Wednesday morning began with a degree of uncertainty as I awaited the reaction of my employers to the “two weeks” I communicated to them the day before. Would I be freed to stroll my second NXNE festival on my own determination, or be obliged to labor long hours to unremitting distraction? Fortunately, I was afforded the pardon of the former, and I was out of the office by the crack of noon. Yes, man!
While the four day, predominantly independent, embrace-all music and film festival/conference didn’t officially begin until 5PM, the anticipation of the Toronto community was represented in banner-form along the facades of over 30 venues across the downtown core. “Star gazing”, as they call it here, while perusing the shops along Queen Street West yielded a Halifamous sighting with a glimpse of In-Flight Safety’s John Mullane being interviewed by Musicmusic’s Matt Wells on the patio of an outdoor cafe. Too intimidated to say hi, I kept moving (edit: While Mullane and his MMVA-nominated bandmates are eminently talented, I am only intimidated by Halifax stars from decade spanning the nineties… you’ll see later).
A hundred dollars – and seemingly 50 kilometres of walking – later, the subway trek to Nathan Phillips Square was completed just in time to see Mayor David Miller introduce the festival to several hundred onlookers. Festivities commenced with a performance of Montreal’s Dr. Draw - the buzz band of the festival from what I am told.
Now, let’s make something clear. It’s completely against my philosophy to insert my personal bias into any semblance of a music review, but since this is a personal blog, I am going to make a rule: If your band has nine members, a fiddler-harpist combo is unnecessary.
As the sun set at dusk, Shad K (who played last year’s HPX) took the stage for a set of groovy hip hop that was seamless with the venue's warm, summer vibe. With guitar in hand, and accompanied on stage by only a DJ and beat boxer, it was an ideal way to conclude part one of the festival.
The NXNE Opening Night Party to follow was a kickoff of its own, and most of the first part looked like this:
8:20, waiting for shuttle bus8:40, waiting for shuttle bus9:00, waiting for shuttle bus9:20, shuttle bus arrives!
Although it’s still unclear who arranged for a single shuttle for several hundred guests to the out-of-the-way Palais Royale, the opening schmooze was a relaxed way for members of the Canadian music biz to begin a busy few days. Familiar faces included Jill Barber, Mullane, Dan Ledwell (also of In-Flight Safety), Waye Mason & Ben Pearlman (together again!) and Barry Walsh (formerly of Cool Blue Halo, and now of the Toronto-based Galore).
Of course I made it a priority to meet Walsh, over whom I poured fanatical praise for his work including a performance of the familiar “Too Much Kathleen” at the recent Halifax debut of Galore at Tribeca. (shaking head embarrassed)
Anyway, signing off for today. Certainly a full day, which wouldn’t have been possible if I was working.
More tomorrow including taking over Muchmusic headquarters, and efforts to get into the “secret” Blue Rodeo show.