Yonge and Dundas square, the site of NXNE’s indie market, can be a confusing, contradictory space. While the advertising and Eaton Centre architecture seems to be mimicking New York City, the space is conspicuously missing one major component that makes NYC so cool: significant amounts of urban foliage.
That complaint out of the way, I was curious to see what NXNE’s indie music market had in store.
Upon arrival I was informed by a staffer that only half of the tents in the square were part of NXNE’s setup. Tents to one side were part of a different “artisans market.”
So what was part of the indie music market and what wasn’t?
Was that plastic woolly mammoth surrounded by topless cavemen part of NXNE’s indie music presence? Astonishingly, the answer was yes.
The two Neolithic hunters (named Phil and Jacob) told me they were hired off Craigslist by Warner to hawk the universally panned CGI “history” flick 10,000 B.C. They both seemed like nice dudes, but it was impossible to figure out what—if anything—10,000 B.C. has to do with indie music and the North By Northeast Festival.
Other corporate booths that were part of the market were more in-line with the present state of music: there’s the XM satellite and Guitar Hero demos, some t-shirt companies, an even a few bands from the festival selling CDs, pins and pushing their respective showcases.
Mark Christopher (guitarist in Vancouver power-poppers Danny Echo who play Lee’s Palace Saturday at 9 p.m.) was one of the those. Across his ultra-coordinated merch table, he told me that being part of the indie market has been a good experience, but he also wondered if the square’s tourist-heavy demographic are really all that likely to embrace the rock scene and turn up at a random showcase. Probably not.
Taken as a whole the indie music market left me feeling ambivalent. Letting bands from all over the globe set up booths in a downtown space is a cool idea, and some of the bands playing the large main stage (Small Sins, The Death Set) are worth checking out. On the downside, the market aspect is less about indie music and more about big business marketing music related products (and nonsensical tie-ins like 10,000 B.C.) to tourists and indie musicians.
If the festival really wanted to create an authentic-feeling indie music nexus they should partner with actual indie music entities like Wavelength, ALL CAPS, Soundscapes, Keith Hamilton’s Pitter Patter Nights, and Whippersnapper Gallery in an area like Kensington, the Annex, or Trinity Bellwoods Park. The current setup at Yonge and Dundas square lacks a tight focus on good music, and feels more like a tourist trap than a cool market place.