We’re back with the second half of our NXNE preview–read on for tips on what to catch over the weekend of the festival.
FRIDAY JUNE 20TH
Rancho Relaxo at 10 PM
Chicago indie-rockers The Kickback must be one of most underrated and under-covered bands coming to Toronto for NXNE. I have listened to every band playing the fest, and this is one of the absolute best. Every once in a while it takes a band like the Kickback just to remind me how good pop music can be. Also make sure to check out their podcast “Disastour.”
Smiling Buddah at 10 PM
Brian Borcherdt of Holy Fuck is blessed with the ability to put out anything and have people take notice and give it a shot because of his musical pedigree–but make no mistake, Dusted isn’t coasting. Instead it is driven, somewhat eerie indie pop with subtle but sharp teeth.
Rancho Relaxo at 2 AM
Those who hang out around Rancho Relaxo have known for some time now what the rest of the world is now finding out: CHAMPION LOVER is arguably Toronto’s best band. Their hiatus was never expected to approach a year, but the boys said they would not play another live show until the record was complete. CHAMPION LOVER are men of their words and now they finally hit the stage again at Rancho Relaxo for an ear-piercing live show at 2 AM. I have been around this music game long enough to know the best bands with the best albums do not necessarily get all the best breaks, but god damn it this time it better happen.
Erik Lind & the Orchard
The Baltic at 11 PM
There are many bands who try to do the indie-folk-meets-indie-pop thing–so many that the genre garners a lot of flack, because most of it doesn’t hold a candle to Erik Lind & the Orchard. Also, this is arguably the most David Marskellian band that David Marskell of the Indie Machine booked in the Baltic, and I like me some Marskellian bands.
Hands & Teeth
The Bovine at 1 AM or Wrong Bar Wednesday night at 10 PM
In their early days, TWM had our dirty hands all over Hands & Teeth. That’s why they will forever have a spot in my heart, but over the last few years I have been watching from away. Their newly evolved sound is everything I could have hoped they would do, with melodic guitar-driven rock meshed with indie pop–all fronted by Natasha Pasternak, arguably Toronto’s best frontwoman.
Rancho Relaxo at 12 AM
Balancer are a worldly band, originally from Puerto Rico and Columbia, then in Boston, and now residing in Brooklyn. They play some of the best psyched-out dream pop you are ever going to hear. All too often these days it feels like music is in a rush, but not with Balancer–these songs have room to breathe and pull you in organically.
Scruffy & the Janitors
Sneaky Dee’s at 11 PM
If I were a devastating, young garage band with members who aren’t old enough to drink in the States, I would also go play NXNE. Scruffy & the Janitors sound like what would happen if Jack White started a new garage back band, and people are taking note in a big way. You know the venues here like them because Sneaks is letting a 17-year-old drummer in the bar. They’re also playing Lee’s Palace on Wednesday at 10PM.
SATURDAY JUNE 21ST
Rancho Relaxo at 9 PM
I truly have no idea how this fantastic band has just one play at the festival this year, but that means you need to make sure to schedule this in and get out early. Aircraft are a surfy psych-pop throwback that will bring to mind the best of the ’70s and some of your favourite parts about the less-punk Ty Segall stuff at the same time.
Bovine Sex Club at 9 PM
I seem to unintentionally be following Halloway Jones’ musical exploits because I was/am a huge fan of her older band Hind Legs–and now without realizing her involvement I find myself digging really hard on Baby Cages. This is a Halifax lo-fi three-piece fronted by Jones. Fans of Hind Legs will notice right away that the music got darker and more abstract and well, maybe better too? Jones has a knack for timing, and even with these slow brooding jams she finds just the right spot for flourishes.
The Jerry Cans
Tranzac at 9 PM
I realize that you can’t see all of these bands at 9 PM, but just make sure you see one of them. Hailing from Nunavut, The Jerry Cans combine folk with throat singing, reggae, and a surprisingly punk live show that needs to be experienced. There is a reason this band is being flown all around the country to play festivals and is always welcome back–they are, simply put, one of the top live bands in the country.
Lakes of Canada
Tranzac at 10 PM
A few years back we hosted Lakes of Canada at a TWM show and I remember thinking the band was really good, if not a bit too much like Fleet Foxes for my taste. Fast forward a few more years and the band catches my attention again by adding Greg Halpin — a tremendously talented musician whom you might recall from the excellent Honheehonhee. Turns out Lakes of Canada have fine tuned their sound, going for a huge gospel-folk-pop thing. It just might be the best music I have heard out of Montreal in years, and people are taking notice in a big way.
