NXNE Toronto, ON - June 8 to 10, 2006

By Chris Whibbs, Michael Barclay, Neil MacDonald, Pras Rajagopalan, Sam Sutherland, Stuart Green and Thomas Quinlan The Adam Brown The Adam Brown, should, for all intents and purposes, be performing on a stage in a soccer stadium somewhere. This Montreal band took all the hooks and choruses from your favourite songs from the ’50s and ’70s that you felt guilty about liking, frapped them, turned up the volume and kicked out the muthafuckin’ jams. Using all manner of exaggerated stage moves requisite for any self-respecting arena rock outfit (see: "o” faces and playing guitar while prostrate on the ground), the Adam Brown put on a supremely entertaining, raucous show. So, the Adam Brown live at the Budokan in 2010? It could, nay, should happen. PR Adventures of Loki Jagged agit pop punk from a trio of 20-somethings from Northern England rocked as cold and hard as Sheffield steel. Immediately recalling the snarl of the Sex Pistols with the melodicism of Superchunk and the dissonance of Sonic Youth, AoL do the Norse god of mischief after whom they are named proud. It’s a shame they only had about 25 minutes to play because with more time and opportunity to spread their wings, this bird would have soared even higher. SG Anagram Few bands could top the spectacle put on by these Toronto-via-Oshawa punks. Front-man Matt Mason had the glazed look of a man possessed as he channelled Ian Curtis, drawling and yelping his way through a lean, brash set anchored by lithe bass lines and menacing saxophone squalls. Mason was the unquestionable focal point, throwing himself into the crowd, toppling beer bottles and generally goading audience members to move, shove and even slap him, which one female attendee did repeatedly with glee. PR The Besnard Lakes Although the audience were scratching their heads on occasion, this group of Montreal-based psych-rockers had many inspiring moments. The lead singer especially made an impression due to his pitch-perfect falsetto that garnered many "What the hell?” moments. Yet, despite the oddity it fit in perfectly with their spacey vibe that could go from quiet chords to a crunchy guitar wall of sound and back again. Showing an obvious talent and mastery of the obtuse, drawn-out and epic, these musicians are definitely not devoid of originality. For those about to go into space, we salute you! CW Jully Black Jully Black’s accessible soul/hip-hop/R&B hybrid was a breath of fresh air in a festival dominated by guys and their guitars. Many of those in attendance at the Horseshoe seemed largely unfamiliar with her material, but Black’s Saturday night swagger soon had the venue eating out of her hand. Clad in a gold bikini top and declaring, "If 16 year olds can show their titties, so can I,” Black showcased her greatest asset: her powerful voice. Although a little emotionally overwrought at times, the impassioned set was thoroughly engaging, highlighted by the dancehall riddim of "Sweat of Your Brow." PR Burn the 8-Track These ’Peggers are probably sick of hearing comparisons to Billy Talent, but truth be told, it’s a fair one to make; and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. They fuse fast screamo with some great hooks and a charismatic front-man to create a live set that would play as well on a large concert hall stage as it did in a practically empty bar. A band to watch. SG Clothes Make The Man Despite being stuck with the always unenviable nine p.m. slot, Toronto indie kings Clothes Make The Man performed a loud and energetic set to a roomful of appreciative onlookers. Singer/guitarist Ryan MacLennan was in top form on the evening, belting out tracks from CMTM’s recent self-titled release with notable intensity, while the rest of the band provided a typically powerful, foot-stompin’ backdrop. Honest, no-frills rock and roll at its finest. NM Code Pie The fact that the blogs and press aren’t all over this Montreal band boggles the mind. They got the youth and that the hopeful, brass-accentuated indie pop down to gleeful perfection. Sure, everyone besides the lead singer look a little stiff and awkward, but the music more than makes up for that slight gripe. Able to capture the exuberance of their debut live, Code Pie, given the right audience and venue, will eventually amaze the right person who should be able to vaunt them into the spotlight. Everyone’s feet will be happier because of it. CW The D'Urbervilles If the Constantines’ younger brothers spent more time with the Talking Heads than Fugazi while practicing dance moves to Devo, they would be the D'Urbervilles. These Guelph upstarts made the most out of a last-minute gig, filling in for the suddenly defunct From Fiction, with slippery bass grooves and electrifying lead singer John O'Regan defying you not to believe their opening number: "We're Blowing Up!" MB Jesse Dangerously Dressed in his requisite sandals and tie with an additional piece of dollar-store costume jewellery for good effect, Jesse Dangerously delivered a tight set that more than redeemed his problematic CMW performance. His high-speed vocals were clear, and the lightly attended show, which started late, allowed plenty of room for the many dancers in the crowd to get busy. It was a party, and even the delayed start and turntable mix-up couldn't prevent it from being a great