NXNE Review [17/06/11]
Marc: I started my day of NXNE-ness with some films from Australia at the National Film Board Center. Shout outs first and foremost go to The Bedroom Philosopher‘s hilarious LATFH-worthy music video “Northcote (So Hungover)”. Amazing.
After that there was some mildly funny short called The Game and then they screened Rainman Goes To RocKwiz, a great, short documentary about Mark Borebach, a 40-year-old man with Asperger’s Syndrome who can remember the Australian singles chart placings from the entire 1980s. People can ask him to tell them the top five for the first week of April 1983 and he can toss ‘em off like nothing. He competes on an Australian game show called RocKwiz and wins, but more interestingly, he writes and records Daniel Johnston-like music and draws pictures of the dreamworld he inhabits when he goes to sleep, in which he is a rock star who controls the media and has a family. When he goes to sleep in his dreamworld, he wakes up in the real world and vice-versa. Pretty headtrippy stuff, but very interesting, and Mark himself appears as a very benevolent and intriguing character.
The next film on the schedule was 6Ft. Hick: Notes From The Underground, a documentary about the wild Australian garage-rock band of the same name as they tour Europe. This film was actually kind of disappointing, as the band’s music is kind of lame and even their wild stage antics are shamelessly Iggy Pop-derived. Footage of the band’s two frontmen brothers doing weird performance art in their younger days was far more fascinating than anything the band did in the more recent years shown in the film.
A couple hours later I went over to the Kapisanan Phillipine Centre For Arts and Culture for Snakes And Ladders‘ barbecue showcase show where I met up with Gold Soundz team-member Danny Burger. I only had time to catch the end of TOPS‘ set and the first song of Moon King‘s, unfortunately. TOPS (formerly Silly Kissers) are a great, kind of colourful, indie-pop band from Montreal with a strong synth presence. They’re signed to the solid Arbutus label. Moon King, the new project of Daniel Woodhead and Maddy Wilde (both formerly of Spiral Beach), playing their ‘third first show’, sounded a little on the rough side for their first song, which was partly for reasons due to the technical sound, but as we were leaving, the levels were better for the second song and things started to jell a bit more. I wish we could’ve stuck around for more, since they clearly have a number of great songs as one can tell by the EP and single up on their bandcamp, but we were already running late for our next event.
Colour Me Obsessed is a film about the legendary 80s rock band The Replacements, a band that made several widely-acknowledged classic albums but never had a hit or sold all that many records. The film documented the history of the band with reflections on the band and their work from friends, fans, and rock critics. Unfortunately, as interesting as the things everyone said were, the lack of any band music, videos of the band, interviews with any of the original members (three of the four of whom are still alive and hopefully well), and even more than a handful of photographs, severely weakened the film. It was borderline painful to hear all these people talk about certain songs and albums and not be able to hear even a snippet of the song, or even see the fucking album cover! And all the great stories you hear about the band getting crazy onstage would’ve benefitted infinitely from some – any – footage. All in all, the film was dissapointing because of that.
Assunta: I went to see the film (Colour Me Obsessed) for a little bit, but I’ve known about Art Brut for so long now and never seen them live, so I left early to catch some of their set. When I got to the Mod Club, the band was onstage but not playing; an omniscient voice was narrating a story about the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam. Turned out it was singer Eddie Argos, just chilling amidst the crowd, vividly telling his story. At one point he got everyone around him to sit down and then jump up altogether. It was great. Oh, there was music also.
Eddie Argos is a funny guy and as his Van Gogh museum story shows, he likes to tell his little anecdotes but it gets repetitive. Live, however, his knack for entertaining fully works in the band’s favour. While Eddie by himself was captivating enough, the other band members were fun to watch also, with everyone getting really into whatever they were playing. Also interesting – at the end, Eddie asked everyone to put up their hands. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a show where everyone, including the last row and the sides, participated, but here it happened.
After their set, I biked to Lee’s Palace for Dirty Beaches, who I was really excited to see. Of course, the place was packed, given the buzz he’s been getting. Maybe I expected too much, or my slightly drunken state ruined it for me, but I was not impressed. In fact, I found his performance really depressing. On record his music fosters a tranquil sense of nostalgia, but live that feeling was cancelled out by Alex Zhang Hungtai’s strange performance. The way he was standing there in the middle of the stage, fully immersed into his music, he looked like he was 30 years older, disillusioned from several divorces and too much alcohol. He looked like the kind of guy that would hang around Clinton’s: a sad figure holding on to his music and disconnected from the outside world. Yeah, makes for a great atmosphere…This was a rare instance in which I preferred the record over the live performance. It might have been just me, but he simply lacked the force needed to capture peoples’ attention. His voice was also pretty drowned out by the guitar, which was unfortunate; his Elvis-y voice is one of the best things about Dirty Beaches.
Marc: With some time to spare before Swervedriver – my one must-see band of the night – we stopped over at Cameron House to see Montreal’s Pang Attack, a solid three man band fronted by Alexander Hackett that sang sophisticated pop songs cloacked in a shoegazey aesthetic.
After their set ended we continued on our route to The Great Hall (where Swervedriver was playing at 12:00), making a detour up and going into The Garrison (where Assunta met up with us again) to catch some of Braids‘ set. I’ve always thought the Montreal samplegazers were overrated since first seeing them as unknowns playing a Wavelength Sunday show years ago and I still think so. Performance-wise they were fine playing to a packed house, but their songs just don’t have strong enough melodies to hold my attention. We left after a couple songs.
I was under the impression that Swervedriver were a little known band from the 90s that kind of got passed over in their time despite one kickass classic album (1995′s Mezcal Head) but apparently they’ve got a shit load of fans in Toronto (almost all probably over 30, at least) because The Great Hall was at capacity, and that’s not a small venue. After a couple minutes in line we got in and squeezed to the front. The band looked aged, but respectable. Although they were for the most part solid performers, they played very few of their best songs (e.g. the ones off the aforementioned album) and I was kind of feeling of a just-another-day-on-the-job vibe emanating from them; this definitely was not the unwashed-looking young badass shoegazers from the 90s I wanted to hear. To make an unfortunate fan insider pun, it did seem as though the band had lost that feeling…
Ending the night with another shoegaze band, No Joy‘s 2:00 AM performance at the Silver Dollar was great. Lots of noise. Lots of sex appeal from the two bad-ass hipster-looking chicks with long, blonde hair obscuring their faces. Few melodies to get in the way of the onslaught. Usually I’m a stickler for melody (see Braids‘ set review above), but No Joy is just really fucking cool. I like them. A couple of us actually thought their performance was the best of the night.
Tags: 6ft hick, arbutus, art brut, braids, colour me obsessed, daniel woodhead, dirty beaches, iggy pop, maddy wilde, moon king, no joy, nxne, nxne 2011, pang attack, silly kissers, snakes and ladders, spiral beach, swervedriver, the bedroom philosopher, the replacements, tops