Photograph by Sabrina Diemert

Toronto’s North by Northeast – or NXNE – is the younger cousin and orienteering opposite of the behemoth Austin music extravaganza South by Southwest. Over its 17 years, the festival has swollen to 7 days of concerts (ranging from cozy church acoustic sets to sprawling punk moshing at Yonge and Dundas Square), films (mostly music-centric documentaries, including this year’s highly touted Better Than Something: Jay Reatard) and interactive conferences (if you were a musician and could get advice from Brian Wilson, wouldn’t you?).

As with any event attempting to cram >600 bands into a few rock-filled days, it has its downsides. As per the SXSW model, the majority of sets are hosted by bars instead of outdoor stages; between dreaded line-ups, safety capacity, and city sprawl, show hopping presents some challenges. Some shows had limits on wristband admittance, require patiently camping out in cue or purchasing additional tickets for entry.

The festival concert becomes a new challenge for the hometown crowd. Unlike insouciant visitors – free of other responsibilities and able to party through the night and recover in the daytime – locals have to play the balancing act between maximum music absorption and minimal sleep/work disruption. Thus, we opted for a version of NXNE for the slightly risk-averse Toronto music fan: mostly music we knew, with a couple of wildcards. As a change of pace, this festival is presented through two points-of-view (sometimes coalescing, sometimes contradicting): Kevin Kania and Sabrina Diemert. We tried to keep our snark to a minimum.

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— , July 28, 2011    3 Comments

Photograph by Sarah Cass

When asked about the lack of musical originality in independent music during an interview a few years ago, Deerhoof’s charmingly awkward Greg Saunier responded, “Music does not need to be saved.” His belief in the art form’s unwavering creativity may be a matter of perspective: being a member of an underrated and consistently unpredictable experimental rock group makes Saunier et al de facto fighters of inferior tunes, trite lyrics, and tired indie pop clichés. In their self-aware superhero manner, Deerhoof released their aptly titled tenth album this past week, Deerhoof vs. Evil.

Many of the band’s trademark sounds remain intact: the blunt, simple, and often comically unique lyrical stylings of Satomi Matsuzaki, the melodic guitar layering, the occasionally chaotic noise sequences, and the band’s penchant for peculiarity. All of which are evident in the album’s opening track, as Matsuzaki launches with a wink into Catalan in ‘Qui Dorm, Només Somia’ (“He who sleeps, only dreams” – am I correct, Barcelonan friends?).

Since the addition of Ed Rodriguez in 2008, Deerhoof’s guitar work has become more complex; the interplay between John Dieterich and Rodriguez allowed for flirtation with different genres and pushed the stringed instrument to be showcased within their songs. Deerhoof vs. Evil is no exception, with their mingled strumming ranging from the Flamenco-esque ‘No One Asked to Dance’, the bluesy progression of ‘Secret Mobilization’ and bouncy-to-crunchy tangential jams accented by Saunier’s epic drumming in ‘Behold a Marvel in the Darkness’.

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— , January 31, 2011    Comments Off on Deerhoof vs. Evil