one. TQ The Deadbeats An unbelievably overcrowded Cameron House was the setting for this Manchester band’s rollicking blend of hip-shakin’ country-rock boogie. Impossibly perfect three-part harmonies and a stunning array of memorable tunes highlighted the quintet’s celebratory set, one of the festival’s highlights. Despite the way-over-capacity crowd and the obviously freaked-out Cameron House staff, the band seemed completely at ease, displaying the charm and talent that earned them a spot on last year’s Glastonbury stage. NM Doujah Raze The sparse crowd may have been stage-shy, but when this rap vet dropped the mic mid-song at the beginning of his set and wandered into the crowd to entice them to move upfront, the energy level greatly increased. That was Doujah Raze's one and only stage antic, preferring instead to rely on his powerful vocals and melodic boom-bap beats. His trip back in time with a performance of his first recorded rap song was interesting but it sounded really dated compared to his stronger, new material. TQ Dutch Oven Were it not for a new province-wide smoking ban, it’s entirely likely this trio of Kyuss-worshipping Montrealers would have had the tiny bar where they showcased turned into one giant bong. Stoner rock was the order of the day as they resurrected the spirits of Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin to guide them in their worldly quest for the Holy Grail of rock. SG Galore Toronto rawk veterans Galore took the stage at the cavernous Reverb for a festival-closing set that showcased the plentiful amount of glam pop nuggets contained on their newly minted Amplifier release. Joined by last-minute bass fill-in John Sutton of the Weakerthans, Barry Walsh and company kicked out the jams with ass-shakin’, windmilling aplomb. Despite the late hour and the pre-show feel of a party winding down, they put on an admirably energetic set highlighted by new single "She’s An Elevator” and a cover of "Cold Turkey” that even got some crowd participation going, courtesy of a tambourine-wielding fan. Dig it! NM Hexes & Ohs Montreal’s Hexes & Ohs are fronted by a glasses-sporting, indie-rock, boy/girl duo whose inherent shyness and somewhat awkward stage presence stayed on the right side of cute. Though technical difficulties, shaky vocal harmonies and a possibly inebriated drummer threatened to derail their set, the band ultimately won over a stand-back hipster crowd with their irresistibly melodic electro-pop tunes and matching band T-shirts. Bonus points also go out to bassist/singer Heidi Donnelly for breaking out the mini-accordion during their set. Nice. NM Hilotrons It seems the half-empty venue for this Ottawa band could have done them a disservice for their particular brand of dancey, angular rock music, but they didn’t seem to give a shit. Lead singer Mike Dubue flew around the stage with a fervour that seemed apparent to only him and the music also reflected his seemingly tireless energy. Give this band a small and sweaty venue and it should take, oh I don’t know, about half a song to get the place going absolutely nuts. CW Hot Springs Projectile necklaces and ascending skirt lines were two side effects of singer Giselle Webber's relentless head banging, much to the delight of gawking boys in the front row. But it was her snarling voice that set the Springs apart from some of their more workmanlike rock tendencies, a voice that curls its way around the notes with a seductive tremolo, even when she's screaming her guts out. MB Inside A Mind DJ duo Vizion and Professor Fingers showcased their scratch band antics by creating a set of atmospheric, smoked-out music with some dusty vinyl, drum-programming and a few effects. Sometimes the music was lost amongst the crowd’s conversations, but when they upped the tempo a little bit near the end and fed off each other’s, and the crowd’s, enthusiasm, they truly shone. A better, more beautiful alternative to club and battle DJs. TQ JD Era Although getting off to a rocky start with two quickly aborted tracks, JD Era and hype man Jonny Rox quickly won over the crowd by clowning around on stage, harmlessly harassing a few ladies upfront and even acting out an air band with their DJ as drummer for one song. Their constant between song banter may have slowed down the momentum of their set, but they were readily forgiven thanks to a high percentage of hype tracks that repped Toronto to the fullest. Roxxstars in the making. TQ Museum Pieces A packed room was waiting eagerly for these Halagonians to take the floor of the venue they delivered. With a set of alternating dreamy and angular indie rock, the band displayed a penchant for writing songs that aren’t easily slotted into simple indie rock definitions. Rather, they played music that simply sounded honest, catchy and musically interesting. SS My Latex Brain Kind of like Pretty Hate Machine trying to mate with Dimebag Darrel, these Ohioans were worth checking out for their bass tone alone. Whatever their bassist plays through somehow makes his solitary instrument sound like one million orphans dying from the fallout of a nuclear disaster, and that is a very good thing. Aided by frantic drums and an energetic vocalist/keyboardist, the bass riffs are what steal the show, building songs on the most unlikely of heavy metal riffs and making them