Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Best of NxNE - 2008

We'll have to consider this an incomplete rundown of this year's edition of North by Northeast, because I spent the last night of the festival down in Sherkston helping my buddy DVZ funnel an obscene amount of beer for his stag. And despite the fact that there were no bands that I would have given my left nut to see this year, NxNE still proved to be a wild weekend of music and debauchery.

It should also be noted that, particularly in the case of this entry, fundamental accuracy of description has been sacrificed in the name of drunken, subjective reality. On with the awards:

Band Most Likely To Appear On The Thursday 30 In The Near Future: Small Sins (The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern, Thursday, 11:00 pm)

Think Tokyo Police Club meets Hawksley Workman. These guys were on my buddy Browner's must-see list, and they did not disappoint. With Thomas D'Arcy from The Carnations fronting the band and some dude with freakishly long arms dancing on stage while occassionally clapping and banging a tambourine, these guys put on a hell of a show, and are just poppy enough to make a big-time splash. Their lyrics are pretty killer as well, as evidenced in Drunk E-mails:

Yes these are loaded questions,
Sent to you late at night,
But baby I still need answers,
That I'll take to heart at sunrise.

When I send you drunk e-mail,
And you send me no reply,
Where is the love you feel,
That you give me in the daytime?

Chock-full of typos I know,
Language and grammar die,
Questions that must be asked though,
I won't have the heart at sunrise.

I mean, who can't relate to that?

Artist Most Likely To Be Singing The Anthem At Next Year's NHL All-Star Game: Lindi Ortega (The Mod Club, Friday, 7:00 pm)

At last year's Bob Harris showcase, I witnessed Kathleen Edwards perform for the first time. I only knew a couple of her tunes going in, thought that her lyrics were quintessentially Canadian and wholly original, and found her to be completely captivating on stage... And then the next thing I knew, she was singing the Canadian Anthem at the NHL All-Star game in Dallas.

And not that you could ever compare her to Kathleen edwards, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if Lindi Ortega experienced a similarly meteoric rise in the next 365 days. Her songs can't really be categorized, her voice is absolutely stunning, and her backing band is rock solid (echoes of Van Morrison's band in the early 70's). Dying of Another Broken Heart is a fabulous track, and there was some song about a drifter that completely blew me away. And she had fans at the show from Peru, so that has to say something.

Best Celebrity Dotcomrade Sighting: Elliotte Friedman

Browner and I bumped into CBC's own Elliotte Friedman at the Sloan show Thursday night, and after multiple complimentary Heinekens (Browner and the good people at Arts and Crafts were kind enough to hook me up with VIP access), I had the following conversation with Friedman:

SM: Hey Elliotte, what's happenin man?

EF: Not much.

SM: Listen, I know you have no way of remembering this, but we actually bumped into you down in Nashville last year after the Leaf game.

EF: I DO remember that. The country bar, right?

SM: Yeah, Lonnie's!

EF: I remember that EXACTLY. And the REASON I remember that is because a FRIEND of mine was surfing the INTERNET and atually came across this hilarious ARTICLE about that night...

SM (completely dumbfounded): ...Holy Shit! That was me who wrote that!

What can I say? The breadth of dotcomrade nation knows no bounds.
(By the way, this might be my favourite photo of all-time)

Best Use Of The Phrase: "Punch Me In The Nose": Slowcoaster (Clinton's, Friday, Midnight)

I have no idea why I found it so funny that the lead singer kept repeating "I feel your pain like you punched me in the nose / we hang out in the darkest of discos", but I did. I think it has something to do with the fact that only an East Coast band could get away with dropping such a quintessentially Canadian phrase in a kick ass rock tune with one of the catchiest hooks I can remember.

Slowcoaster was like a tale of two bands. When they stuck to the dank and dirty rock and roll they were dominating, there were few bands better. But when they veered off into the Sublime-like reggae thing, they lost most of what made them great. Nonetheless, a great deal of potential in these Cape Breton rockers.


Best Los Locos Tribute Band: .Moneen (El Mocambo, Friday, 11:00 pm)

This was about as close to 1996 as I ever want to come. I could have sworn I was in the bowels of the Oakville Masonic temple or something with a mickey of Canadian Club tucked into the crotch of my pants. There was plenty of screaming, moshing, crowd surfing, and eleven-teen year olds. And .Moneen hasn't really changed their sound all that much since those days in high school when it was cool to scream the lyrics of your badass hard punk tunes. Believe me when I say I'm too old for this.


