NXNE Diaries

NXNE Diaries

The following is a diary compiled from a trip to the NXNE Festival in Toronto, Ontario.

Thursday, June 16, 2011:

There is something particularly badass about cutting through an airport while holding a guitar case, a sandwich and a pair of sunglasses. It’s sort of like letting people know that you are on a business trip but you are in the business of high kicks, rocking out, crushing beers and flirting with terrible people. Which pretty much drives home the point that most people picked the wrong business.

Of course, what most of these people didn’t know was that nestled up beside my bass was several pairs of clean underwear, socks, a t-shirt and a couple of debatable 9-volt batteries. The laundry is a total rock and roll bonerkill but I’m convinced it’s kept my bass from shattering mid-flight. Also I only have to carry one thing, which is kind of pleasant and not really that badass at all.

Also kind of pleasant and not really that badass: aching for a shower in the hotel coupled with the complimentary body wash.

The first highlight of the day was the rooftop deck party with plenty of free beer and this bottled water that tasted like juice with crushed-up Flintstones vitamins in it. It was clearly a good idea to stick with the beer considering the tar fumes and smog-infused blasts of sunshine. Regina’s Library Voices rocked a whole bunch, and their newer songs sound phenomenal.

After their set and another couple of beers, I skipped out to go pick up a Vietnamese Sub. For those unacquainted, these tasty morsels are perhaps the best part of colonialism – a tofu stir-fry jammed into a toasted baguette. C’est bon!

After my third shower of the day, I raced down to the Yonge/Dundas Square for the free show, which was rocking on a massive outdoor stage. Damien from Fucked Up was in fine form, diving into the crowd, prompting my bud Eli to say “as a fat man myself, he gives me hope that one day I will be able to crowd surf.” Ha! Sloshing back as many of the free booze samples as I was allowed, I raced back to catch Off taking the stage. Instant boners, I remembered what it was like to be 14 and hearing punk music all over again. Speaking of boners, The Descendants totally rocked the shit out of the 8000 people gathered that evening.

I split in a cab and made it in time for Slow Down Molasses to take the stage at The Dakota. It was a fun set and lots of people were there to see us, including half of Saskatoon. Thanks friends, I wish I could have bought you all a shot. Maybe we can all just share a bottle of whisky in the bathroom next time – I only brought enough for myself.

Other highlights included Evan Dando and Juliana Hatfield playing acoustic renditions of Lemonheads songs, more whisky and questionable pizza, Dirty Beaches infusing DIY punk into his Elvis karaoke impersonation and Light Fires, an electro duo comprised of James Bunton of Ohbijou and Gentlemen Reg in full-on drag, who play sassy queer dance songs about boners.

Also, receiving a flurry of confusing but amazing texts that combined sex and the first Aliens movie.

Best night ever.

Friday, June 17, 2011:

Spent much of the day at the Kelp Records BBQ with Slow Down Molasses, munching on free veggie burgers and watching amazing sets from Shuyler Jansen and Foam Lake. At this point it was a race to see whether I could get drunk again or throw up from a raging bangover. Instead I try to quell my angry stomach with free chips, which was a dumb idea. Chips are dumb. And delicious.

Later that evening, after watching Land of Talk on the free stage and then Saskatonians We Were Lovers wow a hugely appreciative audience, we trucked on down to see a reunited Swervedriver blast through 90s shoegaze jams before watching the Pack AD blow the roof off the Horseshoe. Which actually made Deerhoof seem sort of redundant. Then again, at this point, after having gotten drunk two or three times over the course of 12 hours, I was passing out standing up. I had to catch myself several times and lean on discarded chairs. Rock music began failing me at this point.

I only vaguely remember the 3am cab ride, which seemed to be heading the opposite direction of where I was originally intending.

Saturday, June 18, 2011:

The night previous I received a flurry of texts, tweets and emails about Saskatoon flooding. Which made the fact that we were in Toronto all the sweeter. Especially when Slow Down Molasses had a mid-afternoon set to play in the Trinity Bellwoods Park under a deliciously hazy summer sun. Suckers.

Playing acoustically, and inauspiciously quiet, at the end of our set I note that there are literally hundreds of hipsters gathered to politely watch us play. I’ve played a shaker the entire time, and not very well. I feel like a tool.

After a supper consisting of a pad thai prepared in a restaurant where you literally have to walk through the kitchen to get to the bathroom, we make our way to the Chad VanGaalen show only to find out that it is over capacity with a line wrapping around the block to prove it. Tyson runs into Mr. VanHaalen’s guitar player, who tells us that he can get us in if we hold his hands. Security laugh heartily and make no move to stop us. We catch approximately one song by Braids, which I am completely fine with.

Later a girl compliments me on the earlier Slow Down show.

“Yeah, I guess I can rock a shaker,” I retort.

“You look like you could shake whatever you want,” she replies.

My quizzical look has never been a hit with the ladies. She slinks off into the crowd and 20 minutes later, midway through Chad VanWaailen’s set, I suddenly go “OOOOOH!”


After an amazing set by electro girl phenom Grimes we catch a staggering set by Makeout Videotapes, which somehow results in Tyson getting kicked off the stage by a bespectacled bouncer who looks like he crushes bank statements by day and fey indie rockers by night. After more beer and pathetic debates on getting more pizza, we make it back to the hotel room sometime after 4am.

At this point I decide not to bother sleeping. Instead I take a limo to the airport with plenty of time to board my flight at 7:30. Hilariously, I pass out in the departures area, waking up to Air Canada calling my name over the loud speaker. Ouch! I had the last laugh though – the flight was delayed due to Elsa and Ash from We Were Lovers getting in five minutes behind me.

Holding up a flight due to rock and roll exertion: not really that pleasant and totally badass.