NXNE CLUB LAND CURATORS SERIES, TORONTO
JUNE 10-16, 2018
Time for the latest Spill attack on NXNE — our writers and photographers are ready to bring you the best-of-the-best from this year’s NXNE Festival! This year the NXNE Club Land Curators Series expands its reach to include even more renowned Toronto venues including The Garrison, Baby G, Rivoli, Sneaky Dee’s, Hard Luck and many, many more! Check out what the Spill team has to offer you this time around!
2018’s edition of NXNE brought the festival back to Yonge-Dundas Square. After a couple of sub-par years at the Port Lands, the annual festival returned to the centre of downtown Toronto for the city to enjoy a weekend full of free music. Featuring headliners such as Tinashe, CHVRCHES, and Jazz Cartier, the city was in store for a banger of a weekend.
U.S. Girls, Azealia Banks & Jazz Cartier @ Yonge-Dundas Square
June 15, 2018
(Writer – Kishan Mistry)
Formed in 2007, U.S. Girls are 6-piece experimental pop project fronted by musician and record producer Meghan Remy. As they took to the stage, fans started to file into the square which was in the process of filling up for the evening. A true professional, Remy commanded the set throughout and left fans in an alluring daze. The group played a wide variety of tracks from their diverse discography as well as a few tracks from their latest release “In a Poem Unlimited”. Remy made a point to comment on the venue’s security and even got down and stood beside one of the guards.
Up next was Harlem-based rapper Azealia Banks. The 27-year old has been in the industry for quite a while now with two studio albums and several headlining tours and performances under her belt. Accompanied by a troupe of dancers and a DJ who complimented Banks’ high energy 45-minute set playing her biggest tracks including her most notable, 212, which capped off her performance, serving as a good warm-up for the Prince of Toronto, who was up next.
Born in Toronto, Jazz also lived as a child in the US, Barbados, and Kuwait. Jaye Adams, aka Jazz Cartier, has made a significant name for himself in the hip-hop industry. With the likes of Drake, The Weeknd, PARTYNEXTDOOR, and Tory Lanez, he has put himself amongst the biggest names to come out of the 6ix. Best known for his mixtapes, Marauding in Paradise and Hotel Paranoia, the 25-year-old rapper is on the cusp of releasing his debut album later this year. Cartier is infamous for his rage-filled stage antics, and Toronto was in store for a sweaty and personal performance. He spent the majority of his set bouncing from the stage to the crowd, where he seemed to prefer performing, fully immersing himself into the mosh pit. The rapper closed out the night playing his biggest tracks including “Dead or Alive”, “Tempted”, “New Religion” and his latest single “Godflower”. Playing for just over an hour, Cartier demonstrated why he’s one of the heavy hitters coming out of the hip-hop scene in Canada and by far had the best performance of the weekend.
Yungblud, Lights & CHVRCHES @ Yonge-Dundas Square
June 16, 2018
(Writer – Kishan Mistry)
As opposed to Friday night’s hip-hop lineup, Saturday featured a more somber electro-pop driven one.
Fresh onto the scene hailing from the UK, 19-year-old Dominic Harrison, who performs under the name Yungblud, brought the energy to the second day of the festival . With musical stylings ranging from rap, rock, indie, to alternative, Yungblud is definitely an act everyone needs to see live. He offers a bit of everything to everyone while putting on a hell of a show for his audience.
Next up was everyone’s favourite hometown girl, Lights! After performing for several years it’s nice to see Lights continue to dominate her craft, and continue to be recognized as one of the staple Canadian pop acts within the country. With a huge discography under her belt, Lights’ setlist consisted mainly of songs from her most recent releases, and only performed a couple of her older tracks. Lights continues to be one of my favourite live acts and I enjoy seeing her progress and grow as a musician as her career moves along.
Closing out the night, coming all the way from Glasgow, Scotland, CHVRCHES took the stage a few minutes after their scheduled time slot. The synth-pop , fronted by singer Lauren Mayberry, dazzled Toronto with a solid 90-minute set performing their many hits, with a major focus on material from their last release Love is Dead”. The band continues to dominate the airwaves, and are currently headlining the summer festivals circuit.
