Learning to balance

My North by Northeast (NXNE) had plenty of highlights: Autre Ne Veut’s set at Tattoo, watching KC Accidental’s Kevin Drew shout, “I want to be a fucking teenager!” at the 159 Manning Barbecue headliner, and a very sweaty dance party lead by Le1f at the Edward Day Gallery on Friday night.

On Saturday, I was pretty set on calling it an early night in order to rest up for Sunday. However, as I was about to go to bed, my tendency to obsessively check social media led me to find out about the last-minute addition of Perfect Pussy to the Soybomb event. Perfect Pussy is led by an incredibly intelligent frontwoman, Meredith Graves, whose music empowers you with each listen.

Trying to properly immerse myself in NXNE this year was a lesson in learning how to balance having fun with actually making an effort to see new bands. I ended up not seeing many of the bands I’d initially intended to see — there are a few that will bum me out for a while, but I think I’ll survive. In the meantime, I’ll deal with the sadness by keeping my eye on 2014 concert listings — new bands have a tendency to go on multiple tours in a year.
—Sofia Luu


Underage festival-going

NXNE, you were stacked. I got a chance to see some of my longtime favourites, like St. Vincent, and artists that I had recently discovered, like Fresh Snow. The diversity of the lineup was remarkable and by far the highlight of the festival for me.

There were also a surprising number of all-ages showcases — meaning I saw more than I was expecting to. This is not to say that there were enough — outside of Yonge-Dundas Square (YDS) and Massey Hall, I was pretty much limited to punk shows, which were for some inexplicable reason all-ages.

YDS, please, get your sound together. Many of the performances at YDS were subpar because there was something wrong with the sound. I found this surprising considering that NXNE has hosted large shows at YDS for years now. Another shocking tidbit was how lopsided the NXNE schedule was; I found myself catching 10 acts a day for Thursday and Friday, and only seeing two on Saturday and Sunday.

Next year I’ll finally be of age, and I think my NXNE will change pretty drastically. There’s nothing worse than seeing your friends go to shows when your night is forced to end at midnight. I’ll also try to check out more of the interactive and art showcases — there’s so much music at NXNE that it can be overwhelming to consider all the other aspects of the festival.

—Ayla Shiblaq


Smaller venues for better shows

One of the highlights of my NXNE experience was all of the great, well-hyped female-fronted acts. Hands & Teeth, St. Vincent, Sleigh Bells, Beach Day, Dearly Beloved, and Courtney Barnett are just a few of the female acts that rocked the stages at this year’s NXNE. Music is just as much a woman’s game as a man’s — it was awesome seeing all these talented hardworking ladies kicking butt and getting their due.

The MiO Squirtcar with The Pizza Underground was amazing. It’s the quirky venues like a GAP store, streetcar, or ferry boat that sets NXNE apart from other festivals and really makes it a festival grounded in the city itself.

Since I had a wristband I was hopping from show to show — at times I felt lonely, but at most venues I met great people, including grad students from Austin who were loving Toronto, women at the Horseshoe double-fisting Budweiser while adorned with platinum badges from Labatt, and a photographer who had taken photos of musicians ranging from Toronto darlings like Greys to international superstars like Iggy Pop. Being alone made me more aware of my surroundings, and afforded me a new perspective on the festival. I highly recommend solo show-going, especially for an event like NXNE where you can mix it up by going solo one night and with a group another.

As for what I might do differently next year, I think I would avoid the big YDS shows. The large free shows are awesome for the city itself, but the open-air venue doesn’t do most of the acts justice, and the crowds for the main headliners can be overwhelming. Much-hyped acts like St. Vincent, Sleigh Bells, and Juicy J all fell flat for me in a way I don’t think they would have if they’d been in a proper venue with a more dedicated crowd.  Next year, I hope to bike past the big crowds and make my way to smaller venues where I can properly appreciate the talent.

—India McAlister