NXNE 2003 June 5 to 7, Toronto ON

NXNE 2003 June 5 to 7, Toronto ON
(Andrew Steenberg, Andy Lee, Del F. Cowie, Emily Orr, Joshua Ostroff, Noel Dix, Roman Sokal and Star DT)

Alexisonfire stormed the stage with their combination of crunchy metal guitars, melodic flourishes and plenty of screaming, tearing the roof off with their demon-exorcising fury. AL

Blinker The Star
Pop wunderkind Jordon Zadorozny's Blinker The Star brought a new but familiar sound — maximum rock and roll in the vein of QOTSA, yet with an electrocution-like fury. The result should be one hell of a rock record in the near future. RS

Once you tuned out the lead singer's stale Canadian jokes and focused on his suave pipes and funky soul rock straight outta Ohio, you were in for a hip-shimmying good time. There were even subtle traces of an unusual gypsy-tinged sound at times, which set Buckra apart from the usual "C'mere baby" white boy funk. EO

The Carnations
Upstart popsters the Carnations spilled a shower of saccharine choruses over the sweaty rabble, who seemed to dig the radio-friendly fodder. I wouldn't be too surprised if they found themselves on a label pretty soon, despite the sound man's opinion to the contrary, which he uttered into a live mic. AS

They've got their brand of dense, groove-driven pop down, haircuts and all. Their defiantly detached front-woman, Nirmala Basnayke, barked solemnly while mobile band members huddled around in concerted musical unity. Danceable beats drove the group and the crowd into moments of joint gyration. AS

From Fiction
Between Rob Gordon's circling on/off-stage mini-marathons and jumps up to play some bizarre piece of recorded sound, his lunatic proficiency on the drums presided as the group's anchor. A dizzying start-stop collage of experimental guitars and volume trickery made up the rest of their spazzed-out math rock sound. Spaces of off-the-wall time signature fury dominated but broke naturally into melodious territory with singer Adam Barnes's contrastingly levelheaded intonations. SDT

This Toronto-based band quietly and slowly built some intricate spacy pop textures and occasionally hit upon a supernova. Guitarist Sam Goldberg's (formerly of Bodega) command of choruses is his strength, building a thick but durable wall of sound. RS

Scarborough hip-hop stalwarts IRS put on a no-frills show infused by their stage-hopping energy. Korry Deez and Black Cat were their usual boisterous selves, while DJ Tracks was a little more restrained than usual. DFC

Jugular, the Human Beat Box, conjured an impressive array of sounds, including trumpet, bass, drums, scratching and even record hiss with mouth and mic. A couple of guest MCs contributed the usual big-willy rhymes, suggesting that Jugular would do well to hold, not pass, the mic. AL

Darp Malone
Darp Malone brought along an eight-piece band, including three back-up singers and a DJ. Malone was at his finest when he allowed his soulful voice to shine, instead of trying to please the hip-hop crowd with scratched samples and spoken word. Stock lyrics notwithstanding, Malone proved he has the chops to pull them off. AL

Millions Of Cats That Turned On Their Masters
This local band with an obnoxiously long name had an obnoxiously rambunctious man in a monkey suit swing from the rafters, harass the crowd and toss CDs at people's heads. Cute and wacky, but the antics took away from the dirty, sleazy classic rawk going on onstage, which was pretty damn decent. EO

Off The International Radar
Performing in the dark, except for a backdrop projecting some abstract surfing images, Off The International Radar pieced together an elegant and often beautiful set. Given their ambient electronic experimentation, just close your eyes and enter a dream-like state of mind listening to their hypnotic score. ND

Rock isn't a dirty word to Pan/Tone, who successfully mixed in a little r'n'r fuzz with the bleeps and bloops. Some nice melodies were heard in a medium where that's hard to achieve and his stoic, professional control was in effect. EO

Polmo Polpo
Sandro Perri (aka Polmo Polpo) wrangled together disco, dub and house to form a fitting homage to fusion visionary Arthur Russell. Wabi projectionists added to the ambience by burning ancient reels documenting a gaggle of baboons. Wonderfully strange. AS

Rochester's flows were tight and complex and he had some quality beats to back him up. Watching one MC alone tends to get tiresome, but stage presence can be overlooked when it comes to cuts this nice. ND

Dick Richards
Dick Richards could have been mistaken for a neo-Amish hobo whose buggy took a wrong turn off the 401, but he's a master of laptop and mounds of wired flashing gadgetry. His silky, throbbing murmurs provided a suitable electro hors d'oeuvre. AS

A drill sergeant ordered Rikoshay and his cronies to the stage, do push-ups and maintain an organised confusion. Rikoshay proved to be a hungry and charismatic MC, spitting over guitar-spiked break-beats and Beyoncé's "Crazy In Love" instrumental. The military theme lost momentum by the end of the show, but Rikoshay's potency and potential had already been forcefully rammed home. DFC

This multi-talented MC should have made more of an impact, given that he can scratch, beat-box, bust flows and even play piano. Props for his optimistic flow about his love for hip-hop and the one-man band emanating from his mouth, but it all fell just short. ND

The Co-Stars
Led by a singer with librarian good looks and Velocity Girl-esque vocals, the St. John's quartet performed pretty, albeit indistinguishable, pop songs interspersed with wooden banter. The Co-Stars are like unsalted mashed potatoes: warm and comfortable but in need of some kick. AL

Andrew Vincent
Ottawa resident Andrew Vincent and the Pirates played a set of quirky pop-inflected rock, heavy on pop culture imagery and alcohol. Though they could get a little Weezer-esque at times, they offset this with excursions into country and indie rock. Along the way, Vincent sang about karate flicks and politics, living in capital city and being as cool as John Cougar, all while chugging on a bottle of whisky and giggling, "we're gonna have a good time." And we did. JO