This ain’t Toronto, or at least not the Toronto I remember. There’s a chain link fence cordoning off a large swath of the downtown core. Kites and radio-controlled aircraft, I’m told, are strictly forbidden. Poorly-marked CCTV cameras track every movement south of bustling Queen Street. Two-week summer condo sublets cost roughly $8,400. And there are rumours that there’s a new artificial lake in town.
Yeah, it’s a little Korean DMZ, a little 1984. But sadly — or perhaps fortunately — I’m not here for the G20; I’m here for the other other media explosion. And that’s the NXNE festival, where I’ll be all week.
NXNE by the numbers
That, right there, is a screen capture of my iCal schedule for the week. And that, in particular, is why I’m sitting in a Dundas street Thai restaurant with a highlighter and a copy of Now weekly’s concert listings. Call me a luddite.
So, as my handy press release tells me, here’s the box score for NXNE.
- 7, the length of the festival in days;
- 15, the amount of nations represented at the fest;
- 650, the amount of bands playing the fest;
- 1,100+, the amount of applications received to play the fest;
- 250,000, the amount of fest-goers in 2009
And while those stats might seem a tad staggering, most events take place in a umpteen-block radius that’s hardly more expansive than the South End. Armed with a flask of soju and these Armdale-trained cycling legs, we shall overcome.
NXNE by the music
Yeah, the quasi-hokey promotional video above tells us everything we already knew about the fest’s marquee acts. Iggy and the Stooges, playing Raw Power in its entirety, headline the fest, ruining my chances of hearing Pavement play “Summer Babe” live (they perform at the same time at Broken Social Scene’s Olympic Island concert). Then there's blog-darlings Surfer Blood. And notoriously un-Dead hip-hop legends De La Soul. The Eagles of Death Metal. Les Savy Fav. Health. Really, I could go on.
But, like the Pop Explosion, the best finds are often relegated to the dingier fringes and opening slots of the festival. And here are my picks.
There’s The Bitters, the newest power pop project from the ever-prolific Ben Cook (Fucked Up, No Warning). Then there’s the newest Six Shooter signees The Beauties, who might be Canada’s best bar band. Regina’s Library Voices might be playing off borrowed gear, but Denim on Denim might be one of the year’s best LPs. And here’s my bold prediction: like Monotonix in 2008 and Japanther last year, local art-punks DD/MM/YYYY and Philadelphia power-pop act Free Energy will become the talk of the week. Book it.
Then, of course, there’s the Halifax locals. Party-dude Rich Aucoin, folk charmers Ghost Bees, banjo whiz Old Man Luedecke and The Stanfields — voted the best local band earlier this year — all represent. And if Sloan still count, they’re playing Dundas Square, Toronto's garish, concrete outdoor music venue.
And those are only the officially scheduled events. Last year, King Khan played anywhere and everywhere; this year, Hollerado host a nacho party, The Death Set play a loft skate ramp and The Meligrove Band play atop the CN Tower. More to come as the week progresses.
NXNE by … the rest
Beyond the music, there’s plenty of other action, including a record swap, a poster show and plenty of seminars for industry types, including a “networking reception” and a “panel discussion about the advantages and pitfalls of social media and how to maximize return on investment.”
My heart. Be still.
And then there’s the film fest, hosting roughly 30 movies. The most promising? Bruce McDonald’s BSS-themed This Movie is Broken (see the trailer above), the Residents-scored Thomas Pynchon: A Journey Into the Mind Of and You Left Me Blue, a film detailing the touring life of seminal country-punk Handsome Ned.
Then there’s docs detailing the genesis of The Stooges' Raw Power (Search and Destroy), the Stones Exile on Main Street (Stones in Exile) and the blandly but accurately-titled We’re The Weakerthans, We’re From Winnipeg.
All of which I’d attempt to catch. But I’m going to be too busy discovering how to "maximize my returns on investment" via Tumblr.
Media passes get picked up tomorrow. Then, it begins.