This year’s North by Northeast music festival featured close to 650 bands on over 40 stages throughout Toronto. Often playing second fiddle to the similarly named, but unrelated, South by Southwest festival, 2010 seemed to be NXNE’s coming-of-age. From scoring big-name headliners like Iggy and The Stooges and De La Soul, as well as a good number of up-and-coming buzz bands like Surfer Blood and Avi Buffalo, this year’s line-up demanded attention. The festival might not have “taken over” the city, but it was pretty hard to ignore.
Starting off a packed Thursday night, Montreal’s Young Galaxy and The Besnard Lakes brought their atmospheric guitar rock to the Mod Club. The former charmed with a mid-set shower of bubbles from the ceiling and the latter hit it out of the park, playing a tight set enhanced by the impeccable lighting system. Later at the Dakota Tavern, Alberta’s Ghostkeeper gave the audience a taste of their raw country-blues while Japandroids drained the crowd’s remaining energy with their 2 a.m. “surprise special guest” slot.
Friday night saw garage-rock take over the sweltering Garrison, with California’s Best Coast and The Soft Pack hitting the right blend of noise and pop to dance the night away.
Not to be outdone by club shows, the Hollerado Nacho House (nachos and beer in a house that isn’t yours) was a festival highlight. Taking place on a warm and sunny Thursday afternoon, close to 200 people crowded onto the apartment rooftop of Audioblood Media, a Toronto press and management team, to watch a slew of young and promising GTA bands. By the time Hollerado took the stage, the crowd was as enthusiastic as they were inebriated ($3 beers, anyone?), but they pulled out all of the stops anyway, including confetti cannons, spray-paint, and a hefty dose of performer-crowd interaction.
If there’s one gripe about NXNE it’s that, unless you find yourself at Dundas and Ossington, it’s nearly impossible to venue-hop without breaking the bank on cab fare. Your best bet is to pick a venue for the night and stick to it.