The North By Northeast festival packs the city with over 400 artists June 9, 10 and 11, many of whom have never played Toronto before. We've picked some cool bands from the lineup and organized them by genre, with brief descriptions to help you pick your best bets.
AA SOUND SYSTEM - Don't let the name trick you into thinking they're an electronica outfit. Subtle keys and samples combined with a farmer frontman who's got great guitar skills make the Albertans a great live act.
CLOTHES MAKE THE MAN - Gravel-voiced singer howls while leading this hard-rocking Toronto-based group through abrasive, tight pop melodies.
HUGH CORNWELL - The former Stranglers frontman can't be too troubled that his ex-bandmates are touring as the Stranglers without him. His own group rocks harder, and he doesn't have to play the old hits every night.
DEADLY SNAKES - Toronto's garage-rockin' Deadly Snakes continue to live dangerously, bringing in a string section for their new Porcella album (out on Paper Bag in September). Expect a preview at their NXNE showcase.
JOHNNY DOWD - Furniture mover by day, soul mover by night, Johnny Dowd is always spellbinding live, particularly now that he's rediscovered Jimi Hendrix-style guitar overload.
THE FLOOR - The Floor were doing the post-punk thing back when Brandon Flowers was just another Mormon kid with a bad haircut. Their new LP tempers the boom and doom of Killing Joke with layers of MBV-style sonics.
THE GARDENS FAITHFUL - A hook-heavy, vintage-keyboard-driven local pop band with some of the new wave edginess of the Spoons and Elvis Costello.
THE GOLDEN DOGS - A husband, a wife and three other dudes making pop/rock with the potency of Pop Rocks. They're not just good - they're Golden.
THE GRATES - A guitar, some drums and a quirky female singer are all the Grates need to make their ragged lo-fi garage pop. You don't really miss the bass, and, no, it doesn't sound that much like the White Stripes.
HINTERLAND - Vancouver-based group converts shoe-gazing crowds with wave after unrelenting wave of ambient drone and the spirituality of space noise.
THE JACK KEROUAC KNAPSACK BAND - Born decades after the 60s, JKKB play loose jam-band hippie rock, frolicking in an endless flashback to carefree summers they never experienced.
THE LADIES & GENTLEMEN - Ex-Carnation Thom D'Arcy leads a new stylish, synth-heavy power pop posse with loads of sweet vocal harmonies and hand-clap percussion.
THE LOVELY FEATHERS - Possibly Montreal's next next big things, these young'uns from la belle province create rambunctiously quirky, herky-jerky non-sequitur indie pop narratives with endearingly awkward charm.
MARAH - High Fidelity author Nick Hornby has seen the future of rock 'n' roll and its name is Marah. Bruce Springsteen is also a fan of these Philly fuds, but don't hold that against them either - they put on a killer show.
THE MOST SERENE REPUBLIC - Milton's new kids on the Arts & Crafts block fit in with the rest of the Broken Social label's roster: bright, quirky pop with twisted time signatures.
THE OLD SOUL - Former White Star Line shoegazer Luca Maoloni enlists his extremely talented pals to unleash harmony-packed, hallucinatory orch-rock majesty that'd put Wayne Coyne to shame.
PONY UP! - Ben Lee's favourite Montreal band, this all-girl crew cut their teeth on Juliana Hatfield and Jale and chirp out whimsical, hearts-on-their-sleeves, pastel-coloured indie pop.
THE REMAINS OF BRIAN BORCHERDT - The Holy Fuck mainman's other project, a combination of wall-of-sound guitar washes and intensely emotional vocals, cranks out disconcertingly delicate tunes with a big wallop.
THE SCRIBBLED OUT MAN - Yet another great offering from the Zunior stable, Paul Linklater's retro-leaning combo mixes loopy 60s-style effects and jingle-jangle songwriting with crafty attention to detail.
SHOUT OUT OUT OUT OUT - Edmonton six-piece crafts the illest, most danceable shit this side of James Murphy and his man tits. The wicked live party boasts two drummers, three basses, sloppy keyboards, robot vocals and three cowbells. Like Daft Punk playing at Tony Iommi's house.
SYLVIE - From the ashes of Regina punks Despistado emerges a similarly angular, art-damaged rock outfit featuring off-kilter hooks and awesome boy-girl vocals.
THE UNCUT - What started as a techno duo pretending to be a rock band has morphed into a full-on rock band that sounds a bit like Joy Division would've, had they gone to more parties.
THE WAKING EYES - Wild Winnipeg rockers always overflow with infectious energy. They're not afraid to flaunt their love of 70s classic rock but incorporate the spirit of Nirvana and the eccentricities of Radiohead.
WAX MANNEQUIN - Wax Mannequin is no longer a quirky one-man band, but he's still cranking out hilarious (in a serious way) weirdo rock after replacing the drum machine and synth of yore with a real rhythm section.
THE WET SPOTS - Jonathan Richman meets Peter, Paul and Mary and the Ramones, then asks if you take it up the ass and spills about masturbation in the animal kingdom and drunken college same-sex experimentation.
BACKYARD BABIES - Nässjö numbskull Andreas "Dregen" Svensson and his Swedish punk rock bad-boy Backyard Babies promise to leave ears ringing. Hellacopters fans in the audience will be the ones yelling, "Louder!"
