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.
It turns out cruising around Lake Ontario at 2 pm is a lot more civilized than crawling along Queen Street at 2 am.
For the third consecutive year, the M For Montreal festival organized an afternoon Bruise Cruise showcase featuring a lineup of mostly high-energy rock acts. The passengers that turned up at 1 pm for the three-hour nautical excursion were largely a low-key and orderly lot; half spent the afternoon on the upper deck chatting and soaking in the smog while the rest attended the show two decks below.
First up was Fat Tony, a buzzy rapper from Houston whose slyly humorous rhymes about dating and politics are alluded to in the title of his latest album, Smart Ass Black Boy. As frequent production partner Tom Cruz played a mix of mellow hip-hop and Reggaeton beats, he spat sardonic verses with a party-starting energy that out-stripped the blown-out bass sound gasping from the speakers.
Post-punk rockers We Are Wolves fared much better sound-wise. The Montreal-based trio emphasized their scuzzy garage side over their 80s new wave influences, and ended with a Black Sabbath cover that provided a suitably squalling lead-in for Odonis Odonis, who kept the heaviness going with a blistering set that moved deftly between groovy psych-rock and thrash punk.
Mikal Cronin and his band took the stage just as the boat returned to dock, so by this point even the most passive of passengers had ambled below deck.
The San Francisco-based musician is one of the year's breakout critical successes and thus, one of the most highly touted acts at NXNE. Though his sound has evolved from fuzzed-out garage rock to earnest and artfully-arranged guitar pop, the boat's muddy sound system was having none of his mellow material. Seeming to realize this, Cronin ratcheted up the rock 'n' roll quotient and the crowd moshed along accordingly.
UNFORGETTABLE: A lone crowdsurfer pressed against the ceiling at the end of Mikal Cronin's set in a triumphant moment of I'm-on-a-boat moshing.