NORTH BY NORTHEAST MUSIC FESTIVAL AND CONFERENCE, on stages city-wide, June 8 to 10. $18 for wristband. 870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
The sixth annual North By Northeast (NXNE) music conference -- jamming 400 bands from around the globe into 27 local venues from June 8 to 10 -- boasts its biggest urban component ever. As seen at SXSW 2000 in Austin, the usual glut of alt-country and pop bands at showcase summits has given way to the sound of hiphop, house, funk, techno, R&B and soul.
Says giddy NXNE honcho Andy McLean, "I've never had to supply so many sets of SL-1200 turntables before. It's amazing!"
One of NXNE's most-anticipated events will be the two-night Molson Canadian Energy Pit Party (229 Richmond West) featuring DJ sets from Detroit techno kingpin Kevin Saunderson, phunky Philadelphian Mocean Worker, Mastermind, Flipside, Kenny Glasgow, Tim Patrick and Mark Masters along with live performances by Elwood and Starling.
As well, the Comfort Zone hosts three solid nights of hot underground hiphop led by Citizen Kane, Mathematik, Nefarious and Prhyme Suspek, while the Kathedral, Reverb and Holy Joe's will be turned into one giant funhouse get-down on Friday (June 9) featuring local lyrical swordsmen Brassmunk, Checkmate, Solitare and Dan-E-O. The ladies get busy at B-Side's Where My Girls At night Thursday (June 8) with Michie Mee, Stella Brown, True and Motion.
Of course, that's just part of the action. Also at this year's blowout:
* Fabulously named Bloomington, Indiana, label Secretly Canadian hits town with two bands, twisted pop crew Swearing at Motorists -- fronted by Guided by Voices' Don Thrasher -- and Palace knockoffs Songs: Ohia, who roll out the self-described "prairie death songs" from their brand new The Lioness album.
* Former Inbreds bassist/vocalist Mike O'Neill has been lying low for the last year, but the songwriter returns to NXNE to unveil the gorgeous, vaguely orchestral pop songs from his forthcoming solo debut, What Happens Now? No word on whether he'll bring the string section with him.
* Raunchy Montreal glamorama threat Café ïne just about tore the lid off the El Mocambo when they touched down in April, thanks to the table-hopping, hip-stroking shenanigans of extroverted howler Xavier Café ïne. A new batch of songs recorded in English suggests the group means business about cracking the rest of Canada and will use their NXNE gig as a stepping stone. Miss them at your peril.