Monday, June 17, 2013

Star & Micey and Los Oxidados bookend first night of NXNE music

The North by Northeast Music Festival returned again last week, which meant a lot of running around Toronto trying to catch as many bands as possible.

Here's what I caught on night one:

Star & Micey

Star & Micey is an act I tried to see in Austin during the South by Southwest Music Festival in March but didn't, so I was happy to get another chance at NXNE. The Memphis, Tenn. quartet arrived late and didn't start until 25 minutes after its scheduled 8 p.m. start time, but made up for it with an effervescent performance of fun and easy-to-listen-to, guitar-driven pop-rock songs. The group topped things off by parading through the venue and standing on the bar while playing its final song. It was worth the short wait to hear.


The Mouthbreathers
Star & Micey's late finish altered my scheduling, so I rerouted to Kensington Market and the small Detour Bar to see S.M. -- and it wasn't because we share the same initials. The Sarnia, Ont. trio had an audience four times its size when I arrived part-way through its set of lo-fi rock. The vocals were somewhat atonal and the musicianship wasn't exemplary, but I stayed for the duration because I had to finish my Stigl tallboy and there was nothing else in the neighbourhood that I had on my list to see for the time slot.

Samantha Martin
I moved around the corner to The Boat for The Mouthbreathers, a quartet from Sackville, N.B. fronted by a singer/guitarist who was celebrating her 23rd birthday. The performance was reminiscent of the slacker guitar rock you'd hear more commonly in the early '90s. It was far from exceptional, but pretty good, well-paced and improved as the set went on. An Eric's Trip song was thrown in for good measure as a nod to a musical influence from the band's home province.

The Normals
I had a small window to grab a bite to eat and still make it to Supermarket at 11 p.m. for Toronto's Samantha Martin and The Haggard. Martin plays guitar and was backed by an electric guitarist, bassist, drummer and two female harmony singers. I was pleasantly surprised that her brand of blues incorporated soul, rockabilly and even reggae, and Martin's powerful voice matched the repertoire well. That passionate delivery was in full effect for an energetic, set-closing performance of Ike and Tina Turner's "River Deep - Mountain High."

Montreal's The Normals formed in 1977 and only lasted a year, but the old school punks are back together. While the trio's brand of punk may be a bit formulaic, I enjoyed what I heard and the set improved as the guys warmed up. "I Don't Want To Go To Work" was a sentiment that most people in attendance probably shared the next morning, and a cover of The Buzzcocks' "What Do I Get" ended my time at Cherry Cola's Rock n' Rolla Cabaret & Lounge on a high note.

The last stop of my night was at 1 a.m. at Hideout, where I was surprised to find that the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks were playing a third overtime of their National Hockey League final. But I was more interested in a group from Mexico City named Los Oxidados, which played a very fun set of instrumentals from the schools of surf, garage and spaghetti western. All three members wearing black eye masks was also a nice touch. While the music moved my feet, the sexy belly dancer who took centre stage throughout the set made something else move below my waist. It was a great way to cap off a good, if not great, night of music.

Los Oxidados

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