NXNE Part II


Friday, June 17th

If any day at work ever dragged unbearably, it was this day. By the time 6pm rolled around, I felt like a little kid on the last day of school, running for my bike. Pedaling never felt more like flying.

Before there could be music, there was some other love to soak up. I first went to Swirl, a local wine bar, to toast a friend’s birthday over pink wine and a cheese plate. Then, I swung by the Taddle Creek launch. Dani Couture was grilling burgers on a hibachi like champ, and Damian Rogers wore a magical purple dress. I also got to congratulate Jeff Latosik for winning the Trillium Book Award for Poetry; some of the shock had worn off and he was grinning ear to ear. After  shaking hands and scarfing down a free, expertly grilled cheeseburger, I made my way down to Yonge-Dundas Square for the musical part of the evening.

At 9:30pm sharp, Stars took the stage. I thought the crowd was large for Descendents, but this was completely ridiculous. Flannel shirts and superfluous eyeglasses stretched from the stage all the way to the walls to the Eaton Centre, with audience members regularly wandering into traffic to get a better view. Stars have a dreamy, sweet way of breaking an audience, throwing open your heart’s vault and letting all the lost loves out. I almost cried watching a little girl, no more than two, on her dad’s shoulders, clapping along to “Take Me To the Riot.” “Dead Hearts,” though, was the song that truly destroyed me. Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan reversed their parts during their first verse of the song, so that the song became a kind of negative-image foil to the album version. It was haunting and absolutely lovely.

After being disassembled by Stars, I thought it best to spend the rest of my evening putting myself back together with some good-natured, punky violence. I headed over to The Horseshoe Tavern just in time to catch the Black Lungs. I’d been introduced to this band by way of other Toronto-based vehicles of aggression Cancer Bats, and they soon had be set to rights. They’re a perfect anathema to Stars, completely devoid of any disarming softness. Wade MacNeil is an excellent showman, charismatic and cheerful as he orchestrates mayhem. They set left me entertained, sweaty, and renewed.

At 11pm, C’mon took it down a notch, serving as a deeper, slower palate cleanser. They incorporate a southern twang to their rock-and-roll aesthetic, making their sound hot and humid and soaked in whisky. I very much enjoyed bassist Katie Lynn Campbell’s (ex-Nashville Pussy) vocals, which are thick and just a touch distorted, like the glass of a coke bottle.

My night finished with OFF!, who had played Yonge-Dundas Square the night before. Their set was more than half bizarre stage banter, as frontman Keith Morris ranted about his political theories and told the story of a missing shoe as if it were a Viking epic. When the talking ceased and the music blasted, however, the almost joyfully aggressive energy in the room was palpable. These veterans still play hardcore like kids, and it’s staggering to hear.

I felt completely shattered and reassembled after OFF!, and headed home, leaving the late-night revelers still doing shots behind me. Someone put a set of dog tags around my neck as I left, like a lei.


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