North By Northeast
June 8 to 10
These noisy popsters from Austin, Texas impressed a sparse crowd, falling somewhere between the Pixies and Superchunk with impossibly sweet vocals. -Rob Ferraz
Winnipeg's B'ehl played irresistible pop with beautiful melodies that were sweeter than a candy store. Showcasing material from their new Endearing records release, this quartet was swell. -Rob Ferraz
This laid-back surf style/garage rock band played 50s-inspired Link Wray type tunes injecting the mellow crowd into a time warp, when musicianship was at its prime. This band can actually play tight smooth transitions, a rarity in today's pop and boppy boy group frenzied times. -Cindy Mielke
The Booda Velvets
This New York quartet pushed all the right FM-friendly modern rock buttons with their Third Eye Blind-meets-Tragically Hip rootsy frat rock. The vocalist showed a lot of promise ? more so than the actual songs he was singing. -Stuart Green
Bozo Porno Circus
The nine-piece Houston-based industrial goth metal heads/bondage freaks probably had the most, um, interesting stage presentation (not to mention border crossing stories). Their use of hardcore bondage, and simulated torture and mutilation was certainly welcome in light of their less than skilfully executed musical mayhem. -Stuart Green
Caffeine by Stuart Green
Playing a set that brimmed with sweaty Stones-y swagger and New York Dolls attitude, Montreal's Caffeine lived up to their hype. Their brand of dirty rock'n'roll worked well and likely won over some sceptics. -Rob Ferraz
This Cincinnati trio's synthesiser with its blips and wahs, really added a lot of texture to their sound. The lead singer reminded me of Eric Bachman (Archers of Loaf, Crooked Fingers) for his delivery and intense style. The fast tempo of the songs, the fullness of the sound, and the sheer intensity at which they were played made for a powerful set. -Scott Ingram
Chore by Roman Sokal
The boys from Dunnville, ON expertly delivered their epic, heavy chromatic tight-wound math-rock stylings and showcased some new and promising material. Their skills have progressed ten-fold, highly evident by Mike Bell's injection of interesting funk-like bass fills and prog-rock rumbling rolls by drummer Dave Dunham.
The Sisters, Neko Case and Carolyn Mark, oozed stage chemistry and put on the weekend's best show. With an acoustic guitar, an un-miced snare and cymbal, two great voices, and absolutely no pretension, the two charmed their way through a whole mess of good old-fashioned honest country ballads and a whack of witty banter. -Scott Ingram
Riding high with his Kangol-friendly remake of Gordon Lightfoot's "Sundown," which he played about three songs into his set, the New Jersey native and his James Brown-sized backing band of live horns, guitars, bass and a turntablist fumbled through a sleepy and way-too-white fusion of soul, funk and hip-hop that works a little better on his Parlance of Our Times record.
Music is noise. The Fembots understand this basic fact and don't get hung up on stuff like conventional instruments. Using tape loops, an old and assortment of found stuff (including clever use of a balloon), the Fembots gave their audience a unique sound with interesting presentation. Scott Ingram
Terming their brand of music "future lounge" core Montreal duo Cheryl Sim and Peter Soumalias were joined by crack band of session musicians who kept things interesting by constantly swapping instruments and the tight set did not suffer at all. Drum & bass inflected material that also touched on acid jazz and house stylings proved an attractive accompaniment to Sim's soothing voice. -Del F. Cowie
Knocked Out Loaded
The Sonic Youth guitar noodlings combined with the breathy girl and guy vocals will undoubtedly elicit comparisons to Blonde Redhead. Add a sampler and effective use of black and white images as a backdrop, and it was a captivating show. Scott Ingram
This crew from Dallas, Texas won over a potentially indifferent crowd who had gathered to see local acts by impressing with soulful production, forceful delivery and meaningful lyrical content. As a measure of their success, every group that took the stage afterwards didn't hesitate to give the crew props. -Del F. Cowie
Playing joints off of her First Cut Is The Deepest, one of Canada's pre-eminent MCs worked seriously hard, stylistically touching on her Jamaican roots and rocking lyrics that don't shy away from personal struggle or strongly held points of view. Del F. Cowie
As part of the all-female hip-hop showcase EstroJam, pioneering MC Motion impressed with a versatile set that previewed virtually all-new material. Guests who took the stage included Circle crew member Tara Chase and Manchilde of the Butta Babees, who performed the well-received "A Tale Of Two Cities." But the moving "Dear Marky" underlined Motion's presence. Accompanied by only a bass guitar, Motion's eulogy to a friend carried a powerful affecting silence. -Del F. Cowie
Running through energetic performances of their ridiculously dope "Maintain The Focus" and "2004" singles, this Montreal crew gave the crowd a bonus when they treated them to a set by turntable wunderkind and group DJ A-Trak, who ended their set with wax bending theatrics.
