The second night of NXNE music featured cool tunes and packed venues:
Moon King — Wrongbar
Toronto’s Moon King helmed an impressive lineup at Wrongbar on Thursday night. Maddy Wilde and Daniel Woodhead have reunited after almost four months apart (Woodhead was away on tour with Doldrums). The two clicked so effortlessly that you’d never suspect that there was ever a time when they didn’t share the stage.
Punk chords reminiscent of The Violent Femmes and dream-inducing vocals coalesced as Woodhead pulled the audience in with his entrancing sound. He then switched gears to match Wilde’s calls for mayhem, with reverberating howls and incessant drumming. Keep an eye out for their upcoming 12”, featuring “Crucified”, a pop lullaby the T.O. team shared with the audience. Here’s hoping Moon King continue to cultivate their brand of folk pop in a city that is finally catching on to the hype. —DL
Doldrums — The Drake Underground
A year and a half ago, all anyone knew of Doldrums was a one-off, found-footage music video for the single “I’m Homesick Sitting Up Here In My Satellite.” I immediately wanted to know more about this relatively anonymous band, and the single stuck with me until it finally received a proper release with Doldrums’ debut EP, Empire Sound.
Like the curious video, with its talk of spaceships and far away galaxies, the vocals and sounds of the Woodhead brothers seem to transcend above and beyond material reality. Their live sets pelt your ears with start-and-stop sci-fi synths, stuttering doses of 90s dance and dub beats, and powerful echoing mantras. Doldrum’s latest single, “Egypt”, propelled audience members onto the stage, where they instinctively synced their dance movements to the band’s sound. —DL.
Smith Westerns — Artscape Gibraltar Point, Toronto Island
Chicago group Smith Westerns began garnering major critical attention before they even reached drinking age, and the band has only continued to improve over the past few years. Since moving to Fat Possum records and abandoning their lo-fi sound, the band has become a very tight unit, musically speaking. Their dreamy, reverb-laden pop tunes were the perfect background music for a free, unofficial NXNE show on Toronto Island last night.
Sponsored by Vice and Jansport, the event included a bonfire, free tacos, beer and s’mores. The setting was appropriately picturesque for a bonfire — a string of light bulbs hung over the stage, which was hidden in a wooded area a few metres from the beach. Between backpack giveaways and bean-bag tosses (I scored three times!), song after song seemed to gently sway along, as synth chords meshed with clean guitar and melodic leads. All in all, Smith Westerns’ pop sensibilities were a great match for the carefree mood of this early summer event. —NW
Purity Ring — Wrongbar
At around 1 am, Purity Ring essentially turned Wrongbar into a sauna as the venue hit capacity to house the only show the Halifax-Montreal duo is performing at this year’s festival. Corin Roddick and Megan James spent a lot of time perfecting their future- pop/hip hop sound, and it shows in the distinctiveness of each track.
Even unfamiliar numbers from their upcoming debut, Shrines, linger in the mind. Roddick and James recorded the album in different locations, and they translate that distance into their live sets by anchoring themselves on separate sides of the stage. Roddick manned a glowing orb instrument that acted as a central light source in the darkened room, as it lit up with each touch of his synth pad. Megan’s incredibly personal and almost celestial vocals were impeccable and held their own against the heavy beat loops and stammers.
Although Purity Ring has only been around for one year, the overwhelmingly positive responses to the band’s live shows make them the kind of act you absolutely need to add to your bucket list. —DL
The Men — The Garrison
By the time Leave Home, the second LP from New York hardcore outfit The Men, earned critical praise, the band had already prepared most of the songs for their third full-length release. Instead of recording and releasing an album at that point, the band decided to take advantage of this newfound attention and continued their tour, testing out songs like Open Your Heart, which was released in March of this year.
Continuing this pattern, last night’s headlining show at The Garrison primarily featured new material, suggesting that The Men have probably written most of their next release. “Open Your Heart” saw a shift from more psychedelic influence toward classic rock. But last night, as if to intentionally subvert this expectation, guitarist Mark Perro played harmonica on a song late in the set. The highlight of the show came when the band played “Night Landing,” an extended jam that was absent from their set last fall at the Horseshoe. —NW