NXNE 2001 at various venues, June 7-9. $18 for a wristband. Rating: NNN
More than the bands that played and the deals that were or were not made, the real story of NXNE 2001 was the ongoing battle between club owners and the capacity cops.
Lineups outside clubs became routine this year, despite the fact that the rooms weren't particularly packed. That meant that unless you showed up early, and cut out the club-hopping that's essential to a fest like NXNE, you wouldn't get in to everything from big-ticket shows like the Constantines, Tricky Woo, Smoother and Matthew Jay to showcases by virtual nobodies like Junetile and 5 Line Legacy.
Throw in the fact that several hiphop shows were running late before the festival even began on Thursday at 9 pm and, unless you were travelling by bike, you had to pick your spots very carefully.
A set of sublime soft pop by Ottawa's Golden Seals, fronted by comedian/singer Dave Merritt, was a good place to get into the mood Thursday after an underwhelming glam/trash rip-off set by Cambridge's the Candidates. Merritt's got a remarkably elastic voice, and jokingly insisted that his band would be signed halfway though his third tune. Someone should get on that.
As much as hype is made at festivals like NXNE, it's also deflated. If you split midway through Blue Mountain's raw country rock set at Barcode Friday, you perhaps could have sneaked into the oven that was Ted's Wrecking Yard to catch Matthew Jay.
In a room filled with label execs and folks curious about Jay's remarkably bad hair helmet, the singer/songwriter got straight down to the business of putting the room to sleep with a wispy set of twee folk pop. The impossibly glum look of the poor chap standing beside Jay, guitar in hand, said it all.
It was just as uncomfortable walking out of curious Toronto singer/ songwriter Jack Breakfast's Graffiti's set midway through. Rudeness, under the guise of seeing as many different things as possible, is expected of you at music festivals, but it's a bit different when there's no back door (we asked) leaving you essentially to have to walk over the stage and try not to trip on the performer's guitar chords. No disrespect meant.
Saturday night was all about surprises. The Avs won, Winnipeg's Telepathic Butterflies went from quaint pop to full-on psych rock, Ian Blurton's beard was longer than expected and Nish Rawks was almost upstaged by one frantic, two-minute verse from D-Sisive. These are the things you stay out late for.