Curator: Stay Out Late @ The Hideout
June 16, 2018
(Writer – Cheyenne Freitas)
Boland is a hard working guy. His series, ‘No Days Off,’ launched last summer and saw Boland release a new single every single week for 13 weeks. Ambitious to say the least. On June 16, Boland was a culmination of all this hard work and more for the Stay Out Late curated show at The Hideout. As he took the stage, the young artist emulated confidence and passion that comes with truly knowing your craft. Towards the end of his set, Boland seemed to enter his own world as he rapped acapella and sealed the deal as a highpoint in the showcase. There may or may not have a mic drop in there somewhere as well.
Some technical difficulties made for a slow start to Devvy Dior’s set at The Hideout for the Stay Out Late Club Land Curator Series on June 16. Murmurs throughout the crowd cited issues with microphones as the cause, but it was irrelevant at that point; people just wanted to see the performance. An impromptu “set” by host Tremayne made the time pass by quicker, but by the time everything was sorted out, some of the crowd had dispersed. Nonetheless, Devvy Dior came out ready to go, bringing up fellow Toronto staple, Jacobi iV, for most of his set. By the end of the performance, crowd engagement was present and the showcase was back on track, microphones and all. Hats off to Devvy Dior and his fellow performers for pushing through a minor setback and bringing the energy.
A sweet voice and a sweet introduction. The young singer’s set was preceded by a heartfelt intro by her friend, also named Kiana, reminding the crowd that this was the best artist out right now. There’s nothing we love more than women supporting women, and this was a great start to what was an ever better performance. Having recently released the soulful track, ‘Energy,’ Kiana’s set added a chilled out element to the showcase and let the audience focus on the raw talent that is her voice. She is definitely gaining some speed here in Toronto, having been featured on 93.5 The Move’s ‘MADE IN TORONTO’ series back in February, and we’re looking forward to the sounds that come next.
Tinashe @ Yonge-Dundas Square
June 17, 2018
(Writer – Kishan Mistry)
Aka a popstar, aka a problem. The final night of NXNE featured the likes of American-singer and dancer Tinashe to close out the annual festival. Flirting with mainstream success, Tinashe has been at it for a few years now honing her craft as a pop star. Influenced by late ’90s/early 2000s R&B, the 25-year-old is truly a spectacle to see live. Coming off her latest release Joyride, Tinashe showed Toronto why she is an act worth taking note off. In terms of being the total package, Tinashe has got it all with killer vocal chords and the baddest of dance moves. We can only hope Tinashe finds mainstream success in the near future!
Dre Ngozi & Lil Berete @ Lost Paradise + Taco
June 14, 2018
(Writer – Cheyenne Freitas)
The beautiful and talented Dre Ngozi (not necessarily in that order, but also not not in that order) took the stage at the Lost Paradise + Taco Club Land Curator Series on June 14 and livened it right up. The multifaceted DJ and producer filled 183 Geary Ave — a true hidden gem of a venue — with a vibrant blend of hip-hop, R&B, and electro. The crowd was a tough one to crack, with more wallflowers than one would hope for, but Dre’s set seemed to bring people towards each other. While it may have been the music, it could very well have also been Dre herself; no one was having a better time than she was while on stage.
Complex called him “Toronto’s Rising Star” and he lived up to the hype. Lil Berete’s performance on June 14 at Lost Paradise + Taco Club Land Curator Series at 183 Geary Ave. was the perfect break between DJ sets, bringing the crowd energy to a height that it hadn’t been at all night. At only 17 years old, Lil Berete has a stage presence of someone who’s been at it for much longer and he knows it. His confidence is unmistakable and the crowd couldn’t seem to get enough. His single, “Southside,” already has over half a million views since its release back in March of 2018, and he’s set to release his mixtape later this year. Regent Park should be proud of this one.
Curator: Kritty Uranowski (No Mean City) @ The Hideout
June 12, 2018
(Writer – Susana Meza)
If there is one thing you should know about Toronto is that there is always great music playing somewhere. You need to be open-minded and somewhat fearless to find what is out there, away from the mainstream. But it is guaranteed that every single day there are incredible things happening musically in the city. NXNE sponsored by Aurora is no exception. I have mentioned this before, how impressed I am at the quality of the Canada wide Illumination Music Series and now this outstanding festival in which there are such extraordinary acts that it has been quite hard to choose what to attend.
