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Golden Teacher and Goat get their leotard on
Unhinged dancing by women musicians in bodysuits is becoming the theme of my NXNE, and I say: bring it on. Golden Teacher did just that at their 11 pm set at Lee's Palace on Friday night. Presumably named after the potent strain of magic mushroom, the collab between Glasgow noise punks Ultimate Thrush and analogue house duo Silk Cut got animalistic during a set that never let up for a moment, with one of their dancer/singers rocking it big-time in a leopard-print onesie. When the two wildly costumed women lead singers of Swedish experimental fusion collective Goat took over next, things only got crazier. (Also in common: anonymity. Apparently band members dislike using names these days.)
Kelela gets a surprise visitor at Wrongbar
Moments into the first of Kelela's two NXNE sets, the future-forward R&B singer flung her long braids into the crowd and began furiously kissing another extremely stylish looking woman with long braids at the foot of the stage. The Kelela Kult? Turns out her best friend from Atlanta is in town to sing with Lauryn Hill at Sound Academy and decided to surprise her with another one of the former Fugee's backup singers. "They're sangers," Kelela giddily told the audience. If their presence made her nervous, it was to the audience's benefit. The precise nature of her minimalist and eccentric club beats (provided by DJ Total Freedom) might seem like music for the head rather than the heart, but the raw energy and openness she projected onstage was full-bodied and infectious. By the time she jumped into the crowd to belt out the title track from last year's excellent Cut 4 Me mixtape, it felt like R&B's past and future colliding.
Yonge-Dundas Square clapping for Swans
We know that Swans can be an amazing live band, but let's face it, the NYC experimental rock legends aren't exactly the most accessible sounding band. Putting them on the big outdoor stage at Yonge-Dundas Square meant that a lot of unprepared people were subjected to them for the first time. But their churning wall of noise went over far better than expected, and they received a generous amount of applause at the end. Frontman Michael Gira's stern glare even seemed to turn into a genuine smile for a moment. Sure, random passersby occasionally looked a bit terrified, but overall Toronto proved to be much more open minded than our reputation suggests.
Macaulay Culkin saying, "This next song is going to be about pizza"
It's in bad taste to do pizza-centric parodies of Velvets songs so soon after Lou Reed has passed, right? Yet the Pizza Underground's musically minimal, groan-inducing pizza-lunch set at Edward Day Gallery felt more satisfying than some of the slicker, more earnest Reed tributes that have been going down. Wielding a pizza box/drum with a Canadian maple leaf on it as if it were a protective talisman (and perhaps they needed it - the band got pelted with all kinds of shit in the UK recently, including beer), the PU played medleys spanning the VU catalogue and beyond, many prefaced by singer Macaulay Culkin saying, "this next song is going to be about pizza" while a bored-looking guy in Andy Warhol garb filmed from behind. Surprisingly, some of the most somber songs made the best parodies, including Cheese Days (Nico's These Days) - technically not a Reed song (it was written by Jackson Browne). There was also a short guest set by Kurt Cobain'd (Nirvana songs in the past tense, of course).
Danny Brown in his element at Mod Club
The last time Danny Brown was in Toronto, he seemed a little disconnected with his surroundings (the Danforth Music Hall) and screaming fans. The wild, eccentric, known-for-his-stage-antics performer was a little turned down. Not the case at all for NXNE. After hanging out side stage for St. Vincent's Yonge-Dundas Square set, Brown made his way to the Mod Club to headline the NOW showcase in the midnight slot. Emerging with a red plastic cup and more tongue-wagging than even Miley can muster, he tore through his most rap-a-long-able songs, having the rammed audience shouting "blunt after blunt after blunt after blunt after blunt after blunt" with emphatic glee. He also busted out his most danceable tunes like Dip; at one point, a little mosh pit threatened to break out up front. Saying he loved Toronto and that our city was worth the hassle he always gets at the border, Brown proved why he might not be the country's most sought-after guest, smoking a joint onstage and saying, "I just wanna know where the fuckin' molly at in this motherfucker."