North by North East is upon us Toronto! 5 days of trying to get in as many 45-minute sets in as possible, hoping we will see the next “hot-new-shit” so we can say “Ya I caught them at North By a while back” when Pitchfork and it’s peers give a new act some love. I plan on trying to catch as many new-to-me acts as possible, and capture my thoughts on them for your consumption. In the meantime I’ve been asked to compile a list of NXNE recommendations I think are worth making the trek for. Admittedly when I read through the schedule on the NXNE website I maybe recognized 5-10% of the bands who are playing this year, of those 5-10% these are the ones I would see in no particular order;
UNION DUKE: I had the pleasure of catching these Toronto boys at a fundraiser recently. They have a brand of balls-to-the-wall bluegrass/folk that will surely get you moving. They also happen to be really great guys, and there is something to be said for that! (Cadillac Lounge-June 13th).
MAC DEMARCO: This man hails from the west, but now resides in Montreal, and was formerly the brains behind a bitching project called Makeout Videotape. He is also a musical genius who approaches his music and performances with a punk ethic, plus he has a voice that will haunt you. He makes music that sounds both retro and futuristic at the same time, I know that sounds ridiculous but you will understand if you go see him play. (Drake Underground-June 13th, The Garrison-June 14th, Silver Dollar Room-June 16th)
JULY TALK: Gritty, intense and sexy Rock ‘n Roll. Lead singers Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay perform every show like it might be their last. Their performances are not to be missed. (Horseshoe-June 13th, Lee’s Palace-June16th)
ARMY GIRLS: A two piece guitar-drums band consisting of Carmen Elle and Andy Smith, both have some impressive road-dirt on their resume’s in the Toronto music scene. They play hard and fast, but Elle’s sweet vocals balance everything out nicely. (Supermarket-June 13th, El Mocambo-June 14th)
DUSTED: Brian Borcherdt departs from his usual laid-back and mellow solo work by teaming up with producer extraordinaire Leon Taheny (Owen Pallett, Bruce Peninsula) and constructing some reverbed-out pop tunes. The result is some danceable but thoughtful tunes that meet in the middle between his Holy Fuck work and previous singer-songwriter stuff. (El Mocambo-June 14th)
MASIA ONE: Canadian by way of Singapore, this MC has a flow as smooth as butter and is backed by some banging beats. To top it off her writing skills compete with the best in the hip-hop game. You can’t help but bob your head and move your hips when you listen to her set. (Gladstone-June 14th, Harbourfront-June 16th)
DANIEL ROMANO: When you listen to Mr. Romano play you begin to get the feeling that he was sent here from another time/place to teach us all what great country music sounds like. Even if you don’t like country Romano will make a convert out of you, and leave you preaching about him to anyone who will listen. (Great Hall-June 14th)
THE TREASURES: These country troubadours have become a mainstay at The Drake on Tuesday nights and have developed a loyal following of fans, including Colin Linden. They recently killed in a sold-out Levon Helm tribute show, where they did the old “Midnight Rambler” proud. Watch for them to carry the torch in Toronto’s tradition of stellar country acts. (Drake Underground-June 15th)
BRASSTRONAUT: Jazz, experimental, rock, pop, Brasstronaut encompasses really it all. The very talented Edo Van Breemen (who also runs the band’s label Unfamiliar Records) and crew have followed up the amazing Mt. Chimaera with another stellar record Mean Sun. (Gladstone-June 15th, Younge/Dundas Sq.-June 16th)
THE COPPERTONE: The very talented Amanda Zelina heads up this blues-infused three piece band. I believe The Coppertone just finished recording a new album, so get excited for some new material! (Horseshoe-June 15th)
CATL: Last, but certainly not least, and in the blues-vein again is CATL – one of the hardest working bands in Toronto. The will play their dirty delta-blues inspired jams until the lights come up at the bar. They have an awesome new record out called Soon This Will All Be Gone that you should all go buy if you haven’t already. (Horseshoe-June 16th)
So there you go, a pretty eclectic mix of stuff to check out, hopefully there is something for everyone in there. If I could give you one piece of advice for doing NXNE, it would be to pick one place each night and set up camp. You might not know all the bands playing, but you will be surprised with a new discovery. If you try and run around the city trying to see all the acts everyone is trying to see, you will likely be disappointed when a bouncer is telling you the venue is at capacity. Those bands will be back in Toronto soon enough to play a proper show, so take this opportunity to see an act you don’t know or might not get to see again! Stay safe, have fun, and enjoy NXNE!