This past week Toronto (June 17-21) hosted the 21st edition of the annual North by Northeast Music Festival.Once again, the festival treated music fans to a multitude of music from just about every genre, enough to please everyone's pallet. Clubs around the city hosted hundreds of bands and songwriters from mainly Canada and the U.S. and even included a couple of bands from the U.K. as well. Many of the showcases went around the clock with some non-traditional venues hosting music during the afternoon and the music clubs continuing the shows well into the wee hours with a 3am slot!
We didn't arrive until late Thursday and missed Detroit's own Blaire Alise & the Bombshells play the Bovine Sex Club on the opening night. Our music weekend started out at the Comfort Zone a club located in the basement of the soon to be demolished historical building The Waverly Hotel. The Tranzmitors had already hit the stage with their power pop/punk/new wave stylings and antics. The Canadian band had the audience dancing and pogoing around to their sound. We were off to a promising start to our weekend.
The next band had one of the best band name's of the festival: Guantanamo Baywatch. This punky surf band certainly lived up to their moniker!
We only had to walk right next door to catch local Toronto band Elsa who played shoe-gazey dream pop that sounded like it belonged on Creation Records back in the nineties.
The Silver Dollar is another historical music venue known for blues and jazz that had been transformed into an indie rock club over the years. This venue also faced the wrecking ball - due to new condo development being built in that area - but the facade will be saved and hopefully the club itself, as it has always been a festival favorite. Many Toronto music mainstays have closed within the last few years most recently the legendary rock club the El Macombo who had hosted many past NXNE showcases. That entire area won't be the same as these longtime music venues get torn down to make way for more condos.
Next we headed down to the notorious Bovine Sex Club who despite it's provocative name is not a mating club for cows but one of the best rock clubs in the city. It always boasts some of the best hard rock/punk/glam bills of the festival and is always jam-packed. We squeezed in to see what we thought was a band listed - Midnight Towers - who had to cancel. We were instead treated to a band called A Primitive Evolution. This Toronto trio played goth-influenced hard rock with just the right energy and style that was just what we needed to end the first night on a promising note. They included a cover of "Ace of Spades", the heavy metal classic, that they re-envisioned in their own unique funky style and pulled it off; a ballsy move there! Their set even included an appearance by the Grim Reaper!
Night two we made a detour from the festival to check out a concert by UK pop punk stalwarts The Buzzcocks who played the Phoenix Concert Theater in support of their latest album, "The Way." For more on this show check out the review here.
Night three found us at another legendary concert venue, Lee's Palace, who has been hosting shows for over three decades now. (The bass battle in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is set there.) We got their just in time for a set by Boston punk pioneers Mission of Burma. The trio launched into their set loud and fast playing songs from throughout their long career and they clearly were having a blast playing them! Their enthusiasm in playing their classics to just improvising was infectious and had their hardcore fans enjoying the show from start to finish.
They ended their blistering set with one of their most known songs "That's When I Reach For My Revolver" (covered by electro musician/DJ Moby) and "This Is Not a Photograph." The band who has influenced many other artists such as Nirvana, Sonic Youth, Foo Fighters and Yo La Tengo just to name a few, continues to release new music to this day. As I watched them I couldn't help but think who they were influencing right now and how many bands who play the festival try hard to and wish they could sound like this.
To cool down after the show we caught local DJ Johnny Martinuk close out his new wave meets Britpop set at The Bristol, a new English style pub located in the Great Hall concert venue. We high-tailed it up to the Silver Dollar in time for the 3am set by Smokes. This local band had the late night crowd still upright and dancing with their eclectic rock sound that included a violinist who rocked his instrument along with the rest of the band.
The legendary Detroit band, The Gories, also played the festival this year. Unfortunately we were not able to attend due to this show being at the same time as the Mission of Burma concert. I'm sure they put on an awesome show as they usually do every time I've seen them!
Sunday offered another full day of performances throughout the city and a rap line-up at YDS but it was time for us to return to home with the music of NXNE 2015 still ringing in our ears.