The best of NXNE: Saturday

Rae Sremmurd gets a new fan, Angel Olsen's date with Toronto, a supergroup that doesn't suck and Jumbotron hilarity at Yonge-Dundas Square

Rae Sremmurd gains a new disciple 

Confession time: I didn’t know who Rae Sremmurd were until I was assigned to review this show last week. I live under a rock, apparently. The Mississippi-based duo of brothers Swae Lee and Slim Jimmy released a critically acclaimed debut earlier this winter and are in the midst of a world tour. Prior to the show, I learned that SremmLife involved bad bitches, partying and wearing designer ski goggles – and to be honest, I didn’t glean much more about the 20-something bros at their sold-out Danforth Music Hall show. But, that’s okay. Rae Sremmurd whipped the crowd into a frenzy as soon as their DJ dropped the first beat. The duo jumped across the stage for what seemed like the entirety of their 45-minute set, their rhymes sounding more furious and grisly than childish like they do at times on record. Producer Mike Will Made It’s hooky beats ignited constant dancing, even from this awkwardly green reviewer. Consider me converted. 

Opener Jazz Cartier lived up to the pressure he’s courted to become Toronto’s next big rapper. Even though his vocals sounded raspy – he said he was losing his voice after day 4 of NXNE – he sounded like a force throughout his 30-minute set, especially on New Religion. He doesn’t have the party hooks of Rae Sremmurd – but he doesn’t need him. His chameleon-like rapping style had us enraptured. (And also, his video projection, which included a mash-up of the most gruesome deaths from Final Destination, the Shining and clips from the indie romance film, Like Crazy.)


Obliterations obliterating Lee’s

Last night was a night full of bands playing good songs, and also howling personal torment, me-wise. Last time I saw them, on Valentine’s Day of this year, reeling from my own worthlessness in all things romantic and personal, Obliterations singer Sam James Velde threw a piece of ceiling at my face, and called me out for “scowling” at him. (It’s just my unpleasant face at rest, buddy.) Last night, at Lee’s Palace — no such luck. The band played a great, fun, angry, set, opening for Mission Of Burma. No real chaos, but the band’s spiked hardcore proves sort of basically satisfying, like a well-made ham sandwich or a chugged beer warming your insides. Velde did make fun of the corporate upholstery, in the form of Absolut-branded blacklight stickers slapped on walls of Lee’s, saying that the company should sell psychedelics, not vodka. But fighting corporate sponsorship at NXNE feels like an uphill battle.

JOHN SEMLEY | @johnsemley3000


Sarah Greene

Angel Olsen

Angel Olsen’s date with Toronto

“I wore a dress for you because we’re on a date,” said Angel Olsen to a packed Mod Club. “I hope you like it.” The singer was clearly a little nervous going on alone, in contrast to Ryley Walker’s five-piece jazzy blues band, who’d just spent their 40 minutes or so on a handful of elongated jams. “This is intense,” she said. But the audience fulfilled their end of the bargain by really listening. When Olsen stumbled on the lyrics to Unfucktheworld the crowd carried the tune for her and when she pulled out a cover of Tougher Than The Rest, she shared a chuckle that her friend said it’s the best song she’s written yet.

SARAH GREENE | @sarahegreene

A supergroup that doesn’t suck

Supergroups usually seem like good concepts on paper, but rarely live up to the promise as much as Darlene Shrugg did at the Garrison. The band is made up of members of Slim Twig, US Girls, Ice Cream, and Tropics, and sound like what happens when art punk weirdos unapologetically give into their classic rock urges. The riffs are huge, the guitar solos blazing, and the drums are pounding. No wonder we spotted PS I Love You’s Paul Saulnier in the crowd, singing along at the top of his lungs. Too bad the overly chatty crowd at the back of the room threatened to drown Jennifer Castle’s quiet intimate folk set earlier in the night.

BENJAMIN BOLES | @benjaminboles


Benjamin Boles

Darlene Shrugg

Jumbotron hand gestures during the New Pornographers

You can always expect a pro performance from the New Pornographers, and we got one at their headlining Yonge-Dundas Square show, complete with witty banter from singer/guitarist Carl Newman – “I’m really feeling advertised to,” he quipped – and gorgeous harmonies between Newman and keyboardist Kathryn Calder. But much more LOL-entertaining were the smart asses near the Jumbotron camera, thumping crutches and gesturing shadow-puppet-style in time to the power pop, even making a hand job motion at one point before the camera quickly panned up. The goofballs kept it up the whole show, and we found ourselves looking more forward to the anonymous gesticulations on the big screens than to what song was coming next.

CARLA GILLIS | @carlagillis

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