Featured: Foxjaws, The Zoobombs, Golden Triangle, Crystal Antlers, Japanther, Holler, Wild Rose!, Switchfoot, AfterpartY, Woodpigeon, DD/MM/YYY and Holly Throsby.
Hyatt Regency (NXPO) Stage 2pm
It was a slightly rainy day as I came in on the train, feeling sorry for the poor souls that were to attend Edgefest. I however, managed to catch nine different bands/artists at five different venues, well 10 bands/artists if you count an unintentional run-in at a Lady Gaga rehearsal for the MMVAs at the Much building for the last minute of pokerface. However, that is a story for another day. The first of the many talented artists was Foxjaws. To begin, when I was listening to them, the very first thing that came to mind was Stevie Nicks singing for a Pink Floyd cover band. Their songs were amazing. With a lyrical drive that could bring the British monarchy to their knees, well mainly Prince Harry cause would probably dig the lead singer Carleigh, tambourine or none. If you do not enjoy the nice mellow music flowing from each member of the band, shame on you! There was even a Jimmy Page moment when the lead guitarist picked up a bow to play on his 6-string. This talented quintet has a long way to the top if they wanna rock and roll, but if they continue making music like this, they could be the next Jonas Brothers, haha I am just kidding; they are the next Fleetwood Mac with Pink Floyd over-tones. 4/5
So I quickly ran from the Hyatt Regency after catching 5 to 6 songs by Foxjaws and made it just in time to catch the Zoobombs performance at Younge-Dundas Square. They were just amazing! Coming straight out of Tokyo, yeah that Tokyo, the quartet including such stage personas as Matta, Moostop, Pit, and Don, they all brought their funk-punk-rock to the stage and completely kicked ass. Though it is hard to hear what exactly they are singing they just had so much energy and enthusiasm that you just could not stop dancing. I would go on further into this review but I took a video, so yeah, enjoy this and go listen to them …like NOW! 5/5
This poppy, punk, and all fun band played right after The Zoobombs and they were not a disappointment. They have a great motif and style as their two singers, two guitarists, bassist, and drummer played with their hearts on their sleeves. They had an enjoyable performance that made me bob my head and tap my feet along to the beat and rhythm. Congrats to Golden Triangle for making a good show even better and I wish them the best with their career in the music industry. 4.5/5
This band had an odd mix of sounds that was not very impressive. The only piece of this band’s performance that made me pay attention intently was percussion player Damian Edwards who mainly played the bongos and was just a hilarious piece to the band. Half-way through their performance he took the bottom part of his t-shirt, pulled it through the collar/neck-hole and wore it like a halter top on a Hooter’s waitress for about 2 or 3 songs. Another funny part of their performance was the lead singer Jonny Bell’s attire, wearing a Larry Bird sweatshirt reminiscent of my grade school days. Other than that though, I guess their set was all right but nothing too inspiring or fantastic. They definitely did not make me rush to the Future Shop across the street and pick up a copy of their album. Nevertheless, kudos to Crystal Antlers for coming all the way from Long Beach in California to perform in Toronto. 3/5
This band claims itself as more of an “art project” than a band but with catchy lines like “all the books I didn’t read, I learned by skipping school” and “Challenge and Opportunity” this band is strange but in the good way. With Ian Vanek on Drums/Vocals and Matt Reilly on Bass/Vocals they gave their punk rock with movie quotes mixed in on cassette tapes. The band looks crazy in and of themselves, but when they sing into their telephones, that’s right telephones, they create a sound unlike any other band out there. They also have fun spouting random things like “I love baby-sitters club” and “fuck religion” as the crowd cheers on their antics. With cuts from movies within t heir songs from movies I did not recognize other than “my name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die,” Japanther brings a unique flair to the music of the world; I suggest giving them a listen when you get the chance. 4/5
The guys (and girl) from New Jersey made a stop in Toronto for NXNE this year opening for Swtichfoot at the Phoenix Concert Theatre. Easily, they were among my top bands to check out at NXNE 09. A lot of the Switchfoot fans I spoke with admitted that they’d never heard of Holler, but as soon as they started I immediately saw approval from the crowd. Their debut LP entitled Our Little Hymnal, had my attention for some time now and they remind me of Broken Social Scene fused with Sigur Ros. Holler did an excellent job in translating their studio tracks into an epic live event retaining and enhancing emotions with perfection. I see big things from this band in the future for sure.
