The five best things we saw last night at NXNE (Wednesday)

Kate Tempest wins the first night of NXNE


Wreckless Eric’s stage banter at the Garrison

Wreckless Eric’s brand of power pop – “bubblegum with dementia,” he told Canadian customs – went over slightly better than Jessica Pratt’s wispy folk tunes on a late first night at NXNE. After calling Paris a “shit hole” and admitting he’d much rather be right where he was standing than France’s capital, Eric Goulden ended with Whole Wide World. Pratt’s delicate, finger-picked songs pushed through even when some attendees needed a shushing but were still a bit low-key for the venue, her fragile voice just barely floating over the crowd noise. Her set tonight at Berkeley Church should fare better.

MATT WILLIAMS | @MattGeeWilliams


Kate Tempest’s intense tour-ender

The best part of going to a festival is not just stumbling onto a captivating performer you’ve never seen before but realizing many others in the audience are as well. South London poet and MC Kate Tempest had Adelaide Hall’s undivided attention with an absorbing performance that combined Patti Smith’s frantic, rhythmic poetics with the breathless ferocity of a battle rapper. Playing the final gig on a North American tour, Tempest and her three-piece band clearly wanted to make it count. 

KEVIN RITCHIE | @kevinritchie


Glorious singing voices at the Horseshoe

If vocal harmonies are your thing, the Horseshoe was the place to be last night. Jacco Gardner’s soft-psych, led by his gentle singing, came vividly to life thanks to his bandmates’ Kings of Convenience-level backing harmonies and baroque-touched arrangements. Moon King’s Maddy Wilde and Danny Woodhead, fresh from a lotta touring, took a more forceful approach, delivering robust close harmonies punctuated by Woodhead’s passionate stage moves and Wilde’s flinging of her long locks over and around her electric guitar. Lower Dens’ Jana Hunter is a mighty vocalist, too, and with a self-assured stage presence, but somehow the Baltimore band’s set lost impact by the end. 

CARLA GILLIS | @carlagillis


Blonde Redhead

Photo credit: Sarah Greene

Blonde Redhead’s commitment to wind chimes

While Ibeyi and Tasseomancy played Mod Club, a different set of twins brought shoegazey dream pop to the NOW showcase at the Opera House: Blonde Redhead’s Simone and Amedeo Pace, along with bandmate Kuzu Makino, sounded downright symphonic at times (samples, pedals and synths certainly helped). Simone’s drumming, in particular, was unstoppably fun. With a combo of mallets, brushes and shakers in hand, he employed a frequent – practically every second song – unironic use of chimes. A very tall super-fan in a suit near the front seemed to be having a great time until the end, when he could be heard complaining loudly that the band didn’t play more from their 2007 album 23.

SARAH GREENE | @sarahegreene


Zola Jesus

Photo credit: Benjamin Boles

Zola Jesus prowling the stage like a caged animal 

Recent recordings by Zola Jesus have seen her move further away from her experimental roots and toward R&B influences, but she’s definitely not a conventional pop singer when it comes to performing. She prowled the pitch-black stage like a caged animal, only occasionally made visible by flashes from cellphone cameras in the crowd. As intense a performer as she is, though, the scariest moment of the night came earlier, when one of Doomsquad’s tables of gear collapsed noisily to the ground as they were setting up. Thankfully the mishap didn’t appear to impact their hypnotic electronic drone rock.

BENJAMIN BOLES | @benjaminboles

Want to see some shows too? Go to nxne.com for the full schedule.

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