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

All Photographs by Jan Kucic-Riker

Halifax Pop Explosion is a marked change from the summer festival scene. While there are no beer gardens, Keith’s is never in short supply. The festival swaps the colossal stage of Toronto Island for the warmth of packed bars. Rather than tents, picnic blankets, and sunscreen, festivalgoers arm themselves with scarves, mittens, and umbrellas. Music-lovers inherit a mosaic of stamps connected with permanent marker that forms an impromptu tattoo to symbolise their nights of barhopping. The festival is a mere secret whispered between bus stops as fans travel from one venue to the next. Scheduling is made more complicated by coat-checks, ID checks, and checking out that girl from your ecology class dancing next to Dan Boeckner. Halifax Pop Explosion did not provide the scenic beauty of Sasquatch, the free American Apparel underwear of Osheaga, or even the toddlers sporting oversized ear protection of Toronto Island. What it did provide however, was an unadulterated intimacy. An intimacy only felt in the Pack A.D.’s spittle as they belt out songs no less than two feet away from you or the Handsome Furs spiritual cleansing and confessional at St. Matthew’s Church. The following is a record of those intimacies at HPX2010.

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— , November 5, 2010    1 Comment