June 14 2013 – Welcome to our review of NXNE 2013. One year between NXNE music festivals is a long wait, but when the event kicks off our insatiable quest for ROCK continues in full force. Not only are we excited to see our favorite bands one more time, we are thrilled to discover the new gems of the Toronto Indie scene. Although the festival caters to a wide range of musical tastes, we here at T-Mak World are pure rockers at heart and are children of the school of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Rush, Black Sabbath, Rival Sons, etc. Our full NXNE coverage (including band interviews) is found here on this page so take a look around if you wish.
On Day 1 of NXNE our focus was quantity – we wanted to catch as many bands as our feet would permit and we ended up reviewing 15 bands (which you can read about here). Tonight on the 2nd day of NXNE music fest we shifted our focus to quality as most of our heavy hitters were playing tonight – in fact we knew going in that for our musical tastes Thursday night was THE night for us. We were still able to catch 10 acts. Below is a video montage of some of the bands we saw and after that read about what we heard and saw.
The Balconies (St. James Park @7 PM)
A hundred or so hardy fans braved a steady rain to see The Balconies but it was well worth it. They put on a great show as a new 4 piece outfit with the addition of Steve Molella on drums. Former drummer Liam Jaeger has moved to guitar and the results really enhance their sound. We loved their show when they opened for the Rival Sons but this was even better. The Gazebo at St. James Park was a beautiful setting of greenery in the middle of the city. The band could be heard blocks away attracting people to come see what was going on. They win a Gig of the Night from on of our editors (see below).
The Unquiet Dead (Hard Luck Bar @8 PM)
Before the world started calling everything that sounded half like The Black Keys “roots rock” there was a band that defined roots rock, The Band. The Unquiet Dead are real roots rock in the tradition of The Band and we loved their set.
The Blue Stones (Hard Luck Bar @9 PM)
One of our Top 10 Indie Bands of 2012 took the stage and delivered their insanely good brand of garage blues. Kinda like The Black Keys but more Hendrix-y. The Blue Stones played a set heavy on newer material that drew in the crowd and set them on fire. We love this band and their set did not disappoint. They are winners of Gig Of The Night from one of our editors (read below for more).
Little Foot Long Foot (Hard Luck Bar @10 PM)
Perennial T-MAK World favourites, Little Foot Long Foot was a featured part of Todd Keast’s Nurdrawk showcase. The band was at their riff rocking best and played great new songs My Word and Bridge Concerns. They were one of our editors Gig of the Night winners(see below)
Public Animal (Lee’s Palace @11 PM)
OK, sorry, but I have to say “I told you so”. The debut of Public Animal was not just the event of the NXNE, but the hands-down event of the year. If you were there, you’re not going to forget it. If you weren’t, get to the Bovine tonight at 1am. It’s going to be insane. We went into Lee’s Palace with sky high expectations for this band that I tongue-in-cheek referred to as a supergroup. Well they totally destroyed those expectations, they died a quick merciful death. This was off-the-charts hard rocking awesomeness. They played like a band that had played live together for many years. As Supersuckers frontman and bassist Eddie Spaghetti accurately put it, “We all just saw the debut of our new favourite band tonight”. Gig of the Night? And then some…
White Cowbell Oklahoma (Lee’s Palace @12 AM)
The insane party posse took over the stage at Lee’s complete with cowboy hats, a white cowbell playing dude, a leather clad babe pouring drinks in people’s mouths, and somewhere among all that was a really good band. Heavy with on-stage theatrics I have a love hate relationship with this band – I love their music which is a guitar heavy southern rock, but I dislike how much they rely on theatrics. They seem to be endorsed well by a certain alcohol company and at times their show becomes a commercial for that drink. Nonetheless Lee’s Palace really rocked out with WCO and everyone was having a blast. Musically they are among the best we have heard at NXNE.
Supersuckers (Lee’s Palace @1 AM)
Sounding like Motorhead these hard rockers from Arizona took to the stage with a mission. Highly polished and highly energetic they melted faces with their loud and aggresive music. Their bio is right on “American garage punkers and self-proclaimed “Greatest Rock n’ Roll Band in the World.” They’ve been known to dabble in country as well as the aforementioned genres, creating a hybrid sound with a total in-your-face attitude. We recommend a leather jacket.”
Dance Laury Dance (Hard Luck Bar @1 AM)
This Montreal hard rock band knows how to party! It was a wild time at the Hard Luck Bar and they played asses off. Definitely a must see live band.
Mad June (Hideout @2 AM)
What a night for great rock. We went from one great show to the next and every one rocked. We didn’t catch a lot of Mad June but liked what we heard (umm, and saw) from this Montreal all female band.
Stone River (Hideout @3 AM)
Stone River is another T-MAK World favourite. They play awesome soulful southern blues rock. There’s no better place to see Stone River than The Hideout and it’s sure to get crazy. Their 3am set went well past 4 as they kept playing song after song even after we thought they were done. No one was complaining and no one was leaving.
VERDICT: As we always do our four editors select their “Gig Of The Night” which is a reflection of personal taste and the overall band’s performance (both musically and stylistically). Tonight’s lineup was insanely good so this was not a simple task for us (i.e. almost every band we saw was gig of the night but we unfortunately have to narrow it down).
Here is what we liked tonight:
John Dash (Movie Critic) – Playing a rainy outdoor set proved no challenge for The Balconies as they tore up the park. The three piece band which is now a four piece are taking their highly polished energetic brand of rock to the stratosphere and thus are my Gig Of The Night.
Michael Litt (Music Editor) – Little Foot Long Foot‘s spectacular blues with Joan’s Smith amazing vocals has to be seen live to be appreciated. The very full and rich sound from this trio gets my Gig Of The Night.
Steve Mallinson (Sr Editor and Photographer) – Public Animal. See above.
Terry Makedon (Chief Beverage Provider) – Tarek and Justin – get to know these names because The Blue Stones are a powerhouse duo that outrock The Black Keys. They are incredible musicans and when they synch up Justin’s powerful drum bashing and Tarek’s riffs take us to rock nirvana. The Blue Stones are my Gig Of The Night – and not for the first time either. Since I can, I will also pick a second gig of the night because they are rockatstically amazing – Stone River played the late night set but blazed the audience with their amazing “real rock” style – finally a band with long hair! We love Stone River and they are also my Gig Of The Night.