If you are in a band and you band scheduled to perform a club show at 10 p.m. or 3 a.m., there is a high probability that your band is not the evening's main attraction - on a typical evening anyway.
However during these all-encompassing, city-wide music festivals such as NXNE, an interesting band will often wind performing before a less-than interesting band. For music fans conditioned to believe primetime slot equals amazing (or for those people that can't seem to leave the house before midnight on a Friday), a music festival showcase can sometimes fuck your shit up.
On Friday night, London-based group Still Corners held down an early-ish 10 p.m. slot at the Horseshoe Tavern for a respectably sized crowd. A duo in the studio and a four-piece on stage, the band's reverbed brand of Balearic dream-pop recalls the swoon-inducing detachment of Cocteau Twins and The Chromatics.
Awash in deep, propulsive bass synths, angelic singing and distorted guitar, their music is an ideal soundtrack for warming up or coming down. It's a familiar aesthetic, but one that deliver beautifully and with such relaxed confidence that the lack of emotional depth in many of their songs could be forgiven.
Next up came Buke and Gase, a.k.a. Arone Dyer and Aron Sanchez. Named for their bespoke, handmade instruments the ‘buke' ("a six-string former-baritone ukulele") and ‘gase' (a guitar-bass), the experimental Brooklyn-based duo managed to whip up a squalling, rambling din that belied their modest set-up.
They are definitely what you might call an ‘interesting' band, but as with Still Corners aesthetic often overruled emotion. The pair sat on stools dressed in matching black mechanics uniforms and strummed their instruments with a confrontational inelegance. Their sound is coarse, lurching and - when a soaring melody broke free from the choppy pacing - occasionally pretty.
Flash forward to 3 a.m. at BLK BOX, a sweaty dance club beneath the Great Hall. Outside, a messy-looking (and sounding) crowd had overtaken the sidewalk and inside an equally wasted group of nostalgic pop fans eagerly awaited Wannabe, Toronto's very own Spice Girls tribute band.
And they are a ‘band.' Backed by an all-male, six-piece ensemble that included a keytarist, sax player and trumpeter, the five women - be-wigged and made-up to resemble Sporty, Scary, Posh, Baby and Ginger - cycled through a funk-a-fied 40-minute set of the British girl group's hits, including Say You'll Be There, Who Do You Think You Are, 2 Become 1 and Too Much.
In addition to looking the part, Wannabe also recreated the Spice Girls' choreography, signature poses and trite stage banter ("I have a question: who out there loves their mum?"). And while their band could sound tighter, the level of effort and energy behind the show (Wannabe Posh actually seemed less useless than the real thing) was impressive. So much so that you couldn't help but yearn for the day another funky five-piece female harmony group takes over the world.
Unforgettable: When Wannabe delved into Ginger Spice's solo career by performing her cover of It's Raining Men. Still one of the best song titles ever.