Tag Archives: The Great Hall
NXNE 2010, Toronto
17/06 – 19/06/2010
Well, I’ve been putting off writing this for days now and I really don’t think I can wait any longer. This year, like the last two years, I attended North-By-North-East. I decided to make more of an effort this year to check out multiple shows each night and in the end I did pretty well. As usual though, I ended up gravitating towards bands I already know and love rather than checking out new stuff. Here’s my weekend, day-by-day.
My night started at The Great Hall, a 120-year-old building at Queen and Dovercourt that recently started hosting concerts. It was my first time there, though I’d previously been to The Theater Center (which is in the same building). The Great Hall is a similar room, with a balcony wrapping around the room, but instead of seats in the middle, the main floor is entirely flat, which I guess explains the “hall” part of its name. I didn’t get too close to the stage, prefering to lurk in the shadows underneath the balcony, but the sightlines were good from wherever I stood. This would be thanks to the high stage, which reminds me of a miniature version of the one you would find a The Opera House or The Phoenix. Together with some great lighting and sound made for a pretty fine place to see some music.
The first band I saw was Women, who I last saw at the Horseshoe in March 2009, during CMW. The Calgary quartet’s first album came out in 2008 and I can’t say I’ve listened to it more than a handful of times, but I remember liking much of it. Unfortunately, the band really stayed a bit too still for my liking and my excitement waned early on. Still, the new songs were solid.
Taking the stage after them was LA’s Best Coast, who I caught last time they were in town back in April. I liked ‘em then, and I liked them here too. Good songs, good style, looking forward to hearing their album.
I left after a few songs, hoping to catch Metz at The Garrison, but by the time I arrived they’d finished playing. Nevertheless, DD/MM/YYYY were about to take the stage, so I decided to stick around because it had been a long time since I’d seen them play. I’ve never really connected with their music in the past and my attitude didn’t change too much this time, but I do appreciate what they do more than before. Their long repetitive grooves reminded me of Oneida, which I liked. They’re fun to watch and while the music isn’t always my thing, they obviously work very hard and I can back that.
I hurried over to the Kelp Records showcase at Clinton’s, and caught a bit of The Michael Parks (featuring Andy Swan, Sandro Perri, Greg Smith of the Weakerthans, and Shayne Cox, most recently of Sports: The Band) and stayed for some of Andrew Vincent. Both acts were laidback, loose, and delightful. Andrew Vincent was especially entertaining, as he decided to sing/rap over pre-recorded backing tracks for the first few songs. That might sound strange, but his smart lyrics, awkward gestures and hushed voice made for fascinating show.
I ended the night back at The Garrison, where my house-guests for the weekend, PS I Love You, were playing at 2 am. Not too many people were still there at that late hour, but you could tell that everyone who stuck around and saw them was pretty excited.
The first stop of the night for me was the Gladstone Hotel Ballroom for the NOW Magazine showcase. I was there to see Halifax’s Tasseomancy (formerly Ghost Bees, they announced the name change mid-way through their set), the project of twin sisters Romy and Sari Lightman. I last saw them when they played a show at my apartment in March, and their new songs have really stuck with me. Right off the start I knew I was in for a treat, when I realized that Timber Timbre‘s Taylor Kirk and Simon Trottier would be accompanying the twins, switching between drums, guitar, keyboard, and lapsteel. Also sharing the stage were a group of women covered in body paint and carrying staffs and sculptures and essentially just adding a theatrical element to an already dark and creepy set of music. One of them even did an interpretive dance to one of the songs, freaking me out further. Best thing I saw at NXNE this year, for sure!
Obviously I wanted to stick around to see Timber Timbre, but I also really wanted to go check out Katie Stelmanis at Wrongbar. I decided to try to see a bit of both sets, ducking out during Timber Timbre’s third song to make my way west along Queen St. I don’t think I missed much – I’ve seen them play so often and I always enjoy it, but I’m really itching for some new material!
It was my first time visiting Wrongbar, and the layout was not at all how I pictured it in my mind, but I still thought it was a pretty cool room. I was able to catch the last half of Katie and her band’s set, which included one very danceable number that I’d never heard her play before. They’re one of my favourite acts in Toronto right now and I hope more people catch on to what they’re doing because it’s really quite good.
Diamond Rings played next, dressed like a peacock. People lost their shit, of course.
At midnight, I hurried over to the Dakota to catch Evening Hymns. The place was jam packed, and unfortunately it seemed like a lot of the people weren’t there to listen to music. It was a damn shame people didn’t shut up for their set because from what I could hear it was beautiful. I got fed up with the chatter and left early to try to get into Lee’s Palace for PS I Love You.
When I arrived, Japandroids had just finished and there was a steady stream of people exiting the building. All I could think to myself is, “These folks don’t know what they’re missing!” I think a lot of Japandroids fans would dig PS I Love You – they’re both guitar and drum duos who write really catchy energetic anthems – but if I’m not out there checking out new bands, I can’t expect others to as well. I found my spot up front and had my brain melted by them for the second night in a row.
I was pretty exhausted after the first two nights, so for Saturday I chose to just one show: The D’Urbervilles at The Drake. They weren’t going on until midnight though, so I decided to go see if my boys in Attack in Black were hanging out at the Horsehoe. I’d be missing their set for The D’Urbervilles, but it was good to hang out for a while anyway. I did manage to catch some of Bruce Peninsula‘s set, and to my ears they’ve never sounded better. I wish I could have stuck around for their whole show.
So yes, the festival ended at The Drake, with my old friends The D’Urbervilles. Seeing them play is a NXNE tradition that I’m happy to keep up.
To wrap things up, I agree with everyone else who has said this was the best NXNE ever. Though I wasn’t around in the mid-90s when it began, it was certainly the most fun I’ve had out of the past three that I’d attended. With all the new venues that have opened up in the last year, and with the nice weather we had over the weekend, walking around the city at times reminded me of being in Austin for South-By-South-West. About a million less people, but the feeling was still there.
If you’ve read this far, congratulations, here’s a video of PS I Love You playing their song “Meet Me at the Muster Station” at Lee’s Palace from the Friday of NXNE.