My choice for today was the showcase that was curated by Kritty Uranowski of No Mean City which is a new inter-generational record label which focuses on “recording, performance, education and community-focused mentorship”, and aims to publish the work of well-established artists but also of newer and lesser-known acts. On the way to the Hideout a little boy who was walking with his father stopped me because he was fascinated by his first bottle of bubbles and decided that he had to show them to me. And that’s how I missed Stones, breaking my golden rule of never to miss the first band.
Bookchop were setting up once I arrived. This trio has more energy than me after a rare 72-hour sleep once my insomnia subsides. I wanted them to play all night. This is one of the most fun bands I’ve seen since Os Mutantes reunion tour at Pitchfork festival in 2006. The music was phenomenal, such spacey beats, such precision, and their melodies that are sometimes so beautifully amalgamated and at some other times are wonderful cacophony. I adore people who experiment, people who are free, people who are not afraid of singing in different keys and people who have fun when they play. Bookchop is definitely my kind of people. I am writing this as they play and let me tell you my heart is happy and my legs cannot stop shaking in unison with the music as the screaming and drumming and delicious strings go on. I’m Walking on Sunshine by Katrina & The Waves starts playing as the house music once Bookchop set ends, and boy isn’t that the truth.
Craig Currie has had an extensive and varied career, his latest EP, Sullen Fury is one of my personal favourite releases of this very fruitful 2018. Once Craig Currie and his band start playing, what I feel is, simply put, that this is music to fall in love with, or music to reminiscence about lost love with, or music to love with. Either way, it evokes intense feelings that are so similar to the bliss of a good dream. While he plays, a child and her mother play with a beach ball in front of the stage right as he announces that the next song is This Child Forever. I wish that moments as serendipitous as this one happened more often.
Again, just as it happened in the previous set with Bookchop, I do want this to go on and on and on. Every song is different and every song grabs me and refuses to let go of my mortal soul. It is a true honour to see Craig Currie live with such great sound and with a band worthy of his extensive catalogue. He’s one of the most prolific musicians that I know and strongly recommend seeing him and listening to his peculiar sound that flirts with indie ballads, country music, synth pop, and many other genres and influences which are, at the end of the day, absolutely meaningless in comparison to the energy this music releases into this infinite universe.
Tange follows, this trio makes me daydream of which direction Marine Girls would have taken if they’ve decided to stick together for a few more years. The more I listen to Tange’s live set, the more I think: This is important music. Their melodious and every so often noisy sound is enticing. The more quiet songs have the Hideout in pure silence. And once the key changes and a soft ballad turns into the communion of a muffled scream and the steady unifying beat of the drum, the world becomes an even more beautiful place. I see the drummer smiling. They know just as I do, how beautiful and pure this sound is.
The music goes on. And just like Bookchop and Craig Currie, Tange also has their very own sound, and each song is different, exploring, experimenting, never confined in a key or a rhythm or a genre. These are ever evolving tunes. And if I close my eyes I can almost smell my favourite scent: freshly cut grass after a rainfall. That is how beautifully this music has wrapped itself around me. Tange has some songs that are quite visceral in a delicate way; they possess an edge that is getting sharper by the minute.
HEX closes this eerie magical night. At this point, I am so blown away that I have absolutely no clue what to expect. And then the lead singer breaks the silence with a passionate almost entirely a capella 8-minute song that has so much feeling and blues, it makes me think of Mississippi Fred McDowell.
A common theme of the night: HEX navigates effortlessly throughout genres. And various moods. The night gets louder, wilder, and a group of spirited dancers gather in front of the stage and move, and move, and move. They say punk is dead but it is not, it simply wears relaxed jeans and solid coloured t-shirts or sparkly dresses these days.
These rocky blues goes on, with a kick, and the drums and the progressions of all instruments are hypnotic and provide such an interesting break in the melancholic smoothness of the singer’s voice. This was no doubt among the best showcases I’ve witnessed in the city and a fantastic way for me to start my NXNE journey.
(Written By Susana Meza)