NXNE :: Week of music wraps up, exhaustion ensues


words & pics by Matt Williams

The buzz. Oh god, the buzz. It might never go away. The idea of seeing more than seven shows a night sounds amazing until you realize, “Wait. I didn’t bring ear plugs. How could I not bring ear plugs?” I’ve never really worn ear plugs, being a stubborn idiot and all. So, no matter where I ended up, I was caught with the buzz. The same buzz that has followed me since I was a youngster in a loud band. The familiar buzz that comes along with, you know – seeing great live music. Like when you walk out of a venue wonky with sea legs it was so good. And you just had to stand right beside the speakers. Continue reading “NXNE :: Week of music wraps up, exhaustion ensues”

Stylus vs. NXNE – Day 5: Patrick Goes Full Circle

By Patrick Michalishyn

So we get these emails every morning giving us the highlights of the day for NXNE. While Iggy Pop was this years’ “headliner” and De La Soul were closing out the night at the big free stage, I heard about show that happens every week in Toronto, a band who takes up a monthly residency at a different bar, playing only covers, some straight ahead, others mutated and mashed up with other known songs. The band’s name is Ancient Chinese Secret.

Ancient Chinese Secret is the latest band featuring the man who started the whole music geek in me running: Mr. Brian Connelly of Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet fame. And this was not your standard show. Brian, the nicest, most modest, fun and self-depricating musician-type that I’ve ever met, he and his band set up at the front of this tiny pub and just play. They don’t really talk until they announce they’re going to take a break between sets. Not looking for anything but to play to whoever’ll listen and have a beer when they rest their hands.

Continue reading “Stylus vs. NXNE – Day 5: Patrick Goes Full Circle”

Stylus vs. NXNE – Day 4: Patrick Takes Heed

By Patrick Michalishyn

I woke up late in the morning (early afternoon) in pain from rocking out too hard at the Astro-man? show last night. Shit, where’s the Robaxacet? No time to write, the only panel I cared to see was starting in two hours, across town at the Hyatt.

The panelists:
Henry Owings of the (in)famous Chunklet mag, Drug Racer Records, graphic designer (and it goes on and on).
Damian Abraham of Fucked Up, new dad, all around nice guy.
Nick Flanagan, moderator, singer of the Brutal Knights, comedian, and recent cripple (a skin-puncturing compound fracture that he got while performing. So punk!!)

The panel: “All of the Other Panels at NXNE Are WRONG.” The purpose: debunk all of the shit that every other panel tells you you need: “Finding a manager,” “The 360 Deal,” “Making a name for yourself,” and other horse-hooey that “the biz” says is a must when you want to start a band. Passion and the want to make music is the most important thing. Everything else you can pretty much do yourself. Yeah, EVERYTHING. Promote yourself, book your own shows, manage your cash, release your own records, get distro deals. EVERYTHING! The message was loud and clear from the get-go, but the three had 55 minutes left to make their point. Well…

Almost immediately, Damian took over moderating duties from Nick. Nick would jump in with random ridiculous comments and Henry would claim that they “knocked that one out of the park.” Three guys who know their shit, know what’s bullshit (almost everything) and aren’t afraid to mince words or take the piss out of anyone/thing that needs it. With a heap of humour. The panel was absolutely hilarious. Essentially three friends riffing off of each other and the list of names of the other panels. Sadly, the idea that was being bounced around before the panel started was that Damian, with wireless microphone, was going to crash other panels and report live from other rooms why they were bullshit. We even tested the range! It all boiled down to what the Big Boys ended their concerts with: “Go start your own band!”

I would’ve gone home and wrote about the previous day and got my reports in on time, but I got the option to go out for food and beer and record shopping with Henry, so I chose that instead. No brainer, right? Big geek, bigger heart, I love that man.

Continue reading “Stylus vs. NXNE – Day 4: Patrick Takes Heed”

Stylus vs. NXNE – Day 3: Patrick in the Pit

By Patrick Michalishyn
All right, so I said I’d write for Stylus about my NXNE experience. And I did — eventually. As any reader of this fine publication would understand, when you have the chance to meet, hang out, befriend a musical hero, you take that chance. And on this trip I did. I’ve had some time to collect my thoughts and refine my writing in the “cool off” days following. I hope ya dig! – Patrick

Rumoured shows are wonderful… when they actually happen. There was a rumour that at this house-party/BBQ George Stroumboulopoulos would show up, that Broken Social Scene would all come, and that they’d be dragging along Pavement for a secret set. I decided to check it out. Even if none of that happened, the beer is free.