I was initially surprised to see them listed on the NXNE 2009 roster, but then I remembered that they do run an indie record label. Anyways, Switchfoot was one of my favorite bands earlier on in my youth and to see them live for the first time in such an intimate setting relit my old music taste buds. Early in their set, they played their major hit Stars, and when that happened, the disco ball ignited and stars literally lit up the venue leaving the fans in awe. Energetic and passionate as always, lead singer Jon Foreman made many dashes into the crowd and jumped off as many things as he could. Saturday’s NXNE had many great acts playing (luckily Andrew was covering them!), but I am totally happy and satisfied that I decided to catch Holler, Wild Rose! And Switchfoot. Possibly one of the most memorable lineups I’ve been to in a while.
Now, this was my first time going to the Neutral Lounge. The fact it was on such an odd side street and how the club was right under a Shopper’s-like drug store made me question it greatly as a club. I go in and the club was incredibly sketchtacular, the lights were probably so dim so it would hide the awful mess of a club. Then AfterpartY played and they completely gave a fantastic performance. “Let me break your broke heart again” will be remembered, in my mind, as one of the best lyrics I heard that weekend. Even thought the singer sounds like a pixie, she worked with it, giving an amazing showing with the strange singing chops that Kristina B was born with. In addition, many eyes did not mind her appearance as well. The rest of the band gave a good performance too, playing as if it was the last show they would play, even Juan Carlos Riva rocked so hard he broke a string. Many thanks from the band were given to bassist Mark, who filled in that night for Idan Erez. Overall, a very Metric/Blondie band but with a much harder edge with a disco-ey twist. I hope to see more from this band in the future. 4.5/5
This band was in the short-list for the Polaris music prize, which includes such past winners like Final Fantasy (violinist Owen Pallett). From what I have seen for Polaris winners, it is usually the most beautiful sounding band that wins. This means that Woodpigeon will be a very sure-fire contender for the win. This slo-jam band from Calgary, Alberta incorporates violins (from Foon Yap in the band), flutes (from keyboardist Annalea Sordi), clarinets (from bassist Michael Gratton), and even their own whistling (from singer/guitarist Mark Andrew of the Hamiltons). They were pretty slow with their songs, even with “the most depressing song in the world” which when Mark shouted out the title I decided to applaud and yell out “yeah!” for irony-sake. For many bands, it is very hard to pull off being a slow sounding band, but Woodpigeon is the exception with their beautiful and graceful sounds. Even after their show, they won the Galaxie rising star award, so there is a bountiful future for this group of talented musicians. Good luck with the Polaris prize, Woodpigeon, and to all of those that hate artsy fartsy music, listen to this band, I am sure your preconceived notions will be deader than the person in their song about a person that jumps off a cliff. 5/5
Pronounced “day-month-year” this oddly named band from Toronto completely blew the roof off of the packed Horseshoe Tavern. With their catchy synth-pop tunes, they played astonishingly, and made the crowd completely ecstatic. From the first song, to the last, the band played a rock-filled set while dancing around many red balloons tied to a doll. The balloons were quite clever idea too, if I do say so myself. So with their amazement and splendour, each band member rocked in their own way bringing together collaborative noise that made much sense to your ears. They beat down the crowd with a 1-2 punch and then kicked ass a few minutes later. Overall, fantastic performance that even got me jumping and dancing. Rock on DD/MM/YYYY, even with your messed up band name. 4/5
On my way out of the Horseshoe Tavern I decided to check out what was going on at the Rivoli and even thought I only caught the last two songs, I figure that it deserves enough for a review of its own. The performer was Holly Throsby who reminded me of an Australian version of Feist. There was a pretty great sound and with a beautiful outlook on life it makes you think, “is everything really as bad as it seems at times like these”. Her voice alone could pull anyone out of any funk (the bad kind of funk) and make you just feel superb all over and feel great about life. Thank you Holly and the back-up band The Hello Tigers (Bree van Reyk and Jens Birchall) for making the last performance I witnessed on my first North by Northeast great and thank you to all the performers that came to North by Northeast, I hope to catch much more different bands next year! 4/5
Chief Editor & Founder of Live in Limbo. Host & Producer of the Capsule Podcast. Sean is an award-winning photographer and Nikon Professional Services member. His work has appeared on the CBC, Pitchfork, and MUCH. He is an Academy Delegate at the JUNOs (CARAS) and has been involved in the Toronto music scene since 2005. He is also an endurance and CrossFit athlete. You should follow him on Twitter @SeanChin.