I have a serious NXNE fever cranking up right now, so I wanted to share with you some picks for the festival. Full disclosure: TWM has five showcases during NXNE, so there is a bit of a bias there–and aside from that, tons of our friends are playing. So ingest a grain of salt and then read on to find some of the best under-the-radar (or semi-under-the-radar) acts to see at the festival. Nothing beats finding the next big thing or an amazing band that nobody seems to know about. You’ll find plenty of those below.
WEDNESDAY JUNE 18TH
Rancho Relaxo at 10 PM
A folk collective with perfect pop sensibilities combined with a Klezmer influence, this is basically about as much fun as you can have with your pants on.
The Rivoli at 9 PM
This addictive electro-pop outfit out of Providence has some of the most hook-laden songs I have heard in the festival entire lineup. Check out “Keep it Together” and try not to play it 10 times in a row.
Smiling Buddah at 9 PM
Credit where it’s due: Mark Pesci has booked a huge NXNE at the Buddah. Dirty Frigs play psychedelic pop with raw undertones–they’re one of the best bands in town right now.
The Boat at 11 PM
Relive The Boat’s glory days with some sultry electro-pop out of Ottawa. Fevers describe themselves as early Metric meets Pet Shop Boys,and they have a second play at the Rivoli on Thursday at 8 PM.
The Drake at 9 PM & Rancho Relaxo Fri at 9 PM
Glory Glory play the Drake as part of the Halifax Pop Explosion Showcase, which should be rad as all hell. The band has changed and mellowed a lot over the years. At one point they were very Nada Surf to me and then they delved into some heavy post-rock stuff, but now they have mellowed out with some new wave indie-pop jams that might be best listened to by a beach or under a tree while staring up at the clouds.
The Handlebar at 8 PM
If you can get going for 8pm then you should seriously consider seeing Monomyth out of Halifax. They’re full of delicious indie-pop goodness courtesy of the excellent Mint Records. Taken from their bio: “The Halifax four-piece carries on the hallowed East Coast tradition of janglophile pop with a smirking sense of humour, stadium-sized hooks, and starry-eyed harmonies from the barbershop of broken dreams.”
Olivia & the Creepy Crawlies
Rancho Relaxo at 9 PM
This six-piece ukulele-fronted folk outfit is from London Ontario, a hotbed for under-the-radar folk music for the last decade or so. With a lineup including everything from banjos to telecasters, Olivia & the Creepy Crawlies play quirky upbeat folk that will get you bouncing around where ever you are.
Baltic Avenue at 10 PM
“It’s a hypnotic electronic-meets-shoegaze wall of sound” kicks off their bio, and that is a great description of what you get. Technical Kidman are a force to see live, one of my favourites in years. When they played Rancho they literally left my jaw on the floor. With the right breaks this band could be absolutely huge. You can catch them Wednesday or Thursday at 1 AM at the Dakota Tavern–an absolutely bizarre venue for them, which could be cool or a disaster.
THURSDAY JUNE 19TH
Cameron House at 8 PM
Last year we had Federal Lights play at Rancho for the festival, and the night ended with one of our bartenders getting smashed in the head with a stolen bottle of liquor he was trying to retrieve. If I am still recommending Federal Lights, that says that they played an incredible set. Based out of my beloved Winnipeg, Federal Lights play that driving impeccable indie pop that makes you feel like you could float on a cloud.
The Garrison at 1 AM
Odonis Odonis play with as much visceral energy as anyone going right in Canada, and the live show backs it up and then some. The Garrison is the perfect venue to catch them, and honestly I would go see them 100/100 times there over Dundas Square anyhow. I could listen to the guitars alone in this band for hours at a time.
The Hideout at 9 PM
Just reading now on the NXNE website that Molly Thomason is 19 years old blows my mind. It was at least three years ago now when the Cheap Speakers played with “this insanely talented singer/songwriter in Antigonish”–that songwriter was Molly Thomason, and in the years since she has established herself as one of Canada’s brightest rising musicians.
The Pizza Underground
Lee’s Palace at 10 PM
I was inches away from being the first person to bring the Pizza Underground to Toronto–but it fell through for a variety of reasons, and now NXNE has them. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s fucking awesome that NXNE brought the pizza-loving hipsters to the Big Smoke for several plays. It might be the best slice you’ve ever had in your life, or it might be that end-of-the-night Pizza Pizza you eat because you’re drunk.
Rancho Relaxo at 11 PM
Here’s a second great band from Northampton playing Rancho for NXNE. I am seriously going to have to look into that music scene, because everything I have heard is fantastic. They play diverse electro-pop, and its strongest element might be the brilliant composition. This is a great pick for fans of Future Islands.
Rancho Relaxo at 1 AM
Another City has been off for a few months, which means they are all full of piss and vinegar and ready to rip NXNE and Rancho a new one. I never grow tired of watching the dynamic between Sarah’s classically trained vocals and Benj’s aggressive style, while Kyle dazzles on guitar and Steve drives them forward with some of the more intense drumming in the city.
Silver Dollar at 10 PM
Once upon a time, TWM was the first promoter/venue to ever bring Language Arts to Toronto. Now the band is finally getting its serious due, signing to Maple Music and releasing a record called Wonderkind last year. Frontperson Kristen Cudmore’s quirky vocals are unforgettable, and the album would be one of my picks for the Polaris Prize this year.
Baltic Avenue at 12 AM
A lot of you don’t know Baltic Avenue yet–which is a shame because it is a great space and is booked by David Marskell of the Indie Machine, one of my best friends in town. He has outdone himself this year for NXNE, and MIMICO might be his crown jewel. Stole this from the shortest bio on the NXNE website: “Wandering, spaced-out psychedelia. Eerie corridors, sinister instrumentals, and ever-growing, throbbing heights.”