NXNE Friday

Friday at NXNE featured:

Lindi Ortega (MySpace) impressed me with her Canadian Music Week show, so I decided to check her out under the nice lights of The Mod Club. And there, she impressed me even more.

Ortega takes the stage flanked by producer Ron Lopata on keys and five other band members. Also included are two saxophone/horn players lovingly introduced as “the horny bastards”, giving a nice, rich instrumental sound. I’d classify her as “alternative country” — the recordings on her EP are a bit more country (perhaps a bit too country for me) — but her live sound is more rock and less country, and also quite a vocal treat.

My favorite from the last show was Dying of Another Broken Heart, which begins with a captivating, beautiful, solo from Ortega over simple strumming, with keys slowly being layered in. These sad, slower songs, filled with melancholy, resonate well with Ortega’s friendly yet rich voice. But the highlight of this show had to be a very heartfelt performance of classic Spanish song B├ęsame Mucho which had guitar-less Ortega dancing sultry Latin steps with a microphone stand!

We Are The Take (MySpace) are a Toronto-based band with a clean Indie-pop sound that’s sure to please. Their songs lead with jangly guitar riffs and are filled with hooks dangling tasty morsels that swim around your head for hours, notably Tenterhooks and It’s Over. The band has yet to release an album or EP, but rumour has it one is due out soon…

On stage, the 4-piece is a bit tame but have a certain weighty presence, letting the music do speaking for them. Erik Alcock and Craig Stickland each play guitar and provide vocals, swapping microphones periodically, with Alcock also spending time on keys for a few songs.

A torrential rainstorm hit Toronto just after the We Are The Take set. Electing to be dry, I stayed in the Mod Club for the next band, even though I had never heard anything from the band. The crowd started to fill with younger characters, dressed in black, sporting skull and crossbone shirts, and tattoos galore. I had a feeling that The Creepshow (MySpace) was going to be very interesting.

The horror-inspired and eclectically dressed fans were quite normal for “psychobilly”, a quick-tempo blend of punk rock and rockabilly. This was my first exposure to psychobilly, and The Creepshow (and fans) didn’t disappoint. The band is fronted by the well tattooed “Sarah Sin” (vocals, guitar), with “Sickboy” on the psychobilly-signature double bass and a keyboardist named “Reverend McGinty”. Musically, I rather enjoyed it: the fast double-bass and associated thumping really adds energy and character to the sound, and “Sarah Sin” can actually sing: when she’s not belting out the zombie-inspired lyrics of The Creepshow, she sings nicely as acoustic solo artist Sarah Blackwood (MySpace).

And the fans went crazy. With the band energetically jumping around the stage, the area in front turned into a full-on mosh-pit, with chain-sporting zombie-shirted guys hopping around and crashing into each other, creating an exciting atmosphere. As the show went on the band got more and more animated and their antics more crazed, at one point the double bass doubling as a footstool. An exciting and memorable show — including the end, where I was almost afraid that the large hoisted double bass was going to drop into the crowd!

FRIDA are from Madrid, Spain. First, I got completely soaked on my way to the Kathedral, and I didn’t really enjoy (what was left of) their set. Their sound was quite messy and their presence on stage un-inspiring. I was expecting more, having heard their demo. Also, the lights were practically off, so I couldn’t get any photos either.

On the NXNE guide, Beth in Battle Mode (MySpace) are billed as “Sounds like Daft Punk”. Having grown up living and breathing Daft Punk (around the era of the Homework album), I unfortunately don’t see the resemblance. (Apparently, this is a screw-up by the NXNE folks, who omitted a few other reference points.) But the band does have a pleasing, clean, electronica/garage sound, which I enjoyed.

Holy Joe’s was boiling hot and basked in a red light that made everything look evil. The heat was extracting an evil toll on the band, but the trio kept on rocking. Andrew Ennals hammers away on three — count’em, 3 — keyboards, Edward Maher strums, and David Gilgan drums. Oh, and they all sing too. I was hoping to hear No Feeling, which was surely their best song, but I had to leave halfway through their set.

The Framework has quickly become one of my favourite local bands, so I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to watch and hear them during NXNE. This was the show that the stars aligned, in an attempt to make everything go wrong. But the Framework made everything right.

First, the show was at the dark and dank Kathedral, which is a questionable venue on a good day, but was downright dirty after two days of NXNE. Second, an uninspiring line-up of bands before The Framework had done well in clearing the place up; Spanish band FRIDA had done a pretty good job of scaring away anyone who didn’t work there. Finally, everything broke down during the show: bass drum pedals were flying apart, microphones falling off the stage, and guitar straps snapping left and right.

But by the end of it, The Framework had pulled out one of their most animated performances yet, in a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants fashion, featuring some impromptu variations on their songs (bassist Scott Winter had a turn, in-front, at the lyrics while front-man Ryan Kash tried to rectify his guitar issues). The stage was small but the band surely wasn’t awkward upon it — they moved about it as if they owned it. Of their songs, I’m finding myself increasingly attracted to show-ending London, with crafty lyrics, ultra-catchy hooks, and a special live-only ending filled with invective attitude.

Extra! Extra! I’ve heard The Framework are one of five bands in the finals to win a coveted spot on the Toronto Virgin Music Festival. You can vote for them at the Oh Henry! Contest Website.

13 June 2008 | grc | Music | Comments

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