I make it down, pay my cover and go get a beer. Four bucks! So much for free. Estranged friend Chris Nelson (former “Going Coastal” guy) tells me that Strombo is on a motorcycle down to L.A., and the other two rumours are definitely just that.

I missed Sebastien Grainger’s new band Bad Tits, but I was told they put on a stellar living room show. I couldn’t tell you who else played though… the bassist from the Constantines has a new band and might’ve mentioned that the ‘Tines have run their course (exclusive!). Eventually we left that off-Vice party and headed for the Horseshoe for the Chunklet show.

Continue reading “Stylus vs. NXNE – Day 3: Patrick in the Pit”

Stylus vs. NXNE, Day 2 – Patrick Sees Thee Oh Sees

By Patrick Michalishyn

I got a Facebook message back from Ralph Alfonso of Bongo Beat that he would be in town for the world premiere of Circa ’77: The Diodes a half-hour doc about the beginnings of the Diodes, as well as their end and the renewed interest and resurgence of this fantastic Toronto punk band. Lots of archival footage of them performing at the Crash & Burn Club (Canada’s first punk venue), interviews from their heyday, and lots of history. This all leads up to a reunion at NXNE a few years ago.

The movie kind of felt like an episode of really great TV, in the way that it packed in so much and covered so much ground in its short (27-minute) runtime. Hopefully it’ll come out with the Action/Reaction reissue (coming soon—hopefully—on Bongo Beat). So not only did I meet Ralph, who I’d been bugging about music stuff since I was 15, but three quarters of the Diodes were there for a Q&A.
Later that night was the Kelp Records Showcase at Clinton’s Bar. Local non-Kelpers Jennifer LFO played opened the show at 8 p.m.—playing to me, the bartender, the NXNE volunteer, and eventually Toronto Liam that I met at Jersey Boys a few nights before. It was a crying shame more people didn’t see them, but they played tight pop-rock with Acid Mothers guitar freakouts and Liz Phair-like duo-femme vocals. Liam an I went hoarse and had raw hands, giving them the volume-recognition they deserved. They thanked me by giving me their drink tickets. Unneccesary, but appreciated!

Near the end of that set, all of the Ottawans finally showed up: Andrew Swan, Jim Bryson, Mr. Kelp Records himself Jon Bartlett, Camp Radio and the man I’ve been listening to since I added “teen” to my age, Chris Page. You know when you meet someone who makes you love music so much that you pick up an instrument and learn to play their stuff? That’s who Chris Page is to me. He went up as soon as he walked through the door and played a half-hour solo set, sprinkled with songs from his four albums, plus a bunch of rarities found on the annual Kelp comps. I grinned like an idiot through the whole set, sang along, called out requests (and got a little tease of a Trapped song).

Then it was time for Camp Radio to take stage. Special surprise, they beefed up the power trio with two more guitarists (Jim Bryson and another guy I talked to for 20 minutes but forgot his name). It was gonna kill. I bought their album as soon as I heard it and couldn’t get enough. Now here, they kicked out more new songs from the forthcoming album than the old ones I’ve memorized and I couldn’t be more excited. They’re like a mix of the Nils and Superchunk, boundless energy, and a very beardy drummer. After they finished, it was hugs all around, and I kinda felt like the cousin who doesn’t get out to visit. I hope I get to see these guys again soon.
With two bands off my bucket list of “Bands to see before I die,” I walked over to the Great Hall to catch Thee Oh Sees. Brigid is more gorgeous than her pictures, Petey’s got that punk/intellect thing down, and the-man-that-never-rests John Dwyer, well he’s one of the coolest cats I’ve ever met. If you’ve never heard of the Oh Sees, here’s a quick overview. They’re from San Fran, their “breakthrough” album was called The Master’s Bedroom Is Worth Spending a Night In, and it’s a hell of a lot more frenetic than EVERYTHING that came before. Reverby surfy garagy punkrock’n’roll. They have records coming out every other month and everything sounds wonderful and unique.