Rulers of the Moon
Rancho at 11 PM
When founding member Casey Lyons decided to leave Rulers of the Moon nobody knew exactly what the future would hold for the band. Hell, nobody knew IF there would be a future for the band. But after some deep soul searching the band decided to soldier on, bringing Thor Thunder from bass to guitar and hiring Robb Johannes (Paint) to bring the bass. Since then nobody has seen the band play live, instead only hearing word of next-level rehearsals. NXNE will be the re-launch of the new (and perhaps improved?) punk/metal/hard-rock machine that is Rulers of the Moon. Don’t be the fool who misses it.
Suitcase Sam & the Suits
Silver Dollar at 9 PM
Suitcase Sam & the Suits are one of the most entertaining and talented acts going in Toronto right now. The backing band for Suitcase Sam are themselves all fantastic musicians who come together to back up one of the most compelling frontmen in town. And well, let’s face it–there is probably no better stage for this drunken folky rock, and who doesn’t want to take every chance they can to see Brent Randall on the piano?
Rancho Relaxo at 12 AM
Walrus are the darlings of the early festival guides for who to see, or at least of the ones that consider all venues and not just the trendy ones. Sidebar: how are you previewing a festival if you consider just a half-dozen venues? Anyhow, Walrus are a mind-blowing six-piece psych outfit from Halifax. I saw them a few years back in their absolute infancy and they were good then. They are fucking great now.
SUNDAY JUNE 22ND
Rancho Relaxo at 1 AM
Last band of the festival at Rancho unless we pull some surprises out for you–and you never know we just might. Then again, ending with a band like Baby Please, who could easily be one of the big buzz bands at next year’s festival, does seem somewhat perfect. Baby Please have that similar jangly addictive indie rock with just enough edge to it to them that Stella Stella Ola have used to make their mark on the local music scene. If everything goes just right we’ll have a room full of zombies who made it through the week enjoying their new favourite band.
Black Rhino Riot
Rancho Relaxo at 10 PM
More fantastic indie rock on the closing night at Rancho. Few bands could make the move from Guelph to Hamilton so flawlessly and instantly become one of the best rising bands in their new hometown, but Black Rhino Riot did. Taking one listen to their brand of dancetastic indie-rock anthems and you’ll see why. Comparisons to Weezer, Bloc Party, and Arctic Monkeys all make a lot of sense but perhaps the latter at their absolute best is the most fitting.
Crawford at 12:45 AM
Does it irk you as much as it irks me when rooms insist on having times different than all the other venues? It just messes with everyone’s entire schedule. That said, King Creep are worth the inconvenience. King Creep play what they refer to as guitar-pop-thrash–and if you don’t know what that is, in the end it’s just another way of saying garage punk, but they do it better than 99% of the others who try. Exactly the kinda dirty late night punk you want to smash a few tall cans to…in an alley next to the venue before their set.
Handlebar at 10 PM
Skye Wallace has taken up residency in Toronto for a bit, but is from Vancouver. One of the benefits we get in Toronto is that musicians of this caliber might often join our ranks for a few months. Take advantage of this because Skye Wallace has one of the biggest vocals I have stumbled upon in a while. And she happens to be playing Handlebar, a venue that I know very well and that I think is the perfect fit for her sound.
Baltic Avenue at 1 AM
TWM has been screaming the Effens’ praises into the air for a long while now. There was a strong contingent of folks who believed the gospel, and more people like The Indie Machine, People Put Out Productions, and Dan Burke are starting to take notice. That makes us happy because these are great guys who are making some of the most innovative, catchy, and heavy poppy indie-rock or as they call it glam-grunge going on in the country right now. They’re playing the Silver Dollar at 9PM on Friday as well.
Derek Williams & the Back Country Band
Rancho Relaxo at 12 AM
Circumstance left Derek Williams & the Back Country Band stranded for over a week in St. John’s this winter as they could not get a ferry. During that time they played everywhere and anywhere that would have them, sometimes multiple times per night, making fans and friends, and selling whatever merch they could. Thankfully they are a great band or this might have been a bit painful. Derek Williams & the Back Country Band play booze-soaked bluegrass/country rock and do so like some guys who have put some serious mileage on the ol’ tour bus.