Thursday, June 20, 2013

Sun, bands and booze on NXNE "Bruise Cruise"

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 day four:

M for Montreal's "Bruise Cruise" has become an NXNE tradition for me over the past two years and, since Saturday was shaping up to be warm and sunny and the talent lineup interested me, I saw no reason not to extend it to a third year.


Captain Matthew Flinders didn't pull out from the dock until about an hour after its scheduled 12:30 p.m. departure time, but there were people to meet, beers to drink and sunshine to enjoy on deck before the music started down below.
Fat Tony

Fat Tony, a Houston rapper who performed with a vocal partner but no musicians, sounded okay and could put together decent rhymes. But it wasn't my thing so I went back up top to take in some views as the 575-passenger ship moved east from Harbourfront past residential islands to the north and Leslie Spit to the south. A military plane flew low overhead and I later saw it land at nearby Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, which I didn't know hosted such aircraft.
We Are Wolves

Odonis Odonis
We Are Wolves, a Montreal trio that made my personal Polaris Music Prize long list for its 2013 album La Mort Pop Club, came on at 2:20 p.m. Lead singer/guitarist Alexander Ortiz, keyboardist Vincent Levesque and stand-up drummer Antonin Marquis' post-punk, primitive electro-rock has both crunch and texture in its minimalist approach. Some songs are more aggressive, while others are more danceable and keyboard-focussed. There was no doubt what end of the spectrum the group's final number, a largely faithful cover of Black Sabbath's "Paranoid," fell on.
 

Captain Matthew Flinders sailed around the Toronto islands and continued about as far west as the Boulevard Club before circling back east and, while it was beautiful on deck, it was time to head back inside at 3 p.m. for Odonis Odonis. The Toronto trio's lo-fi punk rock set didn't hold a lot back and, though I didn't know anything about the band going in, I liked it. So did other cruisers, as Odonis Odonis prompted the most dancing of anyone so far -- including some mild moshing.

We were just docking when Mikal Cronin hit the stage at 3:50 p.m. I'd seen the guitarist and his three bandmates on Thursday night at Silver Dollar Room but, since this was one of the most hyped acts of the festival and friends are totally into it, I had no issues with trying these rockers on for size again. "Situation," a fine piece of power pop, got things started. "Am I Wrong" and "Apathy" kept the momentum going and inspired moshing and one brave (or stupid) crowd-surfer who was repeatedly battered against the low ceiling.
 

NXNE staff told Cronin to shut things down, but the band gave the crowd one more song: a cover of Wreckless Eric's "Whole Wide World" that was sped up considerably in places and featured a lot more guitar-jamming than the original. I hope Eric Goulden is making some decent royalties from all the interpretations of his 1977 classic that seem to have emerged over the past few years. He deserves them.
Mikal Cronin

I disembarked and walked home along the shore of Lake Ontario, stopping to buy two beers from Keith's new hops series of beers along the way. The first one made the jaunt more pleasant and the second provided fuel for hitting the clubs later in the evening after taking a break to make dinner.

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