Whenever these festivals start, I always have this crazy idea that I can see everything everywhere, and then the first day usually puts me in my place. But Thursday of NXNE was run so well, with everything more or less starting on time, that the night went according to plan... meaning that I actually managed to get out and see nine bands play, although for two of them I only saw about 3 songs each. Most of the bands I saw on Thursday were amazing and I ended up having a really excellent time during this memorable night. In fact, Thursday was the definition of why I love NXNE. Getting around was pretty crazy, though, and not to be repeated... so I didn't see nearly as many bands on Friday or Saturday.
Hospital Bombers @ The Mod Club
I wanted to get to The Mod Club before Ted Leo And The Pharmacists were scheduled to take the state, so I timed my arrival so that I could catch the last few songs of the first set by Hospital Bombers, a band that calls Amsterdam home. With male/female harmonies and a violin, they projected indie-folk-pop.
Info: Hospital Bombers | Connect: MySpace, Facebook
Ted Leo And The Pharmacists @ The Mod Club
I've purchased two albums by Ted Leo And The Pharmacists mostly because I'd heard that Ted Leo (vocals, guitar) puts on a great show. The albums are energetic rock, and there's a few key songs that I associate with the band like Counting Down The Hours and The Angels' Share from the 2005 album Shake The Sheets. Unfortuantely, I don't connect with many of the songs, partly because of the way it was recorded and/or mixed. However, what I had heard was entirely accurate: the show was excellent. For some reason, the thing that really caught my interest was the red coiled guitar cord Ted Leo uses, and the way it kept him tethered to his amplifier, occasionally drawing him back for short visit before letting him swing back to the microphone again.
Info: Ted Leo | Connect: MySpace, Facebook
Sloan @ The Mod Club
With eleven studio albums under their belt, nine of which have made it into my collection, you may be asking yourself why I haven't been out to see Sloan before. I have no good answer, and give no excuses. They are the creators of many of my favourite Canadian-made songs, like The N.S., Sensory Deprivation, 400 Meters...and the list goes on and on. Seriously, this is Sloan! Just like I've read, the band members switch around during the shows, adjusting to accommodate the different songwriters, which effectively changes their sound slightly, just like on the albums. It was pretty exciting getting to see them perform for the first time, but even cooler was that, a few hours later, I met Chris Murphy (vocals, bass, drums, guitar) over at the El Mocambo. See below.
Info: Sloan | Connect: MySpace, Facebook
Cancel Winter @ Supermarket
My desire to be at Cancel Winter was based on a few really great recordings that I heard of theirs while checking out the NXNE listings, and the venue location fit well into my plans given that Supermarket is placed conveniently between The Mod Club and the El Mocambo. For a band that has only been going at it for about a year they are doing amazing, but the live show didn't quite meet the level of their recordings. They do have a pretty great sound, and with more stage time will come more stage presence. Definitely a band worth getting out to see even now, though, and I'll make sure to follow-up with them later in the year to see and hear how they are progressing. They released a full-length album recently that is probably worth picking up even before you see them, as it sounds like a good listen – it's available for download on iTunes or in CD format on IndiePool.
Info: Cancel Winter | Connect: MySpace, Facebook
Amos The Transparent @ Supermarket
The big surprise of the night, and even of NXNE 2008 as a whole, was this set by Amos The Transparent. I'd seen them before at the Rancho Relaxo, and I enjoyed their set, but can't say it was enough to make me gush or anything. But for their NXNE show at the Supermarket, they absolutely killed it! To be fair, they had a different configuration this time around, with eight people on stage, including a trumpet player and two backup singers (who sang more than backup). The first time I saw them, the easy classification was indie-folk-pop, but for NXNE they brought an extra case of rock with them, and dished it out to the audience throughout the set. The energy created by Jonathan Chandler (vocals, guitar) and Ana Miura (vocals, tambourine) was totally electric – I couldn't get my camera off the two them. For that, I apologize to the rest of the band... sorry. I just wish they played like this every time. Truly memorable.
Info: Amos The Transparent | Connect: MySpace, Facebook
The New Odds @ El Mocambo
Not only was I excited to discover that one of my favourite bands of the 90's was putting out a new album, under the slightly adjusted name The New Odds, it turns out they were scheduled to play NXNE as well. There were definitely some other great picks in this time slot, like People In Planes and Two Hours Traffic, but I just couldn't miss the opportunity to see Craig Northey (vocals, guitar) and the rest of the Odds, minus one original member, play a set. I wasn't the only one that felt that way because not only were they introduced by Dave Foley, the crowd also contained Scott Thompson (both from Kids In The Hall) and Chris Murphy from Sloan, in addition to a few other musicians like band members from Small Sins. They opened the set with Someone Who's Cool, one of my 5-star rated songs, so they had me invested in the performance from the first song. They played like seasoned professionals, joking around, with casual and amusing stage antics that fit really well with the music.
Info: The New Odds | Connect: MySpace
Mixylodian @ Holy Joe's
Mixylodian is a band out of Montreal that I wanted to see because there seemed to be some affinity with the music of The Unicorns, the predecessor to one of my favourite current bands, Islands. When I got there, they were having some issues getting setup, and once they were ready to go, the drummer had disappeared. It turns out he was off being sick, bad pizza or something, but when he returned, he started playing through the set. The music was a little too disorganized for my taste, but I liked the stage setup with opposing keyboards surrounding the drum kit.
Info & Connect: Mixylodian on MySpace
Flash Lightnin @ The Horseshoe
I decided to head back to The Horseshoe early to see if I could catch a few songs from Flash Lightnin. They used to play every Wednesday at The Dakota Tavern, but that stint seems to have ended now. They play blues-inspired hard rock, with influences like ZZ Top, AC/DC, and John Lee Hooker. Darren Glover plays some wicked guitar, and isn't afraid to show it.
Info & Connect: Flash Lightnin on MySpace
White Cowbell Oklahoma @ The Horseshoe
Since I had such an amazing time witnessing the mayhem that is White Cowbell Oklahoma on the Friday night of NXNE 2007, I decided to finish off my Thursday night this year in much same way. Chainsaw, chainsaw, chainsaw! The crowd was getting pretty messy before the show, and when the band came on, a group of guys near the front started slammin' 'n' fightin'.
This year, rather than bringing out a "touring hostess", the band had a new surprise in store: an nasty, nearly-naked male clown. When the clown got on stage, he started out as a hairy, beer-bellied man covered in tattoos and wearing only boxer shorts. By the time he left the stage, he was almost exactly the same, except the boxer shots. I chose not to photograph most of his antics, and I'm not sure I even want to describe them all to you... don't make me do it. Look, the guy yanked down his shorts and pulled something brown out of his ass. Do you really want to hear more? I didn't think so. The show was emphasized both by the spark-generating grinding of the white cowbell and the shredding of the toilet paper by a chainsaw. It was all very insane, as always.
Info: White Cowbell Oklahoma | Connect: MySpace, Facebook