8 moments of intrigue from NXNE 2016

by Aaron Brophy

June 22, 2016






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King Khan getting freaky, Ghostface distracted by a seagull, a marijuana boat, and more!

Photo: King Khan and The Shrines (Stephen McGill)

In the coming days it will become fashionable amongst the music industrati gossiping around the city’s back bars to speculate whether the newly reimagined NXNE was a failure or a success. Scaled back from its traditional set-up as a giant roving club hop for showcasing bands, this year NXNE ran a few nightly ticketed bar shows with an accompanying curated festival destination in the ass quadrant of Toronto’s industrial Port Lands district.

There were less shows, less bands, less parties and BBQs and, well, less people. There was, however, still music. And if you knew where to look you could still extract some ace moments from the festival (even if you were delirious with sunstroke from standing in a parking lot-turned-venue with little shade and no water stations). Here then, are eight mostly posi moments of musical intrigue from NXNE 2016.

Band Scouting Prophecy Comes True

Kiwi Jr., The Garrison, Wednesday, June 15

During my pre-festival listening sessions the shorthand I came up with for Toronto-via-Charlottetown jangle rockers was “The Drums meets The Strokes.” As it turns out this description couldn’t have been more literally true because Kiwi Jr.‘s drummer WORE A STROKES T-SHIRT during their set. In actuality the band ended up being more Murderecords meets Pavement, which was an entirely acceptable thing.

It’s Fingerbangin’ Season

King Khan And The Shrines, Horseshoe Tavern, Thursday, June 16 (Photo: Stephen McGill)

As far as busting up preconceived notions go, there are few better at it than King Khan. A soul punker with shocking ivory hair and a penchant for fabulous singlets that expose his ample belly, Khan and his crack German backing band The Shrines turned garage rock songs about androgynous sex into hand-waving gospel sermons.

Khan’s a bona fide dirty old man, making declarations like “it’s fingerbangin’ season” and “get your shockers out”, but his heart’s in the right place. Throughout the night he would dedicate songs to Jay Reatard, trans women, native people, black rights activists (the song “Children Of The World” is whoa) and The Deadly Snakes. Khan fingerbanged all of us on Thursday and it was entirely worth it.

The Bud Boat

Lake Ontario, Friday, June 17

In the peculiar perks and partnerships department, NXNE announced just days before the start of the fest that they’d be running a shuttle *boat* sponsored by Got Bud?, Juju Joints, and the Marijuana Information Bureau (MIB) from the Harbourfront to the end of the earth (Port Lands festival site). For free. And if you had a medical marijuana card they’d give you free tickets to the show as well. They also gave out free JuJu Joints cannabis oil electro joint thingees to everyone on the boat. I don’t understand complex drug paraphernalia, so it was very confusing, but I think I managed to catch a buzz from it all.

Ghostface Distracted By Seagull

Ghostface Killah, NXNE Port Lands, Friday, June 17
(Photo: Riley Taylor)

Wu-Tang Clan alpha member Ghostface Killah‘s set was a bit of a mess. If you were expecting full run-throughs of songs like “The Champ,” for example, you were out of luck. Joined by The Lox’s Sheek Louch, Ghost randomly churned out popular verses from the Wu universe, including “C.R.E.A.M.” and other Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) classics, in addition to an extended ODB tribute that included “Shimmy Shimmy Ya.”

Down in front everyone was all-in, throwing up the Ws for the whole set, but it was telling that at one point Ghost stopped what he was doing on stage — he got distracted watching a seagull drifting across the parking lot venue and had to watch that “beautiful bird” make its way.

Put A Spell On You

Kevin Morby, The Great Hall, Friday, June 17 (Photo: Myles Herod)

Kevin Morby’s song “Harlem River” is some sort of Southern Gothic Americana magic. So much so that it might be a hex. Have I been hexed? I’m pretty sure I got hexed.

Stay Out Of Parkdale

Black Lungs, Friday, June 17, Bovine Sex Club

“Stay Out Of Parkdale” is an anthem. The world needs a “Stay Out Of Trinity-Bellwoods Park” as well, so Wade, if you could get on that it’d be swell.


Cancer Bats, Friday, June 17, Bovine Sex Club

Rarely have I ever witnessed a band crush the opening of a set the way the Cancer Bats crushed the first four songs of their Bovine Sex Club 25th Anniversary/Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation Benefit Show/nominal NXNE event set. First it was Sabbath’s “Children Of The Grave,” then it was “Hail Destroyer,” then it was the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage,” then it was “Lucifer’s Rocking Chair”, all thrown down in a club that was too packed and too small to handle such elite raging.

It was worth tolerating the sweaty pit dudes leaning their gross body slime across you as they’d cycle out of the pit. Totally worth it.

Eaten By Cats

Laura Sauvage, Lee’s Palace, Saturday, June 18

Why are you all sleeping on Laura Sauvage? I know y’all are because I was at the show and I know you weren’t. I counted. It was me and, like, seven other people in there. Which is a shame because Sauvage is funny as fuck and her songs are righteous, too. I’m particularly fond of the one about the old lady who died and was eaten by her cats, the one about watching white trash crackheads in Moncton fighting on the street, and the one about getting stoned and befriending Jesus. She’s basically an East Coast Courtney Barnett whose observational songs would make Sloan’s Chris Murphy jealous.

Tags: Music, Lists, Black Lungs, Cancer Bats, Ghostface Killah, juju joints, kevin morby, King Khan and The Shrines, kiwi jr., laura sauvage, NXNE






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