June is here and that can only meet festival time in Toronto. From now until September, the entire city is abuzz with everything from neigbourhood street parties to massive multi-venue events. This weekend it’s all about the music, as NXNE takes over.
NXNE (North By North East) is a music and film festival that offers more than 50 music related film screenings and over 600 music performances, and that’s only the one’s noted on the official schedule. As with any large-scale arts based event, there are always plenty of fringe events taking place alongside the official ones. Just scroll through the social media networks, look for flyers and posters around the city, or hang out with the right crowd to get the scoop.
NXNE was conceived around the premise of Austin’s SXSW, one of the premiere film and music festivals in the world. Musicians dream of the opportunity to get selected to perform at SXSW, and Toronto’s version is starting to move in that direction as well. As with SXSW, there has been an increased focus on the film segment over the past couple of years, and this year NXNE expanded their programming to a full week beginning Monday with some “Hall of Fame” classics previously shown in other years.
In honour of the 10th anniversary since the launch of the film series, NXNE are presenting free screenings at their headquarters located at Hyatt Hotel on King Street. As well, for film buffs there is a special pass costing only $25.00 for free entry into any films you choose, making it 50 cents a flick if you do the calculations.
Other screenings worth checking out are Bloodied But Unbowed (Vancouver 70’s/ 80’s punk documentary), Better Than Something (Jay Retard), MTL Punk (first wave of Montreal punk), William S Burroughs, and 6 Ft Hick (Australian underground rockers). Click here for a full listing of all screenings.
As for music, once again Yonge-Dundas Square becomes the place to be for free entertainment, starting tonight with the more punk rock oriented programming, featuring Metz, Rusty, Fucked Up, Off!, and The Descendents. Friday night showcases Canuck talent with the androgynous Diamond Rings, quirky Land of Talk, and indie darlings, the Stars. Saturday should see the Square rammed as much if not more than it was for Iggy Pop last year, as oddballs Devo headline the evening. Others on the full day bill starting at noon include, DD/MM/YY, Dirty Beaches, and the safety dancers, Men Without Hats. Closing out the free showcases is an urban line up with Pharcyde leading the pack, along with Digable Planets, D-Sisive and others. Get there early if you want to see anything as if it’s the same as last year, those in the back won’t be able to see a thing with all the sponsors tents blocking the sideline views. It would also be great if one of the huge corporate monitors surrounding the Square would broadcast the show over their screens. Many of the acts doing the free Dundas-Square shows will also be doing more intimate club shows, so check the schedule if you don’t want to fight the crowds outdoors. A full listing of venues can be found here.
It’s impossible to spotlight one act over the other, as every single performer is worth checking out just for the fact of their dedication to keeping the music scene alive and vibrant. Canada is well represented with artists, as it should be with our exports garnering international attention. As well, several from south of the border make the trek up to try and win over our northern souls, and there is a growing international roster as well worth checking out. Alas, a festival write up would not be complete without a nod to some of my favourites. I caught Austin’s Ume last night at the Drake, a rowdy female-vocalist/guitarist lead threesome from Austin. I chatted with them briefly afterward to see if they were doing any other shows, but they were quickly packing up their gear to jump in their vehicle for the drive to Chicago where they are performing tonight. Ah, it’s great to see the rock and roll spirit still thrives.
So here are some others I’m going to try and catch, or that I recommend others catching – Dum Dum Girls, Twin Shadow, Art Brut, Brian Wilson, Off!, Rusty, Devo, Die Mannequin, Peelander Z, Handsome Furs, Heavy Cream, Teenanger, Little Girls, Suuns, Deerhoof, Drive By Truckers, 1977, Mittenz, Ty Segall, Hexes and Ohs, Teenage Kicks, Hooded Fang, Rouge, Pack AD, and The White Eyes. As you can imagine, this is not an easy task to accomplish, but it’s also not impossible with a bit of planning with an all-access pass and program guide.
An all access five-day pass for all music venues and film screenings is only $50. Check out the full music schedule here. It will be interesting to see how much the new Bixi bike-share bikes get used this year, as many of the venues are within the Bixi radius of Bloor/Spadina/Jarvis and Lake Ontario.
For those who have read this far, I should also mention there are some great sponsored parties happening with music, munchies, and beverages. Most are open to anyone who RSVP’s, meaning you don’t need a wristband or pass to get in. Click here to get in the know.
Update: I attended the Yonge-Dundas show last night and the huge corporate tents have been downsized and better positioned, and a large monitor was placed at the side of the stage allowing for great views from almost any vantage point. Thanks for listening to your audience NXNE!
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