Billy Talent’s Benjamin Kowalewicz. Photo by Frank Hoensch/Getty Images
Sure, lots of music is free these days - the downloaded kind. But concerts command an increasingly pretty penny, especially during summer's jam-packed festival circuit. Free headliners downtown is the best thing about NXNE. (Yeah, we made that call.) Pay hundreds of dollars to see them at arenas? Or catch them smack dab in the middle of the best city in the world. (We made that call, too.)
Thursday, June 13
Kicking off a four-night run of free Yonge-Dundas Square shows is Social Distortion (9 pm), SoCal's most enduring punk band, helmed by singer/songwriter/band creator Mike Ness. Personnel changes within the group, an ever-shifting Los Angeles scene and a couple of hiatuses have done little to erode SD's broad fan base over their 35-year career, and an eighth studio album due this year makes Thursday's show all the more intriguing. With Imperial State Electric (6 pm), the Flatliners (7 pm) and Old Man Markley (8 pm).
Friday, June 14
The top of Brooklyn's indie rock pile needs no introduction, but for the latest on the National (9:30 pm), see page 52. With openers CTZNSHP (7:30 pm).
Saturday, June 15
Local punk-rock superstars in their own backyard? Yes, please. See our interview with Billy Talent (9 pm) on page 56. With openers Riverdale (1 pm), Steve Hill (2 pm), We Are Scientists (3 pm), Blinker the Star (4 pm), Moon King (5 pm), Big Black Delta (6 pm) and Millencolin (8 pm).
Sunday, June 16
The bad news: Big Boi injured his leg and had to cancel his much-anticipated Sunday-night headlining show. The great news: We're still getting our Southern Hospitality - courtesy of fellow Dirty South pioneer Ludacris (9 pm). Is there any better way to cap off NXNE than a free outdoor show where everyone can sing along to massive smash after massive smash? Besides his own prolific catalogue, a Luda verse is the best part of many high-profile collabs. Watch that musical Midas touch in its live incarnation.
With openers Mickey Avalon (3 pm), Deniro Farrar (4 pm), the Underachievers (5 pm), Fat Tony (6 pm, see preview, page 53), Smif n' Wessun (7 pm) and Joey Bada$$ (8 pm, see preview, page 54).