Stranded In Stereo: NXNE Recap (Thursday)

Friday, June 13, 2008

NXNE Recap (Thursday)

Going to a city you've never been to before and being expected to hit the ground running is tough. The benefit of familiarity is not there -- I don't know any shortcuts, how to use the subway or how the city is laid out. But after a few quick hours in Toronto, I gained a quick, albeit basic, grasp of how things ran and how to get around.

After the boring technical stuff, like checking in (slowest wait at a conference ever, and I was the next to be helped) and meetings, my first show was locals The Books Elusive, whose set was scheduled for 9 pm at Holy Joe's on Queen St. W. You never want your night to start off on the wrong foot, but I think it might be just as bad for it to start on such an amazing high.

This power duo (stress on the word "power") is practically unheard of in the States and that is fucking ridiculous. From the first song until the last, they tore through a set that saw them beat the shit out of their instruments, make fun of the kids on couches and litter the floor with drum sticks, all without sacrificing one bit of musicianship. I sort of wanted to call it a night after their set, but there was still more to see.

Up next was Nova Scotian nautical core group I See Rowboats, who obviously were not used to the relative heat of Toronto. Ha! Their set in a very tightly packed Cameron House was like an aural postcard from the Maritimes, with strings over swaying and buckling guitars and an epic rhythm section. If you're in Ottawa tonight, make sure you check them out.
At Rivoli, PEI band and Stranded in Stereo favorites Mardeen took the stage just after 11 pm to a surprisingly packed house. They're another band that has fallen victim to the ridiculous amount of taxes that need to be paid to play in the States. While they are quickly becoming a household name north of the border, they couldn't get arrested in the US. Unless they had a trace amount of marijuana on them, of course. Their new record, which is filled with yet more power pop gems, is out now.
Two Hours Traffic took to the stage next, but I made the mistake of going outside to make a few calls. When I tried to get back in, I was told I had to go to the end of a very long queue that was not moving.
At fests like this, I never waste my time, so I walked up through Chinatown to Rancho Relaxo for Ketch Harbour Wolves, a band that is onto something very intense -- and very special. The venue was a step away from being a sauna, but the set was brilliant. Despite the late hour, I was able to stay on my feet until the last song. They ended a very impressive night of music from some of the best up and coming bands in Canada. I decided not to walk back to Queen St. for These New Puritans -- it was late and really, what if they couldn't match up?

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