NORTH BY NORTHEAST 2012
By: Fridae Mattas
NXNE 2012 came and went. This year by far there were more people and a lot more bands, films, comedians and parties! Basically, everything I hear SXSW is, North By Northeast tries to live up to with a Canadian twist. At these festivals you don’t often get what you want, unless of course all you want is to get drunk, socialize and see lots of bands! That is very possible every year and with the growing array of amazing BBQ’s and rooftop parties, how do you choose which ones to go to? I can never decide so this year I just RSVP’d to every email invite and just party hopped, I don’t do Facebook invites there are just too many. I was super excited to use my new camera, it is amazing in low lighting which is absolutely perfect for the dimly lit venues in the city. I’m still figuring out all the new settings of a pro dslr, so these were not the best shots but a huge improvement from my past photography. Sadly the one interview I did do was some how erased from my computer after uploading. How that happened, I have absolutely no idea but I will be rescheduling an new interview guaranteed!
Extremely disappointed that I lost majority of my footage from day three and four because they were full music days without me forgetting anything. I filmed fifteen bands of the thirtyish I managed to actually see and twelve of which I wanted to show you! Included in the footage fiasco was some seriously fantastic filming of Die Mannequin at the MOD Club. Care the performer that she is took it to the bar, what I mean by that is, she migrated from the stage through the crowd to the bar stage right, hopped up on top and did her thing for a few minutes, I had that all filmed! Thankfully Die Mannequin is performing at Pride Toronto this Sunday July 1st, come check them out! I will be there capturing some proper refreshed filmage.
Anyways, just thinking about the lost footage irritates me so let’s move this along to Dearly Beloved. The only survivor from Friday’s video’s was Dearly Beloved‘s ‘To Better Days’ off the bands new record “Hawk vs. Pigeon.” How fucking ironic is that?! The only song that worked was “To Better Days” it was like God playing a delayed April Fool’s joke! This was definitely no joke, especially after trekking to the Mod club during little Italy celebrations and trying to get through a packed crowd to shoot a few stills…Total nightmare! Every year I forget about the street closures, next year no MOD club treks for me during NXNE, I have to put that in my calender.
Throughout the trek I missed Dearly Beloved’s first set opening for Die Mannequin so I promised myself to make sure I was at the Velvet Underground for the band’s second set of the night. My promise was held and I did make it to see Dearly Beloved at Velvet! The first track from what I could hear was “John Coltrane” I filmed it but the vocal levels were very low, did the sound guy notice? Not at all, but many sound tech’s complain that they have the levels perfectly set. Most of the time that is not the case but at least the band mentioned it and he fixed it. The band put on an energetic set, I was enjoying their sound and performance. Rob Higgins Bass and Vocals has a nice tone, my ears liked what they were hearing. The whole band is Niva Chow – CoVox, Gavin Maguire – Drums, Tristan Avakian – Guitar. Definitely have to check them out again in the future as should everyone else!
Let’s rewind to day one when everything started, I decided this year one of the NXNE festival days was going to be dedicated to Comedy! I chose Wednesday June 13th to laugh my face off at the Lower Ossington Theater and possibly check out a few bands after. As the first comedian was on stage I took my camera out to shoot a few stills nothing, the camera wouldn’t even turn on. I didn’t know what the problem was until I opened the battery compartment, problem found but can’t be solved because I clearly left the battery in charger at home. Every festival there is at least one mishap without fail, this NXNE it was on a larger scale of boo. The Comedians were hilarious, I was laughing so hard I couldn’t stop crying and my face started to hurt. The host of the first half was Trevor K Wilson who also opened the showcase and did a great job warming up the stage.
Next up was Todd Graham who had this dry sense of humor, a different approach than most of the comics that I’ve seen. He was so funny once he got a little more comfortable on stage and into his set, the audience loved him. Between each set Trevor Wilson would do mini sets keeping the crowds entertained and what a great idea that was, I would have walked out because my restlessness was kicking in. Every show should have a comic between sets maybe then people wouldn’t bounce after the first shitty band. I was most looking forward to Debra DiGiovanni, I’ve seen her on Comedy now but never have seen her live. She was fantastic, she should have been the headliner because the kid headlining was pretty dryly unfunny, I left five minutes into his set. I wanted to see bands but my camera was useless for the rest of the night and my attempted cell phone shots are so blurry as you can tell! Earlier that day I told Joanna to hit up the Elmo to shoot Gus and Scout just in case I didn’t make it on time from the comedy sets. Perfect, that was my genius Greek moment, thankfully I didn’t forget to tell her.
