Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images
For sheer spectacle and spontaneity, you can't beat Yonge-Dundas Square during NXNE. Tens of thousands of music fans spread out like a sea across a closed-down Yonge Street and beyond, watching Iggy Pop pump his leathery fists in 2010 and Wayne Coyne crowd-surf inside a giant see-through bubble in 2012.
This year, St. Vincent's Annie Clark will deliver the freak-show goods when she brings her astounding, self-titled new avant-pop album to the masses. Expect her shock of purple-white hair, alluringly robotic moves and fret board pyrotechnics at 9 pm on Friday (June 20), following what's sure to be a massive eardrum blast from New York City post-punks Swans. Also on the bill: Omar Souleyman's electronic take on Middle Eastern music and the melodic punk of Leeds's Eagulls.
Closing-night YDS shows have become synonymous with rap over the last few years, and 2014 is no different. Juicy J headlines the Sunday (June 22) closer at 9 pm, preceded by the El-P/Killer Mike collab Run the Jewels, hip-hop hardcore punks RatKing, 14-year-old Astro (from X Factor), Toronto's own electro-hip-hoppers Ain't No Love, plus Krazy Drayz, Mibbs and Flex the Antihero.
Saturday night (June 21) is heavy on indie rock, with minimalist soul-rock band Spoon, breezy weirdo Mac DeMarco and fuzz-poppers Alvvays. Hip-hop fans have another reason to rejoice when Detroit alt rapper Danny Brown takes the stage Thursday, June 19, right before noise punks Sleigh Bells and after hometown industrial-shoegazers Odonis Odonis.
Good news for cyclists: there'll be a bike valet on the premises, operated by Cycle Toronto. Like the shows, it's free.
And brand-new this year: a primely positioned, elevated VIP section for wristband- and badge-holders.