Singer/guitarist Carl Newman, peeved that the press keep referring to the New Pornographers supergroup he co-founded as Neko Case's side project, decided to put more of a personal stamp on the Pornos' latest thrill-pop epic, Electric Version (Mint), to the delight of hundreds of Zumpano fans. All the Pornos except for fame-fearing Dan Bejar have taken time off their regular night jobs for the group's current tour, which brings them to the Phoenix (410 Sherbourne) July 8. $15. 416-870-8000.
NXNE strikes again
Once again, North By Northeast (NXNE), Canada's premier indie music summit, takes over, with more than 300 rising artists storming Toronto's downtown clubs for three crazy days (June 5 to 7) of non-stop showcasing and schmoozing. Even before this year's keynote speaker, punk rock survivor John Lydon, officially launches NXNE 2003, the festivities will be kick-started with the annual White Ribbon benefit concert at the Phoenix June 3, featuring a solo performance by the Tragically Hip's Gord Downie. $26.75. 416-870-8000. www.nxne.com
Bad Seeds threat
Forget about Bono, Michael Stipe, Liam Gallagher, Gord Downie and that weedy dude from Coldplay. There's no better frontman in contemporary rock than Nick Cave, as he's demonstrated on numerous occasions. Even on a bad night with mediocre material, the spindly stage stalker is never less than completely captivating. So considering that Cave's return to the Kool Haus (1 Jarvis) June 22 will have him performing the fabulous songs from Nocturama(Anti) with the Bad Seeds, count on a dazzling display. $25.50. 416-870-8000.
Georgia's rough 'n' rowdy Drive-By Truckers are best known for their Southern Rock Opera - a probing and poignant rumination on the Southern experience often misread as a simple Lynyrd Skynyrd homage - but they're determined to prove that the Truckers aren't any kind of tribute act. Their fabulous new Decoration Day (New West Records) disc should help clear up any misconceptions, and their Horseshoe (370 Queen West) debut June 24 will add an exclamation point. $8.50. 416-598-4753.
Roc army invades
Jay-Z's Roc-A-Fella Records plans a Toronto invasion led by career hiphop soldiers M.O.P., Beanie Sigel, Cam'ron and Memphis Bleek, who'll be joined by next-wave threats Chris & Neef, Oschino & Sparks, Peedi Crakk and State Property. Conspicuously absent from the Kool Haus (1 Jarvis) show June 10 is Roc-A-Fella chief Jay-Z himself. He'll be in Toronto with 50 Cent for KISS-FM's Wham Bam Canada Day Jam at the Molson Amphitheatre July 1, which is already sold out. $tba.
It appears that the Rapture have bounced back from the dismissive shrug they received for their heavily hyped SXSW showcase in March. New York's disco-punk top guns are returning to Toronto to play the Opera House (735 Queen East) June 7, and they've wisely taken the precaution of not having the show opened by locals From Fiction, who upstaged the Rapture at their low-key Toronto debut last year. $15. 416-466-0313.
Native Tongue licks
Right now, the most anticipated underground hiphop show of the summer is the return of Los Angeles microphone mauler Aceyalone, who'll be splitting a bill at the Opera House June 14 with Native Tongues producer Prince Paul (the mastermind behind De La Soul's innovative recordings), North Carolina's rising stars Little Brother, Minneapolis MC Eyedea and local crew the Oddities. $19.50. 416-760-3332.
Decades after rockabilly ceased being trendy, Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys are still swinging 50s-style rock 'n' roll, honky-tonk and swank instrumentals with impeccable skill, style and heartfelt passion. Robert "Big Sandy" Williams and his hombres don't just play it, they live it, as you'll discover when their 1948 vintage tour bus pulls up to the El Mocambo (464 Spadina) July 12. $tba.