COUGAR PARTY - Former members of Mach Tiver and the Plath resurrect the snarling, stripped-down DIY assault of classic riot grrrl bands.
PANTYCHRIST - Bird-flipping, sneering punk moms from Hamilton who sound like a chick version of Black Flag. That may or may not be a good thing, depending on your preference.
PRIESTESS - While most current media attention on the Montreal scene focuses on Arcade Fire and Stars, thud-happy kiddos Priestess figure their unruly attack and clear drum kit puts them next in line for critical worship.
N.Q.ARBUCKLE - Local man-about-town Neville Quinlan and any number of his pals offer up raspy-throated, bar-closing drunken country hoedowns with a sense of humour.
THE CREAKING TREE STRING QUARTET - Jazz-trained virtuosos team up with old-timey aces to create a thrilling mix of bluegrass, swingy country and complex jazzy syncopation in this roots-fusion songwriting collective.
FEMBOTS - Fab locals play slow-motion roots ballads backed by an odd assortment of gadgets and machines. Their tunes reveal traces of the Velvet Underground, with the eerie quality of Tom Waits's darker side.
KIRSTEN JONES - Inspired by Belinda Carlisle and the Bangles, this Toronto-based ex-Virginian melds syrupy melodies with an alt-country vibe, winning comparisons to Emmylou Harris and Lucinda Williams.
MILTON MAPES - Although these Texan alt-country twangers love them some Cowboy Junkies (they even covered the snoozy crew's Now I Know for Bloodshot's forthcoming 10th-anniversary comp), Milton Mapes have been known to rock out like Crazy Horse when the mood takes them.
K'NAAN - Youssou N'Dour's homie, this Mogadishu-born rap maverick brings raw rhymes fuelled by the spirit of survival.
JOSH MARTINEZ - Help VanCity reality rhymer Martinez celebrate the release of his new Chicharones side project disc, the Pork Rind Disco EP, at NXNE. It's just a taster for the main event, When Pigs Fly, due in August.
MASIA ONE - From Wavelength 250 to MuchVibe, M1 Academy co-founder and DFA1979 extended hiphop fam member Masia murders mics in public.
MINDBENDER - High-voltage T-Dot-grown abstract MC with a penchant for the lyrical power of positive thinking.
SJ THE WORDBURGLAR - Ludicrous lyrics and gut-busting punchlines spit over brooding beats by a Halifax-based emcee who doesn't mind playing the bad guy.
FREEWORM - Montreal-based electronic producer and multi-instrumentalist Freeworm crafts sprawling ambient breakbeats, and also incorporates rock and reggae influences with plenty of organic sounds.
HOLY FUCK HOLY FUCK
- Call them purveyors of unintelligent dance music - the laptop-free Holy Fuck soundsystem couldn't care less. They'll keep tweakin', twistin' and punching their effects pedals, turntables, film synchronizer, bass and drums in an engrossing improv dubwise style.
MONTAG - Montreal-based producer and multi-instrumentalist Montag makes subdued and atmospheric electronic pop that's also nostalgic and warm despite the digital sheen.
POTENTIAL BAD BOY - UK drum 'n' bass DJ/producer Potential Bad Boy has been behind some of the scene's biggest anthems of the last year, and should have a crate full of unreleased dub plates for his Toronto debut.
MARK GEARY - This Irish-by-way-of-New York tunesmith crafts beautifully delicate and fragile songs so perfectly you'd swear breaking your heart is his birthright. Comparisons to Van Morrison, Jeff Buckley and Richard Thompson aren't unfounded.
ALUN PIGGINS - This ex-Morganfields singer/songwriter has helped produce albums for Godspeed! You Black Emperor and Blue Rodeo, and his own songs are just as good. Tight melodies, smart lyrics, and he looks like Donovan to boot. Who could ask for more?
ROYAL WOOD - Complex, Tom Waits-ish arrangements come easily to T.O.-based cabaret-influenced piano prodigy Royal Wood, and his angelic voice stirs the soul whether you want it to or not.
CHRIS BOTTOMLEY - Bottomley rolls out rumbling dub reggae and funk bass lines under world beat percussion, jazz instrumentation and space rock trippyness.
THE HALFBRASS THE HALFBRASS
- Classic street brass rooted in the New Orleans tradition, à la weddings, parties and funeral processions - just like in Dr. No.
KOBAYASHI - Montreal jazz funk band brings hiphop influences and soulful female vocals to their laid-back groove.
WHITEBOY SLIM - Reach-down-into-the-pit-of-all-the-crap-you've-ever-had-to-deal-with blues, infused with a little jazz and anti-war rhetoric.
The artist showcase component of this year's North By Northeast Music And Film Festival And Conference takes place at 30 different downtown clubs. For the most part, bands perform every hour on the hour, from 9 pm to 1 am Thursday through Saturday, with various exceptions. For comprehensive lists of participating artists, venues and specific set times, consult the complete schedule on pages 52, 54 and 55. Visit NOW 's website, www.nowtoronto. com , for further coverage and daily reports during the fest, or www.nxne. com , which offers more complete details and updated information. The conference and panel components of this year's fest take place during the day on June 10 and 11. For further conference details, check www.nxne.com. Three-day festival wristbands are available for $24 at a number of locations including the Edge street-level studios (228 Yonge) and NOW Magazine (189 Church). See NXNE ad, page 182, for a full location list. You can also call 416-870-8000 or order online at www.nxne.com.