Meet Exclaim!'s Class of 2024: Bestfriend, Thermal, nodisco., Camille Léon

Our annual concert series kicks off in Toronto on January 5

Photo (clockwise from top left): Bestfriend by Maxine Tamoto, Camille Léon by Stella Gigliotti, nodisco. by Christian Fortino, Thermal by Norman Wong

BY Megan LaPierrePublished Jan 2, 2024

Happy New Year! It feels a bit aggressive to be tossing out the word "happy," given the everything, but maybe the manifestation girlies are onto something? Yes, it's another year. Again. But Exclaim!'s Class of 2024 concert series, proudly supported by Mary Brown's Chicken, is also back — and that's worth celebrating.

Our annual showcase of emerging acts making the grade begins this Friday (January 5) at Toronto's Monarch Tavern. Below, you can get familiar with the first round of performers whose stars will be on the rise in the year ahead.

January 5: Monarch Tavern


Likely making the furthest trek to the Monarch is Stacy Kim, one half of semi-local bi-coastal synth-pop duo Bestfriend, who resides in Vancouver. She started collaborating on music with Toronto-based bandmate Kaelan Geoffrey remotely long before it fell into pandemic fashion, culminating in the 2023 release of their second EP of dreamy songs transfiguring the experiences that feel loneliest into universalities, and playing the first shows behind the project. Expect an even greater 2024 for the band, with Bestfriend set to debut a new track as they kick off the year and build community on January 5. Don't forget to come equipped with your ex's phone number blocked, as Geoffrey predicts you'll need to be prepared: "I think we're gonna see a bit of a return of anthem-style music that cuts straight to the feels and yells about them," he tells Exclaim! of what he foresees for Canadian music in 2024. "It's been a rough few years."


The roughness of the last few years has taken us all to different places — and for nodisco., it's aughts piano rock. That's the organic instrumentation and direction Toronto singer-songwriter Chris Toufexis is embracing in 2024, previewed by last year's EP, A Long Talk @ Taylor's — a one-night odyssey with some unprecedented spunkier textures than the project's oft silky-smooth stylings, which he describes as "a jukebox constantly jumping from '90s R&B to synth-pop." Toufexis predicts, "I think synths and digital instruments are a little on their way out," underscoring rawness and great songwriting as his trendsetting focus going forward. He'll highlight those good bones during his first performance at the Monarch, where he's excited to see how the room sounds.


Founded by Josh McIntyre (Prince Josh), recent Exclaim! New Faves and "Gregg Araki-core" purveyors Thermal are shining beacons for the local scene, which they likewise reflect in their own excitement to play Class Of alongside pals Jay Feelbender and WEBB. "There are a lot of great projects coming out of Toronto right now — 9Million, Clothesline from Hell, Sara Sloan," says vocalist Lauren Armstrong. "I think audiences are more open than ever to exploring different genres when it comes to live music, so I think we'll definitely see lots of exciting lineups and unexpected collaborations in 2024." The year ahead will also see Thermal record their debut full-length — the follow-up to last year's excellent Plaster Girl EP — and season themselves with more East Coast tour dates.

Camille Léon

Jenelle Lewis makes it look easy. The multi-disciplinary artist, who performs as Camille Léon, infamously never tried her hand at songwriting until pandemic lockdown-induced boredom hit. Last year, she released her debut EP of "music that can be used in movies with a spy chase scene," Near Quaint, and cut her teeth playing it across the city, alongside running not one but two local concert series — Stage Fright and Agave — to provide welcoming opportunities for other newfangled performers. (Agave will continue in 2024 on Monday nights at Burdock Brewery.) It's safe to say she knows her way around an emerging artists' showcase, and we can't wait to have her set the tone for a year of "more Black-fronted bands," as Lewis puts it, when she takes the stage at the Monarch.

Check out the Facebook event link for more information on this week's show and the rest of the Class of 2024 concert series, presented in partnership with the City of Toronto's Music Office. Advance tickets are on sale now via Showclix, and you can also enter to win your way in.

Next up:
01/12 Life in Vacuum / Dermabrasion / Slug / Silks - Monarch Tavern
01/13 Rachel Bobbitt / His His / Jay Feelbender / Essie Watts - Longboat Hall


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