more than a couple dozen people for the screening of the new Jay Reatard documentary Better Than Something; I’d arrived over half an hour early in earnest, expecting a big line-up but I found myself forming what would be a very short queue. The turn-out might was low but for those of us who made it, we were lucky to see an excellent documentary in one of this city’s best kept secrets, the fantastic Toronto Underground Cinema.
Better Than Something features candid home-video style footage of Jay Reatard, right up to a point near his death in January 2010, together with live footage and interviews of friends and band mates. The movie is an immersing and moving profile of one of the most prolific DIY artists to ever live, with the story being told by Jay himself through an extensive interview. Jay truly didn’t let anything stop him from doing what he wanted to do in life, which was to make music and you really need to see this film to get a grasp of just how intuitve and resourceful Jay was in his approach to making music; like using an empty tub of Kernels popcorn as a drum when he had no drum kit and self-recording and producing nearly everything he released, creating over 100 7”s, EPs and albums in total. Better Than Something is filled with plenty of funny moments too and is not the dark biopic you might expect – there are numerous accounts of how Jay liked to ‘straighten people out’ if he thought they needed a slap to the jaw, or sometimes he’d just like to do stuff like kick his bass player in the dick for the hell of it…. legend.
Better Than Something was the highlight of NXNE 2011 for me. Nothing else came close. I found this film to be very inspiring. Better Than Something is currently doing the rounds at film festivals – no news yet on a DVD release but you can keep up to date with info at the BTN website. I recommend anyone to see this movie as soon as they get the chance.
My favourite new band discovery at NXNE 2011. To be frank, I heard a lot of the same old dross at NXNE venues this year but this band of Montreal delivered something different. Something interesting… totally sucked me in. USA Out Of Vietnam are a cut above.
Trois: Fucked Up at Dundas Square
An immense “coming of age” hometown concert for Fucked Up, with the band having just reached the next level with the release of their hardcore opera David Comes To Life. Well done guys, tipped hats all round. Next stop, supporting Foo Fighters – say hello to Dave.
© Brian Banks, Editor, Music Vice