-Del F. Cowie
Pleasure Void is an aged American outfit who had the over-used visual apparel of the Cramps, yet a very confused and exhausted heroin-like energy to their sound. Three words: Hang it up. -Roman Sokal
There was a super-friendly atmosphere inside the small club, understandable given the enthusiasm these four girls from Halifax have always shown for their music and for playing. The festive atmosphere was dampened slightly by the admission near the end of their set that this might be their last show in Toronto, as group members move, at least temporarily, to different parts of the globe. Scott Ingram
This Scarborough crew represented the Toronto suburb with ruff rugged and raw stylings. Too bad they couldn't represent their mothers well, with thoughtless misogynist lyrics, including one song discussing nasty bitches, freaky bitches, sleazy bitches, easy bitches, easy bitches, dirty bitches and flirty bitches. Scott Ingram
Three young women in matching baby blue T-shirts emblazoned with a big "R" and one Grant Lawrence (Smugglers) look-alike played a set of happy rock tunes. The Riff Randells aren't out to woo you with their musical prowess, just to have a hand-clappin, finger snappin' good time. -Scott Ingram
Although some things may have changed in the past few of years, like a move from Montreal to L.A., and a change in stage name (from Nerdy Girl), poor Cecil still can't seem to shake her unlucky love life. Unlucky for her, but lucky for us, since it is the creative inspiration behind many of her songs. -Scott Ingram
Sinclaire by Cindy Mielke
The house was packed to see this Toronto emo outfit. The hardcore roots were present in their aggressive guitar abilities, while the intense poetic lyrics and driving double guitar offered a cross between a Promise Ring and Grade.
Toronto-based crew the Spy play pop with crisp new wave edge and some glam thrown in for good measure. The front woman, Barbie, has a powerful, magnetic stage presence, while the band take a slinky back seat to her lead. This showcase saw them playing it pretty safe, with a slightly more commercial edge to their sound. The two guy/two girl combination looked great on stage, and as tight and competent as the music was, it seemed like the band may have been holding back some energy in favour of perfect musicianship.
Swearing At Motorists
Looking straight out of an early 70s TV show, the emaciated needle-nosed singer of Swearing At Motorists was surely the most energetic, eccentric, crazy and entertaining artist to cross the Canadian border. The dynamic duo from Dayton, Ohio consisted of only guitar and a drummer yet they rocked the crowd very hard, working with a blue-collar-like spirit. Their numbers were cleverly conceived to contain moments of quiet soul, angst and then catharsis, like early Elvis Costello on speed. These two are the new superheroes. They fucking kicked ass. Roman Sokal
They Came From Beyond! by Cindy Mielke
They Came From Beyond!
Musically I would say this St. Catharines trio sound a lot like early Man Or Astroman?, except for the couple of hard rock numbers including a Body Count cover. The story with these guys, though, is the small cast of costumed friends/weirdos that took over the area in front of the stage and demanded audience attention. Antics included in-your-face freakish dancing, actual wrestling (with costumes), and acting like extras from Heavy Metal Parking Lot. Even if you were annoyed or disgusted by the spectacle that was the obese loudmouth guy in short shorts who waved his bare belly around like it was sexy, fondled his breasts, and mooned people (in addition to singing some songs), you have to admit it grabbed your attention. -Scott Ingram
Toronto's masked Mexican wrestling madmen had it going on, and were definitely one of the highlights of the festival. Everyone should experience their garage surf sound and magnetic stage presence. Rob Ferraz
Oliver Twiggins by Roman Sokal
The five-piece (including two members of the now-defunct Blue Dog Pict) executed a blend of unadulterated funk and pop that was smooth, eclectic and charismatic. Their musicianship is ultra high-key, and it is almost as if they're ambidextrous, maximising the creative limitations of their instruments. -Roman Sokal
Brampton hip-hop metal cum math-core crew debuted a bunch of solid new material as well as some tasty updating of some of the material from their debut CD. Watch for the new disc this summer along with some central Canada supporting dates on the Warped tour. Stuart Green