Killer Mike before the backstage dance-off. But, you get the idea. Photo by Jason Gordon.
Killer Mike dancing to Juicy J
Sure, we saw some of Killer Mike's dance moves onstage both Saturday night at Adelaide Hall and Sunday at Yonge-Dundas Square. But he really busted them out after Run The Jewels were done their shows, backstage during Juicy J's headlining set. Pleasantly bopping along to the rapper's newer tunes, Mike was suddenly jubilant when J dipped into his Three 6 Mafia catalogue with Stay Fly, bouncing around backstage like a kid at his first concert, whipping around his towel then throwing it back over his shoulder. Awesome thing about festivals: seeing how famous people still get super excited to see other famous people.
White Poppy offering midday chill time
I should clarify that White Poppy's outdoor set in the Edward Day Gallery courtyard wasn't the most exciting performance to watch. The live show consisted of the Vancouver-based artist noodling on her guitar, pressing a couple buttons (many of the rhythm sections were pre-programmed) and fiddling with effects pedals. But Crystal Dorval's music also provided the perfect soundtrack to savour a little midday R&R. She transported us to dreamy ambient soundscapes, lush with delicate looping layers of keyboards and strings and crashing ocean waves. Not surprisingly, blissed-out festivalgoers took a load off on the only available seating - a smattering of picnic tables covered in empties.
Side note: Dear festival organizers, next year, please consider sanctioning official NXNE (NAP X NORTHEAST) quarters for much-needed siestas.
Unfinished Business reminding us school sucks, haunted houses rule, and it's funny when people fall down
Three years ago, the now teenaged girls in Unfinished Business met in elementary school and honed their shredding skills at Girls Rock Camp Toronto. Since then, they've played alongside Fucked Up at Long Winter, opened for Mac DeMarco and released their debut LP, Mix and Mash (Heretical Objects Cooperative and Wyrd Distro). Now the band can add headlining NXNE Festival Village at Edward Day Gallery to their bio. The trio play quick and dirty punk-pop ditties that focus on all the important things in a 13-year-old's life, like how much school sucks and haunted houses rule, epic fails, and why it's OK to laugh when people trip and fall down. Lead singer and guitarist Sita rocked out on a killer cream-coloured axe while belting out "FAIL FAIL FAIL FAIL...THAT'S WHAT I CALL AN EPIC FAIL." My own epic fail? Not picking up their LP on vinyl and a kitten-emblazoned band t-shirt.
The Lytics drawing a crowd at Ryerson
You know when a band starts jamming outside in a kind of random spot with no one around, and then little by little people start trickling in, gathering in their shared appreciation for the music? Until yesterday, I thought that only happened in TV commercials. But then I caught Winnipeg hip-hop quintet Lytics playing on a Red Bull party bus on Ryerson campus, and witnessed that exact thing. The positivity-fuelled group - made up of three emcees, one singer/emcee with a mean falsetto, plus a DJ - started performing for a handful of scattered spectators, but wound up attracting a pretty hefty crowd of charmed passersby with their poppier style of throwback, Tribe-ian hip-hop. There were even a couple of swooning young women with stars in their eyes.
Ratking's full-throated intensity
Three-man "post-hip-hop" trio Ratking make fresh-sounding, decidedly New York rap influenced by forces as disparate as soul, noise, reggae and experimental punk. At YDS, the teenagers displayed an undeniably punk spirit. Even when the crowd energy lagged at times - expected for an audience that had been in the sun for hours - emcees Hak and Wiki were committed. Wiki - the more energetic of the two - spent much of his time bopping from side to side, spitting his dense verses with an impressive full-throated intensity. Hak, meanwhile, notably more reserved, unleashed his reggae-infused flows in a controlled, self-possessed manner that belied his youth.