Toronto: I love the U.S. as much as anyone. In fact, while on my
way to Bonnaroo, I recently bought a toothbrush at a Tennessee
Wal-Mart, just because it looked like an American flag. But Toronto
(and Canada in general) seems to have some things figured out that we U.S. citizens just can’t crack. The city has embraced bicycles as a
legitimate form of transportation for adults, which is good news for
commuters and everyone else with lungs. And the city's record of
environmentalism is a point of pride for many of its residents.
Finally, Toronto’s crime rate is substantially lower than any
comparable U.S. city, which means when I get lost this week, humming The Avett Brothers’ tune “Murder In The City” as I tend to do in such situations, will seem far less fitting than it usually does.
No matter how low you turn down your speakers, this Toronto-based band
always sounds loud. Messy electric guitar accompanies lead
singer Jason Nunes's even messier vocals over top of relatively clean
yet relentless percussion from drummer Darcy Rego. Somehow, the
resulting combination of sounds is pop music that is surprisingly easy
to love. The band plays two shows during the NXNE festivities--once
tonight at The CN tower and Saturday night at Wrongbar.
Granted, the dish comprised of french fries, cheese curds and gravy is
really a Quebec thing. But Toronto still has its share of poutineries,
that serve up the heart-straining cheesy, gravy-laden, deep-fried
miracle. A/V intern extraordinaire and former Toronto resident,
Charlene Chae says for good poutine in Toronto, check out Poutini's House of Poutine on the corner of Queen West and Dovercourt, or Smokes Poutinerie, a block west of Queen West and Spadina.
While Toronto is playing host to NXNE, many of the bands are not
Canadian, including this buzzy Florida group with a sound as
summery, though far less frightening, as their name would suggest. In
a truly bizarre but entertaining interview
earlier this year, Paste learned that the band’s lead singer J.P. Pitts
would enjoy being a dolphin if he were an animal, has a deep
fascination with Loving Hut, and is surprisingly well-prepared for a
zombie apocalypse. As I prepare to watch Surfer Blood this time, the
only thing safe to assume, is that they are sure to be memorable.
The Film Festival:
Musical performances seem to get the majority of attention when it
comes to NXNE coverage, but the film portion of the festival is
certainly worth some attention. The entire line-up focuses on films
about music or musicians. I'm most excited to see Canadian Premiere of This Movie is Broken, a romantic drama centered around a Broken Social Scene show.
Stuff I Don't Even Know About Yet:
The best part of a festival like NXNE is that it promises to offer lots
of new discoveries. While it is always great to see bands that Paste
loves and has already covered play, the best part of this weekend is
finding new artists to be excited about. And other than SXSW and the
CMJ Music Marathon, few other festivals offer music fans more
opportunities to find great new bands than NXNE. Finding the best of those
showcased artists is a science about as precise as dream interpretation
or divining for water. But like any great pseudoscience, the trick is
unwavering belief and expecting lots of attempts before a big pay off.
While I’ve had a few serendipitous moments of artist discovery, I have
found most of my favorite musicians and filmmakers through
recommendations from friends, coworkers and perfect strangers. If
you’ve got a tip for a favorite artist playing at this year’s NXNE,
leave a comment, and I’ll do my best to check it out.