sound like they belong to another world entirely. SS The Old Soul The last time I saw this infectious pop group, it was so inexplicably hot that lead singer Luca Maoloni stripped down to his short-shorts. While no such brazen display was present this time, the oomph brought on by near heat stroke seemed to be intact. Backed up by a more permanent horn section, every song glistened with the vitality of a band on the rise. They know things are going well and they’re giving it their all. To miss them at the peak of their enthusiasm seems a shame, really. CW Romeo Liquor Store Kicking out dirty, fun rock’n’roll, these Brampton, ON natives are poised to make some waves in a country that, if Sam Roberts is any indication, certainly loves its rock. Offering up a slightly grittier version of the Misfits’ "Where Eagles Dare” amongst a set of powerful originals, the band’s only weakness lay in the slightly bored look that appeared often on the face of almost every member. The fact that those faces never once detracted from the unbridled energy of each performance is surprising, but it certainly resulted in an impressive sounding set. SS Shad Armed with the biggest grin of the festival, Shad had reason to be smiling. He came out fronting a full band, only to dismiss them for some old school MC duets with his turntablist or his beatboxer, who also played a mean mouth trumpet. Possessed with a disarming personality, Shad's no show-off, even while moving effortlessly from impressive a cappella freestyling to sincere balladry on an acoustic guitar. MB Spiral Beach In a festival of hustlers, Spiral Beach was refreshing, even if only because these recent high school graduates are far too young to be jaded. An unconsciously ’80s fashion sense made them look like they stepped out of a John Hughes movie, probably one made before they were even born. Their collective individual talent is terrifying considering their youth, but they put their music school chops to work on giddily unconventional new wave songs somewhere between the Sugarcubes and the B-52's. Each one is a bonafide rock star able to make their cojones sound casual, making Spiral Beach as playful as they are awe-inspiring. MB Twin Fangs Okay, so if you took a duo like the White Stripes (dude on vocals and guitar, chick on drums) and locked them in a room with nothing but Slayer and Sabbath records, chances are you’d end up with Twin Fangs. This Edmonton combo manages to make two people sound like five. Both vocalist/guitarist Paul James Coutts and drummer Penny Tentiary play like their lives depend on making as much noise as possible. Big and loud yet strangely melodic as well. SG Unsensored Girl-fronted pop punk, Scarborough, ON residents Unsensored have been kicking out well-rehearsed, catchy songs amongst the city’s all-ages crowd for some time. And with more performances like this, it’s unlikely they can stay in Toronto’s suburbs long. Besides writing MuchMusic-ready songs, the band have mastered the cool-sounding transition, moving from song to song with drum fills, octave chords and a little friendly audience chatter, proving the time this band is putting into their live show. SS Vacuity Specialising in the kind of epic rock that most people seem to associate with Radiohead but which seems more the actual domain of bands who like Radiohead (you know what I mean), Kitchener’s Vacuity performed a tight set of songs packed with quiet/loud dynamics, swooping vocals and crash-bang guitars and drums. Armed with an arsenal of brand-new material from their impressive Come On Get Real release, the band’s solid musicianship and unassuming stage presence ably warmed up an early-arriving crowd on an unseasonably cool June night. NM The Video Dead Punishingly heavy while still maintaining a superbly gritty melodic sensibility, Burlington, ON’s the Video Dead played an unbelievably tight set of material from their recent Stereo Dynamite full-length. Every single member of the band was locked into the same speed-hungry groove, allowing tough-guy vocals to mingle with melodic cleans to create a distinct and well-layered sound. Unphased by their early timeslot, the band hit the bottle hard to make it seem much later than it actually was, resulting in one of the strongest performances witnessed over the three-day weekend. SS We're Marching On We're Marching On are likely Toronto's best-kept secret because there are no easy buzzwords here. Instead, they deliver delightfully abrasive prog pop interrupted by seemingly spontaneous moments of beauty that teeter on collapse, carried along by surprisingly strong vocals that bridge the incongruous worlds of Danielson and disco. Buoyed by lots of local love, their showcase set wowed newbies and sceptics alike. MB Wrinkle Neck Mules With a name like that, you have to really bring a good show, otherwise the cynics will have the last word. Luckily, this Richmond, VA band oozed confidence and authenticity in their homespun country and Americana creations. The band found a happy medium between being untraditional enough to be relevant to younger interests and being traditional enough to give weight to their songs. Also, they discovered that if you want the audience to perk to attention, one should announce that your latest song is about a fire in a bourbon factory. Did I mention they seemed authentic? CW