If there is a summer custom I already miss about the East Coast it is - first and foremost - the pleasing, communal atmosphere of the backyard barbecue. Recognizing it as being a conducive forum for convening over 100 guests, Six Shooter Records made my Saturday afternoon by hosting a selection of delegates at what was a genial social gathering comprised of music, hot dogs and flowing beer.
Arriving in mid-afternoon, I was also exposed to my “find” of this year’s NXNE - Toronto’s own Royal Wood. Haligonians will know him from playing Scotia intermittently, often backed by the boys from In-Flight Safety. His small band captivated the audience with its idealistically inspired roots rock in that way which makes you immediately appreciate his material to buy his record. So, of course, I bought both of them.
In the crowd was Halifax’s Jenn Grant, another of the minority attending from Atlantic Canada, in an audience that also included the likes of Gordie Johnston, Ron Sexsmith and, most importantly,
Jian Ghomeshi me.
After taking in Ford Pier’s anxious, more ska-roots inspired set - and accepting the fact that Sexsmith, although accompanied by a guitar case, was not going to “surprise” us all with a song or two - I cabbed it to the Indie Music Market during Justin Rutledge’s un-amplified set in the middle of the remaining attendees.
The crowd at Yonge-Dundas Square was thick, but I managed to courteously push my way near the front for nine-piece nufunk army God Made Me Funky. Although they aren’t going to grace the cover of NOW anytime soon – hey, they’re too cheery - I hadn’t seen a band get a crowd motivated to groove so much at 6PM. And we’re talking about Toronto.
Following a conversation with the band’s drummer, I focused my sights on 8:30PM and doors for the Sirius showcase put together by noneother than familiar face Ben Pearlman, and featuring United Steelworkers of Montreal, You Say Party! We Say Die!, Sebastien Grainger, In-Flight Safety, Oh Bijou and Charlottetown's Two Hours Traffic. By 9PM, my actual arrival time, the line was already over 200 people long with the Horseshoe packed to the brink of capacity.
After a quick call to In-Flight’s John Mullane, who confirmed they had no guest list for the show, the decision was made to seek breathing space at the less claustrophobic El Mocambo. The goal was to see the end of rising star Pascale Picard's set, but our punishment for missing her was Montreal’s Central Nervous System.
In order to imagine the concept is to picture backdrop projections reminiscent of your Windows screensaver, and a sound – complete with talk box – approaching something along the lines of the Beastie Boys’ “Intergalactic” meets The Killers.
Having diminished all hopes the El Mocambo would yield surprising band-finds, we strolled down several side streets to memory lane where Halifax ex-pat Tara Slone was performing at Lee’s Palace. The answer to your question is yes, she still plays Joydrop songs.
But the real story here is my friend Jen pointing out who we were convinced would be the celeb encounter of the festival – which you’ll understand is tough, if you read my first blog post. When we walked in, she pointed to a figure at the bar who was obviously J Mascis from Dinosaur Jr (so we thought). My first attempt at introducing myself was quashed as “Mascis” bolted from the bar for a comfortable place to take in Slone’s set (J Mascis at a Tara Slone concert?), before leaving before she performed her final song (okay, now it’s definitely him).
Thinking Mascis is a pretty distinct-looking guy, we were excited as hell and looked around outside and found our man on the sidewalk. As I approached him, I caught his nametag and realized immediately it was noneother than NOW’s Michael Hollett – who is also the festival organizer. A hilariously awkward first-meeting, but he appreciated the compliment. Come on, it was funny at the time.
The arms on my watch were now coming up on In-Flight Safety’s set time, and we set course back for the Horseshoe. The venue was still packed, but we were able to eventually make our way to the edge of the stage in support of Halifax’s latest rising stars. There were a fair number of East Coast supporters on hand, all obviously a few drinks in, including NXNE showcasers Mardeen.
In-Flight rolled through most of their singles and some of their support material, which included a guest appearance by the group’s “fifth member” Matt Charlton. The “one more song” chants had to be put to rest so THT could fit in their full set, but the reflection of this crowd response made it obvious their return to Toronto on June 22 should be well received.
Following a long day, Saturday wrapped up just past 2AM.
Last post tomorrow including a wrap-up and film festival viewing!
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