Monday, June 23, 2014

NXNE Saturday: a day in the sun and a night at the Shoe

Michael Rault

My fourth and final day of the North by Northeast Music Festival took advantage of the sunshine and warm temperatures with several outdoor sets.

The first was by Toronto's Michael Rault, who I'd fallen hard for on his 2010 Ma-Me-O debut album and 2012 Whirlpool EP. His seven-song Living Daylight comes out this week and, while I like it, I don't find it as much fun as its predecessors. While he's still playing short love songs, the sound is a little more straight-forward rock than the '50s and '60s-influenced material that attracted me to him. I felt the same way about this performance at the St. James Park Gazebo, but will spend more time with the record and see Rault again the next time I get a chance.

Beach Day

Florida's Beach Day was my favourite discovery of last year's NXNE, so I was delighted when the quartet fronted by singer/guitarist Kimmy Drake took the stage after Rault. The set opened with an instrumental and the rest of it was filled with '60s-influenced girl group pop and garage rock that captured the park's summery vibe perfectly. The performance was nicely balanced between songs from the Trip Trap Attack debut ("Walking on the Streets," my favourite "Beach Day," "Boys") and those from the forthcoming Native Echoes ("The Lucky One," "I'm Just Messin' Around," "All My Friends Were Punks") before ending with a rousing cover of Bobby Freeman's "Do You Want To Dance."

I'm not really into the sand and surf lifestyle, but I'd be happy to make almost every day a Beach Day.

I stopped at Banh Mi Boys for a braised beef sandwich and kimchi fries that I took in with me to the patio that had opened on the street beside The Cameron House for the day. The delicious food was washed down with a recently released and not as tasty Brickworks Batch: 1904 cider.


Ferraro's Cosmo, Gianni, Tally and Tom Ferraro provided my dinner soundtrack with a set that incorporated covers (Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti," Michael Rault's "Let Me Go Out," The White Stripes' "Hotel Yorba,"   Dion's "Runaround Sue," The Chords' "Sh-Boom") with originals that slid in easily among them. Cameron House sound man Frank joined the young band for an entertaining rendition of his namesake Frank Sinatra's hit "That's Life."

A drunk punk who danced himself out of his pants and exposed his butt outside the fenced-off area kept hopping the railing and was very forcibly removed a couple of times by being thrown back over those same railings to provide a bit of drama before the next set started. I got a taste of Sam Cash on Thursday night and got the full experience with his three-piece backing band The Romantic Dogs at his label's party outside the Cameron House. 

Sam Cash

The group performed tunes from its Stand Together, Fall Together debut and quite a few new numbers in a 15-song set full of catchy, upbeat, well-written roots rock. Cash reprised "Steal My Car" from Thursday, showed off his whistling skills in "Fall Together" and proved overall that he's more than capable of producing songs that should be commercially viable. Again, like on Thursday, Cash was joined on stage by Cameron House Records artist Whitney Rose for a run through Bruce Springsteen's "Hungry Heart" to close things off.

I'd planned to see a couple of acts at The Paddock, but a friend inside the club caught my attention and I ended up chatting with him while sitting at the bar over a few pints while listening to a surprisingly eclectic-sounding set by Toronto rock act Zeus outside as background music via a nearby open window.

I'm a longtime Rheostatics fan, but haven't been as enamoured by former singer/guitarist Dave Bidini's Bidiniband project, although I like the songs live more than on record. I was also quite happy to hear him perform his old group's "Horses" when I arrived at the Horseshoe Tavern near the end of the set.

Joel Plaskett

I think Joel Plaskett is a national treasure and I've written about him frequently over the years. A group of friends share my affection, so we got together to sing along to almost every song from the frontman and his backing band The Emergency. The club was packed as the extended set opened with "A Million Dollars," and the momentum never waned through: "You Let Me Down;" "Precious, Precious, Precious;" "Penny For Your Thoughts;" "Deny, Deny, Deny;" "You're Mine;" "Through and Through and Through;" "Natural Disaster;" "Park Avenue Sobriety Test;" a solo acoustic "Harbour Boys;" "Rollin', Rollin', Rollin';" "Work Out Fine" mashed up with Lorde's "Royals," Manfred Mann's "Doo Wah Diddy" and Sam Cooke's "Cupid;" "Love This Town;" "Nowhere With You;" "Extraordinary;" and an encore composed of a new song and "Wishful Thinking."

If you like clever lyrics and irresistible hooks, but you've never seen The Joel Plaskett Emergency, I'm telling you to remedy that situation as soon as you can.

The Felice Brothers

The crowd thinned out considerably for a 1:20 a.m. performance by The Felice Brothers, who were supporting their new Favorite Waitress album, but those who remained were quite enthusiastic. My friends bailed and my energy was flagging, but I stuck it out because I've enjoyed the New York City quintet's take on folk, roots, rock and Americana every time I've witnessed it before. Violin and accordion were sometimes added to guitars, bass, drums and keyboards, there were some audience sing-alongs, and a couple of slower numbers were offset by some more kick-ass tunes to keep spirits raised.

The Felice Brothers were called back for an encore that included my favourite song of theirs, "Frankie's Gun," and a favourite of countless bands who I've seen cover it: Neil Young's "Rockin' In The Free World."

The bar was still serving, but I'd had my fill, so it was a walk home and then bedtime. While a handful of clubs were hosting bands on Sunday, my NXNE had come to an end.

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