The first day is always so infinite.
Biking across the city in a pattern that makes sense only to you feels incredible. Finally the hours of research come to fruition and portend great disappointment or irreplaceable excitement. North by Northeast has long been one of Toronto’s favourite festivals for a good reason – there’s a great balance of talent across all genres and you just can’t beat free concerts in the heart of the city.
The festival isn’t perfect but NXNE has figured out what it is most people want in a festival, an easy to read schedule, making fans important, making all musicians feel important and having some of the ragiest parties Toronto sees in a year. The best aspect of NXNE is that it feels important for everyone – organizers, musicians, fans, volunteers – there’s a buzz during that week in June and everyone is excited to stay up way past their bedtime.
CMW always ends up feeling like a specifically Canadian affair where nobody ends up with what they want. Out of politeness the fans and musicians end up saying ‘Oh, good job, at least you tried’ year after year while always feeling slightly disappointed about a myriad problems and the attitude that mediocrity is okay as long as it’s Canadian mediocrity. Comparing the two festivals is apples and oranges but there’s a reason that the big guns come to NXNE, perhaps a little Americanization isn’t a bad thing when it comes to festivals in Canada.
That being said, NXNE wouldn’t be where it is without great Canadian talent and that’s where Wednesday started, the Velvet Underground for a Toronto band formerly called Bury the Hatchet, now known as Century Thief.
It was an unexpected surprise walking into the Velvet Underground and seeing the fairly large venue with a sizable audience filling its wings. Century Thief was onstage already and the crowd was rocking out to their huge sound. I’ve always believed that if you have great core songwriting and musicians you can add more to the mix and they’ve done it. Cellist Steve La adds way more personality to the stage performance than you’d expect while multi-instrumentalist Kathryn Kearns holds sway with her gorgeous vocals, piano, and other additions not often associated with a mostly rock oriented band.
They exhibit great ability to change the pace of their set and their music. They’d be considered indie by most but their style is far wider and to peg it down to specific genres would be a disservice to the massive thought process that’s obviously gone into writing and crafting each song. Their harmonious nature is achieved through diverse vocals, each member short of Trumpeter Adam Reid had a vocal mic, and simply well crafted songs. Century Thief is the type of band that might not immediately find itself on repeat but with every listen there are new and exciting possibilities to explore.
Dee Goodz is a stoned ass rapper, chill as hell but put him on stage and he electrifies an audience. At his NXNE show he took the stage with a blunt, probably something you can do where he’s from, but after a moment of dismay when told not to spark it, broke right into a shotgun set. This is the type of dude that Toronto the Good absolutely abhors but for those that prefer down and dirty Hogtown, he fits right in.
He’s a young guy and some of his rhymes betray this when they jump into kinda generic territory about bitches and the streets but his flow and wordplay redeem the undeveloped portion of his act. What works for Goodz is the chilled-out production combined with his punctuated delivery and insistence on hooked choruses that are simple enough to pick up on. He’s got a built-in hit with Super Duper Hard and with a couple tweaks it wouldn’t be surprising to see this as a lead single on a future LP.
After the Smoke
Tallahassee Florida has never been this exciting and it’s a good bet they won’t be again. The duo After the Smoke played for just over 20 minutes at WrongBar but they easily could have captivated for 2 hours. Think Good Cop/Bad Cop delivery with spastic punk-rock stage energy mixed with some huge production and absolutely massive vocal delivery.
It’s only a matter of time before After the Smoke breaks out, their production is on, the lyrics are on, the show is nuts and bananas. The music world is becoming more live oriented with every passing year and that’s a statistic which heavily favours After the Smoke. Standing in the audience with these guys around isn’t an option, eventually you’ll be drawn into moving with them and everyone else they’ve infected with their bombastic delivery.
Day 1 Notes
– Always bring a water bottle.
– Ghazele Shawarma at Bloor and Bathurst is great if you don’t have time for Sneaky Dee’s
– Wear a helmet lest you meet Mr. Door and land on your head.
Coming up next:
The Unquiet Dead
The Dirty Nil
White Cowbell Oklahoma
Ain’t No Love