Attempting to present all facets of club culture in one venue, the NXNE Block Party suffered from musical schizophrenia. DJs who wouldn't otherwise ever hit the same club played short sets, which meant that there was no chance of building any momentum.
The vibe never really got to the level of a real party, though some performers did manage to transcend the parking-lot ambience at Queen and John and make an impression.
Playing early on Friday, it was good to hear Jo Jo Flores throw down his signature deep latin house without resorting to the hits.
Also on the latin house tip, Pan Con Queso joined DJ Peter Jarvis (aka Play Records' Peace Harvest) Saturday afternoon, laying down some sizzling live percussion, trumpet and vocals over his mixes. Look out for a 12-inch and CD by month's end.
As for DJ Keoki, anyone who insists on calling himself "Superstar" needs to be knocked down a few notches. He played tacky trance pop and then stopped after three songs. It's a wonder he's still around.
On the more tasteful side of club music, Tyler and Jarrett Green's live PA got the crowd moving to their deep electronic thump reminiscent of early 90s Detroit techno.
T-dot hiphop was definitely the buzz of this year's festival, but it was the surprise unhyped gigs that stood out. MC Abs and DJ Fase made a guest appearance at the Kathedral after their Comfort Zone gig Thursday and brought the house down with Abs' "Excuse me while I take a breath" routine.
The next night, upstairs at Holy Joe's, Hip Hop Unplugged... It's A Jazz Thing featured an ace band backing up a casual, unlisted program of hiphop MCs, beatboxing, scat singing and dub poetry.
Dub poet Peculiar I warmed up the crowd with spoken word over funky, almost free jazz without resorting to any beatnik clichés.
By 11 the place was packed and buzzing with energy as MC Skitz got the crowd whoopin' and hollerin' with his tight rhyming.
Later, hiphop upstarts Equinox and Kamau did some extended free-styling, moving from conscious ranting to humorous word play.
live not live
Septet Directions is one of the few groups in the jazz house genre that can lay claim to an original sound.
Performing Friday at the Reverb, they played a mellow and smooth set, at times reminiscent of Sade but with the band we wish she had. If you're into the Spiritual Life and Ibadan Records sound, you'll want to check them out.
Across town at B-Side, Codex proved that fusing rock and triphop is still not always a good idea. They started out with some jazzy atmospheric Moving Shadow-style drum 'n' bass, but the guitar and bass seemed like afterthoughts.
After a few meandering jams, they slowed down the beats to triphop speed and added whiny modern rock vocals, losing all remaining credibility.