Thee Oh Sees

I was right at the front of the stage, singing/sweating/dancing. They played a few songs from Master’s, “Block Oof Ice” getting the largest response. “Tidal Wave,” from the 7″ of the same name, got peoplethrashing and yelping. They even played the epic 15-minuter mind-melter “Warm Slime.” Some dude threw about 20 drinks on Dwyer and drummer Mike, and they got him back with one right in the face. The whole concert was absolutely insane. The only disappointment was that they played on the stage. Usually Thee Oh Sees set up in the middle of the floor, or in the bar, or in the lobby, or in the bathroom, and then just let’r rip, fans circling them and singing and playing their instruments. The stage show was still fantastic though, and after the show I got to hang out with them for about 45 minutes. I’m like a kid at Disneyworld right now, nothing’s gonna bring me down. If they ever come through Winnipeg, or if you ever have a chance to see Thee Oh Sees, never EVER pass it up. I’m gonna try and get some sleep now.

Stylus at NXNE, Day 1: Eagles of Death Metal and Small Sins

By Patrick Michalishyn

Hi, I’m Patrick, and I’m writing about my North by North-East experience for Stylus. Originally, I was just flying out to see Man… or Astro-man? perform at the Horseshoe, but my editors suggested I try for a media pass. Well, holy shit, it worked! So my stay was extended, my Toronto cherry was popped, and now I’ve gotta report back daily so I don’t get blacklisted. I hope I don’t bore you.

My basic rules:

If I’m invited to a show/BBQ/party, I go (unless I have previous plans). Basically, I’m not allowed to wimp out. No “pulling a Patrick.”

With over 650 bands playing NXNE, the chances of seeing crap are high. I’m trying to avoid that. So the bands and shows I’ll be reviewing will most likely be positive since it’s all stuff I want to see.

You never know who’s in the know. Whether it’s Man… or Astro-man?’s secret performance at Sneaky Dee’s, or a healthy rumour of a free Pavement set at an afternoon BBQ, or… shit, was I not supposed to tell?

Make a list of who you need to see, where they’re playing, and how long you need to get there. Logistics and common sense. If it’s gonna be a huge show, get there early. If two bands you want to see have conflicting schedules, see if one’s playing on another night. Give yourself time for transportation.

Winnipeg: our city planning and transit system suck. Not so much in Toronto. The city is a grid and the transit lines run on time (and frequently!). You just need to know the direction you’re travelling and the name of your stop (if additional help is needed, there are posters everywhere). Buy a pass for the week and keep it with your ID.

I got my media pass and swag bag, and during the long wait for both I ran into Andy Maize (of the Skydiggers, super affable dude), plus local wunderkinds Stephen Carroll (Weakerthans) and Shaun Gibson (Details). I love running into people I know in a place I’ve never been.

The only plan for the day, NXNE-wise, was deciding what kick-off party to attend. The big two were Eagles of Death Metal with Small Sins at the Phoenix or Karen Elson at El Mocambo. The guy at Rotate This said he’d sold out of tickets, and I’d only be interested in seeing if Jack White would be there supporting his wife (stranger things have happened). So I opted for the Eagles.

The show started promptly at 10 p.m. with Toronto’s Small Sins. Apparently this was their first show in a year and a half, but you wouldn’t know it. They were hella tight. Arranged in almost olympic-rings pattern on stage, these guys were kinetic on stage. Lots of dancing and harmonizing and smiles, with extra extra handclapping. Holy hell, there was a lot of handclapping. Musically, they ran the gamut between slower, atmospheric rock ‘n’ roll to super energetic Hall and Oats-like pop. Oh, and lots of good humour. They were the first to call themselves on being mismatched on a lineup with Eagles of Death Metal. Small Sins are a great band and they had people bouncing around, but you could tell the crowd was there for Boots & Co.

And at 11 o’clock, the Devil himself appeared. You know what to expect at an EoDM show: lots of southern-sex boogie-rock ‘n’ roll led by the charismatic-as-fuck preacher Jesse Hughes. I’ve never been disappointed with them. Plumes of pot-smoke filled the front of the Phoenix. The girl beside me took off her pink D-cup bra and hurled it at Hughes. It landed perfectly over the neck of his guitar during a song. He laughed, thanked the ladies in the audience, and hung it on the kick-drum like a trophy. He would pull the girls up onto the stage for a quick kiss and send them off to watch stage-side and soon girls were just climbing on up there on their own. Amazing showmanship every time, they know how to bait an audience. What a party! The only downside with any EoDM show are the meathead douchebags that feel like they’ve gotta flail and crash into everybody around them. Otherwise, kick-off was a success.

Come back to stylusmagazine.ca daily for Patrick’s NXNE updates!