Every night during NXNE, our music writers hit the town, taking in as much as they can. The next day, their NXNE Crawl diaries report the good, not-so-good, and out-and-out weird at this year's fest.
On the second-last night of NXNE, why not take a semi-breather and stick with one venue for most of the evening? After quick stops at Rancho Relaxo for the somewhat confusing Autumn Stones, whose saxophone-punctuated jangle-guitar rock is helmed by a singer who changes styles every song, and Handlebar for the excellent Halifax post-rock instrumental band Kuato, I went to the Horseshoe and stayed there.
White Lung hit the stage a few minutes ahead of schedule and then played the shortest set I saw during the fest. But a mere 20 minutes was plenty sufficient for their brand of acerbic punk to light a fire. The genre has many exciting singers, and Vancouver's Mish Way is at the top of the pile. She's completely self-possessed and electrifying, her voice low, withering and packing a guttural punch.
With blood-red lipstick smeared across her pale face, she roiled and thundered, spat water and crowd-surfed, wrapped a mic cord around her head and got in our faces (to the front-row fanboys' visible delight). Her female-dominated band played fast, brief, sweaty songs heavy with hardcore's aggression and riot grrl sneer.
Denmark's Iceage were equally confrontational, but the effect was far more distancing than engaging. The just-out-of-their-teens four-piece play nihilistic, leering experimental post-punk built on anarchistically rumbling drums and dissonant, abrasive noise riffs. Frontman Elias Bender Ronnenfelt glared at us with hatred, his angsty vocals sounding almost slowed down and drop-tuned. Nary a melody to be found.
On record, it's pretty awesome. Live, it's kind of a downer.
UNFORGETTABLE: Damian Abraham's upbeat between-song banter during Fucked Up's supremely invigorating, utterly chaotic headlining set - the best one I've ever seen them play. Shout-outs to Toronto ("a big city with training wheels!"), his dad ("he beat prostate cancer this year! Happy Father's Day!"), the Horseshoe ("I saw the Rolling Stones here, and the Strokes and Kevin Bacon's band!"), etc.