. : : June 15th, 2012 : : .
I don’t make it out to NXNE every year.
My interest in the festival is directly relative to the amount of bands I know playing it. Which, really, isn’t the point. The whole point of the festival is to sort of hop around and sample a bunch of music — mostly Canadian. In previous years, I’ve fallen deeply, madly in love with bands I’ve discovered for the first time at the NXNE festival.
Kathleen Edwards, anyone? Or maybe Colleen Brown, perhaps? Hawksley Workman suit you well? How about Danny Michel? The list goes on and on. But, I’ve had a lot luck going to see that One Big Headlining band, getting there early to secure a great spot, and then falling in love with all the openers. I’ve never really had to pro-actively seek out new bands at NXNE, and although I should have at least feigned effort to do so this year, I played it extremely safe.
Of course, the festival made it easy. It was loaded with bands I already enjoy, and at only a couple of venues, making the traveling a cinch. In fact, the only problem I faced — more than once — was deciding between seeing two bands playing at the same time across the down from each other. How do you decide between the Paper Lions and Danielle Duval? Paper Lions, I’ve seen a number of times but are from further away and have new material to support; Danielle is local, and (in theory) will provide more opportunities in the future to see her play. Or, how about the Live in Bellwoods park show put on by the Young Lions Music Club featuring a whole itinerary of amazing bands? … but, then again, Dan Mangan and Kathleen Edwards are playing at the same time. Unknown Mortal Orchestra in a crowd of thousands, or Limblifter in an insanely intimate group of a couple hundred? The decisions were endless, and rarely with an obvious victor.
NXNE started on Wednesday and ran through to Sunday but, as I have a job and an inherent nature to need to rest from time to time, I only participated in the Friday and Saturday activities. Man, let me tell you, this concert-going business is for the young’uns.
Things kicked off for me at Yonge-Dundas Square on Friday with Plants and Animals. I arrived a bit late AND was so wrapped up in a conversation with my friend that I missed our subway stop. At that point, it wasn’t worth taping, so I sort of wandered a bit to see what was going on and pick up my wristband for the next night before settling into a spot. The band put on a good, high energy show that did a fair job of captivating the large crowd’s attention.
Next was Matthew Good, who I’ve written about numerous times before. It was a surprise and a treat to see that the famed Pat Steward was back behind the drumset. Even if Ian Brown, the original Matthew Good Band drummer, is the popular favourite, I’ve always been partial to the Canadian legend who’s drummed for Bryan Adams, The Odds, and Limblifter, just to name a few. The remainder of Matthew Good’s supporting band seemed unchanged from last autumn, but they felt tighter and energized by the remarkably-sized audience.
Matthew himself occasionally seemed distracted — attention diverted by the Times Square-esque billboards and advertisements that surrounded us — and seemed to be going through the motions. This was especially noticeable on a couple of the older songs, such as Hello Time Bomb and The Future Is X-Rated from 1997’s Beautiful Midnight album. Oddly enough, Load Me Up, another track from the aforementioned album that was played hot on the heels of the previous two, was perhaps the most enthusiastic and animated Matthew was the whole evening.
Of course, a free show in the middle of the city means a lot of casual and lapsed fans are going to show up just to check in, and Matthew’s set list generally adhered to that sensibility. Unfortunately, when the set deterred from that objective, the audience was quick to turn on him. Or, at least on the other fans. People began to start yelling unrelated conversation back-and-forth right in front of those actually trying to, you know, pay attention to the music. Others violently shoved their way through the already shoulder-to-shoulder crowd, without care of injury or inconvenience. This is expected in the first few songs of a set — but in the final 20-minutes of an hour long set? Unnecessary.
Matthew Good and band still treated the audience to an unexpected, unnecessary, and largely undeserved at that point, encore. Not that I’m complaining — the return of Everything Is Automatic to any set list is just aces by me.
After wrapping up at Yonge-Dundas Square, it was time to get to the El Mocambo. I was expecting a good sized crowd to show up at the Young Lions Music Club showcase, and didn’t want to risk being left in the figurative cold, and opted out of the subway for a quick and easy taxi ride over to the club.
[NXNE story to be continued in another post]
There is already a superior, satellite radio-sourced recording of this set in circulation online, but as far as I can tell, only available in MP3 format. So, for those who prefer lossless and/or completists, here is the much inferior audience recording, marred by phasing (caused by an aggressive crowd), chatting concert-goers, and bursts of winds, thanks to the outside, open nature of the square.
03. Last Parade
05. Born Losers
06. Alert Status Red
09. Shallow’s Low
10. Zero Orchestra
11. Hello Time Bomb
12. The Future Is X-Rated
13. Load Me Up
20. Everything Is Automatic
Thank you to Matthew Good and band, NXNE and Yonge/Dundas Square for putting on a great, free show. No thanks to annoying talkers around me.