North by Northeast is my favourite weekend of the year in Toronto, and this year's edition of the second biggest music festival in North America is looking stellar on paper. For the uninitiated, NxNE can be broken down as follows (taken from the NxNE website):
North by Northeast (NXNE) is three events in one:
• Canada’s #1 showcase for new independent music, where fans can catch great local and international performers at intimate venues
• A film festival where music is the star, with music-related features, documentaries, and shorts
• An industry conference featuring celebrity interviews as well as panels and information exchanges for artists and music-biz professionals
North by Northeast 14 takes over downtown Toronto June 12-15, 2008. For four days and nights on the cusp of summer, NXNE will entertain close to 100,000 people. The Music Festival will showcase over 500 performers on stages at 40 of the city’s coolest clubs. The Film Festival will screen the year’s best music-related cinema. And the Conference will bring music celebs to Toronto for in-depth interview sessions (yes, you can attend!) and host discussions in which the future of the music business reveals itself.
During the festival, Toronto throws open its heart and its beer fridges to fans from around the world. Bars serve booze till 4 am nightly (yes, four), so those with the stamina—or the right pharmaceutical cocktails—can stay fully lubricated in a crazed quest to get maximum blast from this explosive event.
The Eclectic Approach
There’s a huge variety of music at NXNE: Rock, Garage, Punk, Reggae, DJ, Folk, Hip Hop, Goth, Americana, Dance, Ambient, Metal, Bluegrass, Electronic, Singer-Songwriter, R&B, Acoustic, Alternative and more. If you buy any one of the fantastic NXNE admission packages, you’re going to see and hear brilliant, explosive new artists who, because of the stultifying corporate control of global media, might not otherwise have a high-profile, international platform to scream at the rooftops from.
North by Northeast first rolled out in 1995, conceived as a sister festival to the South by Southwest Festival & Conference in Austin, Texas. Since then, NXNE has grown each year, with last year’s festival being the biggest yet. It’s a feeding frenzy for fans, a must-do for performers, and a vital gathering for international music & film industry execs.
NXNE has always been about the music. The festival gives 500 local, national and international artists the chance to rock the crowds and to showcase for agents, talent buyers, media, promoters, labels and management company heavies at a variety of essential downtown venues. While many NXNE performers have hit the fest’s 40 club stages on their way to major international breakthroughs, other high-profile acts join the fray to help make NXNE essential and eclectic. Festival alumni include Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Dinosaur Jr., Feist, The Dears, The Soundtrack Of Our Lives, Sufjan Stevens, Patrick Watson, Sam Roberts, Billy Talent, Kathleen Edwards, Ron Sexsmith, K’naan, Jason Collett, Sarah Harmer, and Sum 41.
As always, I will be hitting the town with my buddy Browner and his exquisite indie knowledge, to say nothing of his propensity for being able to drink until the very wee hours. In anticipation of the fact that I will be way too hungover to write anything tomorrow, here are some of the highlights from last year's NxNE:
Highlights from the Bob Harris Radio Showcase (Blue Rodeo/Ron Sexsmith/Kathleen Edwards/Justin Rutledge/Luke Doucet... aka, one of the best nights of music I've ever experienced)
The Best of NxNE, 2007
And for those planning to attend this year, here's what you need to know:
Which bands playing where and when
List of Venues
Now Magazine's fantastic preview