Calvin Love. Photo by Sarah Greene.
Shirtless Calvin Love at the Silver Dollar
Edmonton's Calvin Love was sweating before he even started his 11 p.m. set at the Silver Dollar - the last of four NXNE shows for the band. Wearing a suit jacket (just the jacket) and pants, he shimmied, swayed, and belted his way through a set that disregarded the confines of a festival slot; it could have gone on quite a bit longer and was a total breath of stale, gritty, rock and roll air. Despite prolonged bass amp issues, the band relentlessly plowed on, marrying synth-heavy dance sounds with psychedelic rockabilly and loads of charisma. Love was mesmerizing and his band (with and without a bassist) rocked.
Smiling Buddha's sweaty basement
While not officially part of NXNE, the Family party in Smiling Buddha's basement took full advantage of the late-night last call given to the bar for the festival and functioned as one of the better NXNE after-parties. DJs Liam Crockard and Andycapp played a widely eclectic mix of weirdo house, hip-hop, disco, booty, and even drum 'n' bass to an appreciative dance floor. It was a bit unclear whether the wet floor was a result of the steamy condensation in the hot room or an over-flowing toilet, but let's assume it was the former. Makes you wonder why more NXNE venues with extended last call didn't take more advantage of it by booking great DJs.
Mike Milosh's wife tells off obnoxious Rhye fan
What better venue to drink in the delicate soul-pop stylings of Rhye than historic Massey Hall? The group's pared-back interpretations of songs off last year's acclaimed Woman album emphasized a hushed romanticism, subtle rhythms and Toronto-bred singer Mike Milosh's studio-quality falsetto that could melt buttah faster than Barbra Streisand (and for only a fraction of her price of entry). Unfortunately, a speed freak in the left balcony was intent on incoherent and vaguely R-rated heckling between songs. "My parents are here," Milosh retorted at one point to no avail. When the heckler proceeded to double-time clap off beat throughout a particularly minimal moment, Milosh's wife stood up from the opposite balcony and screamed "SHUT UP! GO HOME!" drawing approving glances from the stage and around the theater.
Small child steals the Spoon show
A small child hoisted on her father's shoulders and in a game of catch-and-release with one of the beach balls bouncing over the Yonge-Dundas crowd earned the kind of enthusiastic cheers Spoon were unable to attain during their Saturday headlining set. The band sounded fine and their best songs were on display, but the performance lacked spontaneity and energy - unlike the little girl shyly but happily playing in public. It isn't easy to feel a sense of togetherness at a place like Y-D Square, but for those few minutes everyone in the vicinity smiled at her and each other, cheered each time she caught the ball, cheered louder when she flimsily chucked it a few feet ahead, and then returned our attention back to the stage.
CARLA GILLIS (photo by ROGER CULLMAN)
Kelela fans don't need a dancefloor
In a way, Massey Hall is a great venue for the LA-based electro-R&B singer Kelela. The storied acoustics did her impressive range justice, as her clear-as-bell soprano rang out with just enough reverb. But Kelela fans probably aren't used to sitting in plush seats. The performer seems better suited to clubs like Wrongbar, the venue she played on Friday night, where the audience can groove to her slow jams. But early on in her 9 pm set at Massey, it was clear the Kelela faithful were not content to sit still. And rather than standing in their seats and blocking the view of those of us who were relishing this opporunity to take a load off, they moved to Massey's aisles and were gathered together, head- and hip-swaying, like a slow-mo dancefloor, occasionally breaking out to walk up and snap a photo. It was the epitome of a good-vibes love-in; fans making the most of the space while still respecting their fellow concertgoers. So, pretty much the opposite of what those couple of obnoxious Rhye fans did just an hour later.