Gus and Scout from Rhode Island are a country bluesy folk duo, the band is Gus Wenner – Guitar/Vocals and Scout Willis – Vocals. When I got to the Elmo it wasn’t a full house but there were people there, mostly industry folk who were obsessed with catching Demi Moore and Bruce Willis’ offspring in action. I was curious as always, to see if they were any good like with any new bands or duos. Once they began to play immediately you saw the chemistry they have together and Scout’s vocals aren’t too bad. I noticed she needs to work on her stage persona because more than a few times it looked like she didn’t know what to do and kept glancing over at Gus, who is clearly the seasoned musician of the two. Although the songs were passable and need a lot of work, I would see them again because Scout’s voice is different she has this raspy soul to it and as long as she keeps working those pipes she can be an incredible artist one day.
Day two was Thursday June 14th, designated party day! There were so many parties on this day I made it official party day and it was a smart advanced decision because I forgot my passes at home. Yes, that did happen but it really didn’t matter because I was guest-listed for all the parties anyway I didn’t need my pass until later if i wanted to check bands. After all the day parties in the downtown Toronto core, we migrated to Toronto Island for a little bonfire shin dig. We went, we drank, we saw, we wandered, Thursday was such an interesting day and I did take some cool shots of the Toronto skyline from the ferry. Saturday day 4 was another party filled day but it didn’t compare to Friday’s fantastic Jager Parking lot BBQ, free food, drinks, hair cuts and tattoos. I love Sailor Jerry’s trailer and maybe their rum haha!
Saturday night’s music was to include the Flaming Lips but I was rejected literally for every single show at YDS so I fucked off and didn’t bother going to that area at all the whole week! I heard the Flaming Lips and Bad Religion were ass by a number of people so glad I saved myself the torture. The only other band scheduled that night was Limblifter at the El Mocambo. There was an hour to kill so I went to check the current band playing at the Elmo, five minutes later I ran back out and migrated immediately to the Horseshoe. Once at the Shoe there was this massive line to get in, I wondered who was playing to create this long line of irritated people. Walked up to the door and as I was about to go in, some man grabs me and yells in my face asking me who I am mumbling something about the crowd in line and pointed to them. Literally two seconds later he shut his mouth as he saw my media pass and clearly felt like an ass. The whole time during that verbal attack I uttered five words to the grumpy old man “Here to check out set”. I could have been a bitch and said something but I kept my mouth shut, went into the venue only to come back out because it was too rammed and the band was ass! They sounded like every other folksy hipster band floating. Didn’t get why people were dying to get into the sweatshop to see some bearded folksters in skinny jeans. I still don’t remember what they were called even after I was told about fifteen times.
Back to the Elmo I migrated, hoping the retched band was finally off the stage and Limblifter was on. It was perfect timing because the venue was accumulating bodies and they were getting very tight at the door, I’ve never seen people turned away at the EL Mocambo door…First time for everything! The Elmo was heating up and people were dropping like flies. I was standing by the stage right area when a dude dove face first on some gear boxes backstage, that was a trip! Nobody knew why he passed out but security came quickly and helped him to safety. Limblifter hit the stage ten minutes later and the crowd was loving this 90’s revival. I was like ten or eleven when they first emerged onto the Canadian music scene in 1996, their songs are okay not exactly what I would listen to on the regular or call Alternative rock, to me it sounds more like country folk rock. Bassist Megan Bradfield stuck out like a sore thumb, you could tell this was basically her first show, super awkward to watch and needs a lot more work on her stage presence. As for the frontman who is the only original member of the band Ryan Dahle did alright but needs to work on his vocals, they were pitchy and a bit unstable. I have two filmed tracks of this band but only one actually made the cut, you would think the first Toronto show in a long time they would bring their A game!
I saw a bunch of other bands in the migrations towards the last destination of the evening and none of them stuck in my mind enough to jibber about individually, except Modern Boys and Modern Girls who played The Hideout on Friday the 15th. They have improved greatly since I first saw them at Edgefest a few years back and would love to check them out again. The Hideout is always the last stop at these festivals and it was my last stop of the night. At 2am I wanted to catch A Primitive Evolution because the night before I could not get any video, Cherry Colas was just too packed to film anything.
I have never seen A.P.E before Friday even though they have played many shows in the city, I always missed them! This time I got lucky and was able to check them twice and finally film a tune “Lord of Reason“. They were pretty good, I liked the sound of frontman Brett Carruthers voice and the way he played his axe. The natural interaction between Bassist Stephany Seki and Carruthers was fantastic! I loved her vibe she can rock her bass to the fullest, unlike the femme bass of Limblifter I saw earlier. Stu Dead on the drums did his thing, keeping the beat tight in the venue where his Playdead artwork is muraled all over the place. (A.P.E) I need to see again, totally loving the sound but one thing Brett needs is a little more confidence in his own talents. For footage and more photos of the bands check out www.facebook.com/Fridaetv and www.youtube.com/Fridaetv
The only artists I really wanted to see all this NXNE were Raekwon and Ghostface Killah of Wutang but I was denied access and was not feeling the trek in a massive crowd. Instead I went to MMVA hotel after parties, where I chilled and partied with awesome people. That’s all from me folks, stay tuned for Joanna’s NXNE experience.