NXNE 2014 Reviews: Five things we saw during Toronto’s NXNE festival

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But we didn’t see Macaulay Culkin’s Pizza Underground – we were told that this was a good thing

Toronto’s NXNE festival can be a completely exhausting affair. Bringing in hundreds of acts and dispersing them across the entirety of the city, it’s a boon for any music fan. But it’s also a time when strategy pays off big time in terms of scheduling.

Number one tip? If you are from out of town, check the itinerary and try and get accommodations next to at least one or two particularly hoppin’ venues. That way your body won’t hate you when you emerge for the walk home at 4am.

Just kidding. Your body is still totally going to hate you.

Pissed Jeans at the Mod Club

Pissed Jeans at the Mod Club

Pissed Jeans – The Mod Club

Hailing from, Pennsylvania, Pissed Jeans, a sludgy, heavy, excruciatingly entertaining four-piece, seemed more than content on indirectly mocking the bro-dude headbanging contingent of their audience during their set at The Mod Club. Combining violent riffs with dissonant, jagged blasts of noise, Pissed Jeans frontman Matt Korvette danced in a fey and feverish manner about the stage, nearly shaking his dirty ol’ man jeans right off of his hips. Korvette’s sass ballooned even further when he began openly poking fun at the floppy stagediving. And while musically the band was spot on during the entirety of the performance, the best part came in the form of the encore when Korvette dragged the bass off stage to play a series of trudging riffs behind the curtain – especially “hilarious” was the bro who got on stage during the impromptu performance only to wander off a few seconds later. Meh.

Speedy Ortiz at the Mod Club

Speedy Ortiz at the Mod Club

Speedy Ortiz – The Mod Club/Horseshoe Tavern

Speedy Ortiz, an indie four-piece from Northampton, Massachusetts, are one of those bands that seems to put on a consistently solid live show. And their sets we caught at both The Mod Club and the Horseshoe Tavern during NXNE were no exception. Bandleader Sadie Dupuis delivers the kind of anthems that you sing along to – especially if you are lucky enough to snag a spot in front of the stage – despite the lack of convention when it comes to verse chorus verse style songwriting. Taking advantage of their showcase slots, the band delivered a set that kept a strong momentum throughout – perfect for those of us who are already familiar as well those just getting on board.

Greys at the Horseshoe

Greys at the Horseshoe

Greys – The Horseshoe/Smilin’ Buddha

On their latest album, If Anything, Toronto’s Greys sound absolutely jubilant despite the swirling vortex of noise guitars and breakneck hardcore beats. But despite the dissonance, elements of melody still exist within the layers of fuzz and distortion. With that in mind, the band’s shows during NXNE managed to perfectly capture the vibe off their LP. They also pull off a cover of Mission of Burma’s “That’s How I Escaped My Certain Fate” that fits perfectly within their own canon. If you happen to be in Saskatoon on June 30 we highly encourage you to come out to their show at Vangelis alongside Silent Era and Wizards.

Swearin' at the Horseshoe Tavern

Swearin’ at the Horseshoe Tavern

Swearin’ – Horseshoe Tavern

Sometimes the best bands are the ones you aren’t looking for, the ones that catch you completely off guard and smack you upside the head with crunchy guitars and hooky choruses. Such was the case for Swearin’, a Brooklyn quartet who managed to stick out despite their place on an already stacked bill at the Horseshoe. Combining buzzy guitar riffs with gloriously howled vocals, Swearin’ pulled out a set that was heavy on melody and fun.

Exclaim BBQ

Exclaim BBQ

The Exclaim!/Jägermeister Annual BBQ Bash

If you promise free beer they will come. They will also line-up in giant swaths. If you were lucky enough to get to the Exclaim!/Jägermeister Annual BBQ Bash early you probably had a really good time. Located in a bizarre chunk of open field amidst Toronto’s downtown, the party was a boon for those of us looking for an excuse to take a break from cramped venues and retail booze prices. With DJ sets from members of Badbadnotgood, Metz and Tokyo Police Club, the square slowly began to fill up with a crush of people looking to cash in on the allure of free stuff. The best part? Aside from facestuffing a cup of poutine, the highlight, oddly enough, was getting to play Duck Hunt on an old school Nintendo. The whole energy drink boat platform thing with models was pretty embarrassing though. I guess someone has to pay for all those drinks, right?

– Swearin’ and Pissed Jeans photos courtesy of Amy Leigh. All other photos via Ominocity