Belated Reflections on NXNE

Having my NXNE experience begin with a screening of Irvine Welsh’s new film Ecstasy seemed like grand design or divine intervention. I was thrilled, chuffed, well pleased. However, as the film unfolded, I kind of felt like I should have just stayed home and watched 1999’s Human Traffic for the eighth time. It seems the film was interpreted in a way that assumes the audience will care about a pill popping, rave throwing, drug smuggling bloke who falls in love with a woman who makes him want to turn his life around. Yawn. What kept me most entertained was the carousel of Canadian B-listers adding the Cancon: Kristin Kreuk, Carlo Rota, Keram Malicki-Sánchez, Natalie Brown, and Colin Mochrie, to name a few.

I think Welsh said it best himself in the post-film Q & A when he said, “It’s kind of an aloof situation for the novelist,” adding that if the movie’s great, you can tell people that the filmmaker captured the essence of the novel perfectly. “If it’s shite,” he continued, you can simply say that they didn’t quite understand the novel’s vision, and suggest that audiences should read it to see the difference. Was that his diplomatic way of saying that he wasn’t too pleased with how the film turned out? Welsh is quick to add that, “When you turn your novel over to someone else to make a film, you can’t be too precious about it.”

ASIDE: Director Rob Heydon was asked about the music credits in the film and in his response also explained that the film’s limited budget allowed for payments of about $400 to the indie artists with songs appearing on the soundtrack, and about $1,000 to the bigger names. As a musician myself with friends who’ve received thousands of dollars for the use of a song in a television commercial, I thought this was an interesting factoid and wanted to share.

The Dinner Belles

From the Royal Cinema, I took a leisurely stroll down to The Sister on Queen West to see Patrick Dorie and the Honest Thieves hone their carnival-era whirlwinds of dubby, countrified alt-folk goodness, and in the process caught the heavy-handed Random Family (a bit of a strange fit in the laid-back, folksy atmosphere of The Sister) and Hamilton darlings the Dinner Belles. This seven-piece old-timey revival bluegrass phantasmagoria blew us away, especially the keyboard player (who we’re sure is part teddy bear) and the female vocalist’s deep, earthen alto.

Saturday night insanity crept up on us as we set up camp at Yonge and Dundas Square in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the Flaming Lips and frontman Wayne Coyne’s infamous bubble entrance. First, however, we danced our faces off to Oberhofer’s fun-inducing Strokes-esque pop rockiness. They seemed like very sweet, gracious dudes, but I did feel like frontman Brad Oberhofer could use a little more heartbreak in his life before his soulful, bluesy lilt could reach full bloom.

Next up was of Montreal with their rousing, interactive proggy rock n’ roll madness, followed by Portugal. The Man’s layers of shimmering melodies and clever lyrics.

Finally it was game on as the Flaming Lips took to the stage, complete with bubble entrance and high fallutin’ confetti punctuations. I think it’s safe to say that as they slammed the crowd with “Do You Realize??”, we all shed a collective tear for the sheer beauty and brilliance of it all.

Loopsy Dazy

In a near daze, we slowly stumbled down to C’est What to catch the trippy ambience of Loopsy Dazy, and were quickly enveloped in what can only be described as a fuzzy puddle of loving loops and squiggles, accentuated by swirling strings and pensive keys. Our weary bodies swayed and bopped as tapestries of sound curled like smoke around us.

Peachcake

A last-minute decision found me at the El Mocambo late on Sunday night to catch Peachcake’s midnight set. Billed as a quintet, the two-piece made the best of the nearly empty venue as frontman Stefan Pruett writhed and shimmied all over the stage, spilling out into the audience from time to time and inciting miniature renegade dance party eruptions. Their catchy little numbers carried them through the set, revving up the small crowd’s energy to levels of intensity you wouldn’t think possible at such a late hour on the last night of a week-long music festival.

I took a streetcar home in the wee hours, blissfully exhausted yet feeling as though I hadn’t made the most of my time with NXNE this year. Perhaps next year I’ll wear layers, pack more water and spend more time in the shade at outdoor events in an attempt to catch a band, film or workshop in every single time slot.

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