NXNE 2011: OFF!—June 16, 2011 @ Yonge Dundas Square by Jackman Chiu is licensed under CC BY 2.0​​

Best Coast – Yonge & Dundas Square

Hailing from California, Best Coast is one of the many Pixies-esque surf-rock groups to emerge from L.A. in the last few years. Singer Bethany Cosentino, offers vocal hooks reminiscent of ’60s pop while instrumentalist Bobb Bruno provides crunchy guitar sounds reminiscent of Weezer during the early days.

Although I have long referred to myself as a ‘Best Coast Bestie,’ truthfully, the duo’s Yonge & Dundas Square performance left something to be desired; the performance lacked a solid connection with the crowd, despite having a well-assembled set list.

Despite these setbacks, Cosentino’s vocal performance was absolutely on point, perfectly matching the melodies you would find on their recordings. Bobb Bruno, the unsung hero of Best Coast, carried a heavy portion of the lead guitar work by switching guitars after every song. The stage musicians on bass, drums, and additional guitars did satisfactory jobs as well, never overshadowing Cosentino or Bruno.

It was Best Coast’s decision to play it safe that made their show good when it could have been great. They did a fine job matching their live sound to their recorded sound, but added little in terms of improvisation or crowd interaction. There was enough to satisfy the Besties, but not enough to recruit new ears.

“Heaven Sent”

Jazz Cartier & Rae Sremmurd — Danforth Music Hall

Assuming that Jazz Cartier lasts longer than the average 15 minutes that fame usually affords, I can confidently say that the Toronto-based rapper will be the city’s next hip-hop darling — after Drake, of course. His larger than life personality easily excites audiences, although his Saturday performance at the Danforth Music Hall had slightly less energy than his recent show at Canadian Music Week. He admitted that he had lost his voice from a bit too much partying. Nevertheless, he still managed to bring the crowd to their feet.

“New Religion”

Following Cartier’s performance was the night’s headlining act, Rae Sremmurd. The duo took some time arriving, while the excited crowd became visibly anxious — sporadically cheering when they thought the rappers were about to arrive.

When they finally did show up, Sremmurd teased a bit of Kendrick Lamar music before launching right into their new hit single, “No Flex Zone.” The crowd was into it. The young duo, clearly well versed in stage presence abilities, had the crowd moshing and shoving each other around within minutes.

Amongst other things, the Sremmurd concert was a clear example of the latest trends in teenage male fashion. The bucket hat and ski goggles were hot items at the show, with one half of the duo wearing a pair of goggles, while the other sported a camouflage button-up. Needless to say, this helped explain why several young men in the crowd were also wearing this unconventional winter item. If you want to feel old at 23, go to a Rae Sremmurd show.

“No Flex Zone”

Shad, Ty Dolla $ign – Yonge & Dundas Square

Not being much of a Ty Dolla $ign fan to begin with, I went into Sunday’s show at Yonge & Dundas Square with low expectations. After seeing last year’s performance by Ty’s fellow Taylor Gang member Juicy J, I wasn’t terribly impressed by the kind of energy that his performance elicited.

This year, the rapper’s performance only reaffirmed my preconceived notions. Around midway through the concert, Ty brought up a group of women from the audience to dance to a few of his songs, in which he then felt it necessary to bring up the Action Bronson controversy; after Bronson was banned from playing Yonge & Dundas Square, Ty Dolla $ign and Shad were set to replace him.

“Stand For”

“Who thinks what happened to Action Bronson was fucked up?” yelled Ty Dolla $ign. To my disgust, the entire crowd erupted in cheering, clearly siding with Bronson. I felt uncomfortable, and also naïve to have expected any conflicting reactions to Ty’s statement. Naturally, the end of the show left me angry, and I figured all hope was lost–until Shad showed up, that is.

Firstly, I adore Shad. I would elect Shad as Prime Minister. Drake can represent the 6, but Shad needs to go national. His social awareness, his flow, and the clear intelligence in his lyricism are a constant reminder that he is terribly underrated in the rap industry.

His performance was just another confirmation of that notion; entering to the tune of Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright,” the London, Ontario-based rapper created a charmingly positive atmosphere at Yonge and Dundas — one that had not been apparent in the previous rapper’s performance. Looking around, I could easily spot the die-hard fans rapping to every single word, as well as the unfamiliar onlookers who were soon to be converted to Shad fandom.

While Ty Dolla $ign may have cited his disagreement with NXNE’s decision over Action Bronson, I will relentlessly defend NXNE’s decision — not only because of his music’s subject matter, but also because Bronson would never have created the positive environment for rap music the way that Shad did on Sunday night.

“Yaa I Get It”

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