The Mikey's-West-Coast-Representation Award For Most Awkward Moment of NxNE: Sean McCallum

By the time the 1:00 am set rolled around on Thursday night, Browner and I were completely shit-faced, and Browner began introducing me to all of his industry buddies as "media". Gotta love the tire-pumping, and I'll take all of the exposure I can get, far-fetched though it may be. But just let me tell you, if you don't have one of those media passes dangling from your neck, it can leave you wide open for moments of complete mortification... Like after the Buffalo Builders show, when we were standing out front of Lee's Palace, talking to Dave Marshall (lead singer), and Browner introduced me as a member of the media. "Who do you write for?"... "Well, I kinda... you know, freelance a little bit..." "Which paper? Maybe I've heard of it..." "Well, actually... I kind of run this website..." "Really? What's it called? I might have come across it?".... "Ummm.... (running into oncoming traffic in an attempt to flag down a cab)"

Needless to say, there is nothing more embarassing than telling someone the name of your site is the name of your name... I really need to look into changing that.

The Krister Axel Award for Best Performance By A Band I'd Never Heard Of Prior To This Weekend: Buffalo Builders (Lee's Palace, Thursday, 1:00 am)

Even though there were only about 35 people in the crowd for this rootsy rock band (comprised of some of the members of the former Staggered Crossing), they absolutely rocked Lee's Palace Thursday night. As Browner put it: "They aren't trying to reinvent the wheel. They just play good, old fashioned Rock and Roll".

I couldn't tell you the name of a single song they performed because I was completely smashed by the time they took the stage (so smashed, in fact, that Browner and I both managed to forget the free pairs of custom Cons we'd received at the Sloan show {this coming after we'd carried them around with us all night in a bag that strongly resembled a purse... not that there's anything wrong with that}). Dave Marshall of BB is a master with the axe and absolutely wrestles with his guitar, looking a lot like Neil Young in the process, and if pressed to put a tag on their sound, Browner and I came up with the following: Imagine Bruce Springsteen, Steve Earle, and John Mellencamp all jamming together in Tom Petty's living room, with Melissa McClelland occasionally filling in on vocals. If that isn't the sound of a great rock band, I don't know what is.

Lesbian Disappointment of NxNE: Modernboys Moderngirls (The Boat, Thursday, Midnight)

A Lesbian Disappointment is when you're at a party and one of your buddies informs you that there are a couple of girls making out in the kitchen. You've heard all about these "lesbians", and as a result, you are immediately flooded with visions of ridiculously attractive women wearing blood-red lipstick and black lingerie, just like the girls in the Friday night Baby Blue movies. So you obviously run into the kitchen to catch some of the action going down... and in the process, have every single one of those lesbian fantasies completely obliterated in a mass of disproportioned body types, unkemt hair, and Eddie-Vedder-style-plaid.

Let's just say that the Modernboys Moderngirls live performance was a Lesbian Disappointment.

Bill Masterton Award for Comeback of The Year: Bob Harris

Bob Harris, the great BBC radio host, was diagnosed with prostate cancer last year, and as a result, ended up missing his own NxNE showcase (one of the best shows I've ever seen). Anyway, Bob was back in full effect this year at Lee's Palace, and it was great to see him out. Stay well, Bobby.

Best Maritime Pogues Impersonation: The Tom Fun Orchestra (Clinton's, Friday, 1:00 am)

They came billed as Tom Waits meets The Pogues, but as my brother Ronnie put it: "that lead singer is trying waaaaay too hard to be Tom Waits." And as we all know, there is only one Tom Waits.

But the Good Ship Tommy Fun absolutely rocked the tiny stage at Clinton's (still unsure how they fit 9 band members in that tiny space), and their good time junkyard sound cannot be denied. If you were ever looking for a trio of guitars, a violin, an upright bass, an accordion, a banjo, drums, a mandolin, a clarinet, and a trumpet to shake your Celtic-loving tail to, the Tom Fun Orchestra would probably be just the band for you. And it helps if you're incredibly drunk.

Best Random "Rock Star" Moment: Having the basist from Wide Mouth Mason run in and tell Browner and I that the Boston Celtics just pulled off an improbable 24-point comeback, to which Browner and I responded by exchanging one of the great drunken-awkward-white-guy-high-fives of all-time.

Number of Steam Whistles consumed: 29 (approximately)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sherkston was a blast, but we really should've just incorporated NXNE into the stag... although, I highly doubt we'd be able to smuggle a funnel into the bars or light up a beirut tourney during a set.

Sounds like a blast... next year I'm there...