June 22, 2012

North By North East 2012

     Every year NXNE invades Toronto's bars and clubs with all types of live music. This year the music festival took place from June 11-17 and featured over 700 bands. I was lucky enough to get a pair of all-week wristbands from a friend so I attended several of the festival shows.

     On the Thursday night I started with CALiPH at Crawford on College St. for some rap. The show was supposed to start at 9:00 but the sound system was still being set up so it wound up beginning about 20 minutes late. The music was good but I felt like I was the only audience member who wasn't related to or personal friends with the performer so that was a bit awkward. I give CALiPH a 6/10.

     The next show was at The El Mocambo on Spadina for The Army Girls. Army Girls are a two piece (guitar and drums) punk/soul band from Toronto. I can't say I was feeling the music so I used the time to catch up with a friend I hadn't seen in a couple of years. Army Girls get a 4/10.

     After the El Mocambo I headed over to The Garrison on Dundas for Grass Widow and The Black Belles. I had been told Grass Widow was an edgy band but what I heard was standard pop/punk/garage rock from an all female band. They played competently and sang in harmonies but once again this band was not my cup of tea. I suppose I should have done more research into the bands that were playing but with over 700 to choose from the options can be daunting. I give them a 5.75/10

     The Black Belles completely filled The Garrison up. The place was packed and hot. This goth girl garage band was signed to Jack White's record label (Third Man Records) and they actually sound a lot like a female white stripes. The band dressed in black dresses, black sun hats and with black lipstick and eyeliner. They looked to be boiling under the lights but they put on a good show and people seemed to be enjoying it. I give them a 7.5/10

     Afterwards I made my way towards the Wrong Bar on Queen to see Purity Ring but when I passed by there was a massive line-up outside so I decided to call it a night and head home for some sleep instead.

     On Friday I spent the entire night at Wrong Bar. The band list for the night was DZ Deathrays, Bass Drum Of Death, METZ, The Men, and The Deathset. I got to the venue at 9:00 and ran into the same friend I met on Thursday night.

     DZ Deathrays was the first and my personal favorite band of the night. They are a Drum/guitar duo who play some heavy rock similar to Death From Above. The vocals were good, the music was good, the energy was good and the audience was having fun. I give DZ Deathrays a 8.5/10. I'd go see them again.

     Bass Drum Of Death came on next at 10:00. This band was similar to DZ Deathrays but with an extra member and a bit more punk. They were also good with their fuzzed out vocals and guitar and I'd give them a 8/10.

     METZ played at 11:00. They are an experimental/noise/post-punk band from Toronto. This band was also ok. The bar was full and hot but I had a good spot near the side. Lots of energy but guitars that sound out of tune don't excite me (guess I don't get the experiment) so they get a 7/10.

     The Men went on stage for Midnight. The Men actually played the previous night at The Garrison right after The Black Belles but I missed it because I wanted to try and check out Purity Ring. To me they sounded like more of METZ so they also get a 7/10 however, the audience started crowd surfing so the band's rating goes all the way up to 7.5/10!

     At 1:00 The Deathset began to play but I was tired so I went home after the first song. Guess I'm getting old. Like the Pursuit Of Happiness said:
"Speaking of hearing, I can't take too much loud music
I mean I like to play it, but I sure don't like the racket
Noise, but I can't hear anything
Just guitars screaming, screaming, screaming
Some guy screaming in a leather jacket

     On Saturday night I decided to take it easy and spend the night with some punk music at The Great Hall. The lineup for the night was Take Drugs, The Mahones, Teenage Head and The Nils. 

     Take Drugs are a new punk band from Toronto but they were tight and played some straight forward punk. I enjoyed their set and the singer was entertaining. I give them a 7.5/10

     At 11:00 The Mahones took to The Great Hall's stage. The Kingston band has been playing Irish punk music since they formed for St.Patty's day in 1990. They have released 10 albums and were one of the first Irish punk bands around. They were great live. The songs were good and fun, the audience was having a blast and the band looked to be having one too. I would definitely check these guys out again and I give them a 9/10.

     At Midnight I got to see Teenage Head! Teenage Head formed in 1975 in Hamilton , Ontario and were one of Canada's most famous punk bands during the early 80's. Many people consider Teenage Head to be the Canadian equivalent to The Ramones and after seeing them live I would not disagree. The band played many songs off of their breakthrough 1980 album Frantic City including Infected, Disgusteen and Let's Shake. This show was my favorite from this year's NXNE and I give them a 10/10.

     I had originally planned to see Nadja at The Garrison on Sunday night but I ate too much at a Father's Day lunch and was burnt out from 4 nights in a row of concerts (including the non NXNE Blood Ceremony show on Wednesday night) so I skipped the show and relaxed instead.

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