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 daily for Patrick’s NXNE updates!