Ted's, Wed, May 10
There's nothing quite like the sight of a bunch of shapely beer reps trying to convince Toronto music scenesters to get a Molson's temporary tattoo. "C'mon, please? It's really cool, and it comes off with olive oil." Ah, no thanks.
Sponsor overload in full effect, the sixth annual North By Northeast festival was rolled out Wednesday at a packed press conference at Ted's Wrecking Yard. This year's party runs from June 8 to 10, cramming 400 bands into 27 clubs across the downtown core. NXNE's Andy McLean also touted a series of preview events leading up to the showcase kickoff.
June 6 features the third annual White Ribbon Campaign benefit, featuring performances from Tea Party's Jeff Martin, Rush's Alex Lifeson, Jacksoul's Haydain Neale, Edwin and Gordie Johnson. June 7, NXNE officially begins with a noon concert at Nathan Phillips Square, followed that evening at the Pool Room by Chart Magazine's 10th-anniversary party. There's also a wrap party, set for June 11 at Ted's.
June 9 and 10, the action moves outdoors to a parking lot at Richmond and John for the free Energy Pit Party, featuring sets by Elwood, Moxy Früvous, Starling, Kevin Saunderson, Mastermind, Flipside, Scot Turner and Mocean Worker.
Amidst all this are industry conferences, panel discussions and a "celebrity" interview with the Headstones' Hugh Dillon.
Full schedules are available on the Web at www.nxne.com, as are band profiles and music samples.
Reverb, Thurs, May 11
Herding a sizable chunk of the music industry -- including DJs Chris Sheppard and Shawn MacDonald, agent Ralph James, Universal's Sue McCallum -- inside a club before nightfall to watch an unknown dude from North Carolina offer songs from his new record is no small feat.
So props must go to the gang at Palm Recordings for their attendance score at the Reverb for the local debut of rapper/musician Elwood.
Heading up a crew heavy on the soul/funk tip with massive horns, our man offered a solid set while folks from across the spectrum -- agents, talent buyers, club managers, musicians, journalists, DJs, label reps and the like -- chit-chatted about, you know, stuff.
Horseshoe, Thur, May 11
There was much confusion at the Horseshoe's first venture into literary respectability. Up first was a man in a tuxedo, who promptly introduced Chicago writer Neal Pollack.
Pollack read extensively from the hilariously self-aggrandizing introduction to his forthcoming book, The Neal Pollack Anthology Of American Literature. After a half-hour, the man in the tuxedo returned to introduce the headline act, McSweeney's editor and much-hyped author Dave Eggers.
Rather than read from his brilliant memoir A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius, however, Eggers was joined by a man in a wolverine costume who claimed to be his "old friend" Paul. Paul conducted a softball celebrity interview with Eggers, asking him about work habits and why Eggers hadn't written him into the book.
Eventually, Eggers took over briefly, reading a painfully earnest letter from the producer of Forrest Gump, who wants to turn his memoir into a novel, discussing an aborted takeover of Amazon.com's reader reviews section and making his way through approximately half a page of his book before wolverine/Paul regained control of the floor.
Spectators new to Eggers were baffled. Addicts of his www.mcsweeneys.net site were in heaven.
NEW UGLY DUCKLINGS
Back with attitude
The members of Toronto garage punk legends the Ugly Ducklings had such a good time at their reunion show last May, they haven't stopped playing together. According to mighty Ducks singer Dave Bingham, they've also been writing again, and the new compositions will get their first airing at the Horseshoe Saturday (May 20).
"We've been rehearsing just about every weekend since that Warehouse show with the idea of recording a new album," explains Bingham. "But instead of doing something like the Off The Wall album of 1980, we're trying to write songs with the attitude that the Ducks had back in the 60s, when we were trying to be more obnoxious than the Rolling Stones.
"The other news is that Jan House from the Other People's Music label found a live tape of the Ugly Ducklings from 1968. As part of a CHUM radio contest, we went into Bay Studios and recorded seven songs live, including our version of the Yardbirds' I'm A Man that, with all the feedback, was probably nine minutes long. The tape sounds great, so hopefully that'll come out soon."
NEKO CASE BBQ
Queen and Dunn, Sat, May 13
The weather started out looking dodgy, but by the time Neko Case, Kelly Hogan and a pile of invited guests gathered in the rooftop garden of Parkdale's Ross Craig Funeral Home -- site of apartments housing both caterer Mark Smith and Mint/Teenage USA/etc/etc publicist Yvette Ray -- the sun was shining and folks were putting the moves on potato salad and bottles of Rolling Rock.
The party was conceived as a big thank-you to media supporters whose coverage of Hogan and Case helped pack both their shows last weekend at the Horseshoe.
Spotted -- visual artist Fiona Smyth, journos including the Toronto Sun's Kieran Grant and the Star's Ben Rayner, Fat Wreck Records publicist Melanie Kaye and Outside Music's Peter Hardman and Stephanie Hardman, eagerly expecting their debut to drop in the fourth quarter (read, new baby in mid-September).
El Mocambo, Fri, May 19
In a world that already includes rap, soul, funk, pop, rock, jazz, classical, techno, house, punk, fusion, afrobeat and dozens of others, nobody's looking too hard for a new genre. Nobody except El Mocambo club booker Dan Burke, that is.
This weekend (Friday and Saturday, May 19 and 20), El Mocambo club booker Dan Burke presents pile of groups as part of his first international "barrage" rock festival.
Oh yeah, barrage. We're talking barn-stormers like Chicago's Gaza Strippers, New York's greasy Unband, Cleveland stoner threat Boulder, hellacious locals Teen Crud Combo and Hot Piss, Ottawa maulers the Phantom Shifters and Noo Yawk toilet rockers Manscouts of America. "I don't know that the world really needs another genre," Burke reckons, "but we're giving them one anyway. We're going to create a scene right here in Toronto and then export it out to the world."