NXNE 2015: Pet Sun @ The Silver Dollar

FRIDAY – We were pretty trashed by the time we stumbled into the Silver Dollar. Pet Sun were playing one of the late slots on Friday, taking the stage in the wee hours of the morning — that time of night when the number of beers you've had is more of an abstraction than a concrete figure. But trashed is a pretty good way to stumble into the Dollar. And it's a pretty good way to see Pet Sun, too. The Hamilton punks are a blur. A roar. An earthquake. A fist. A bloody fight in a parking lot you can't remember. The promise of a Saturday morning hangover made of fuzzy memories and purple bruises. They are a rising wave of electricity and distortion vibrating through the thick air of a hot room. They are loud. They are raw. And they are good.


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Read all our coverage of NXNE 2015 here.

Words and photos by Adam Bunch, Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project and Toronto Historical Jukebox. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at adam@littleredumbrella.com.


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NXNE 2015: Michael Rault @ The Garrison

SATURDAY – It wasn't so long ago that a Michael Rault show was a bit of a rare treat in Toronto. The retro rocker originally called Edmonton home, with thousands of kilometers between his catchy, '60s-inspired tunes and the bars of Queen West and the Ossington strip. But oh how things have changed. Rault made the move to Toronto a few years ago. And in the short time since, he has already become one of the most reliable staples of the local indie scene.

He delivered yet another solid set on North By Northeast's Saturday night, playing in the backroom of the Garrison. But he was, sadly, a little bit hobbled by an early set time: the sun was still high above the horizon; the room was only half full at best. The scheduling was a shame: Rault plays the kind of raucous garage rock that would turn a late night and a full room into a drunken sweaty mess of a party. Still, those who were at Garrison for his NXNE gig were treated to yet another display of Rault's seemingly endless supply of hooky tunes, climaxing with a blistering rendition of "Suckcess."


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Read all our coverage of NXNE 2015 here.

Words and photos by Adam Bunch, Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project and Toronto Historical Jukebox. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at adam@littleredumbrella.com.


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NXNE 2015: Planet Creature @ Smiling Buddha

SATURDAY – The fine folks at Wavelength took over Smiling Buddha for five full nights during this year's North By Northeast. And on Saturday night, they partnered with Optical Sounds to showcase five bands from the fuzzy Toronto label, including The Auras and B-17. But the set we were most excited to catch was the ten o'clock slot: the one belonging to Planet Creature. And they didn't disappoint. Bathed in the blue and yellow light of a psychedelic projection, the shoegazey Toronto outfit blazed through a set of their washed-out pop. For the half hour they were on stage, it was all hooks and distortion. And the crowd — enjoying one of the all-too-rare NXNE line-ups featuring a consistent feel for an entire night — followed along at every turn.


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Read all our coverage of NXNE 2015 here.

Words by Adam Bunch, Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project and Toronto Historical Jukebox. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at adam@littleredumbrella.com.

Photos by Carmen Cheung, the Arts Editor for The Little Red Umbrella.


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NXNE 2015: Mexican Slang @ The Silver Dollar

SATURDAY – It was a late, sweaty, Saturday summer night. And the Silver Dollar was packed. The crowd filled the dark space between the bar and the stage as Mexcian Slang burned through their set. The air throbbed with the distorted, retro garage rock of the Buzz Records signees. The lights cycled through a slow kaleidoscope: red, purple, blue. And under those lights, frontwoman Annabelle Lee kept the audience entranced until the final rough notes faded from the air. Then the crowd spilled back out onto the Spadina sidewalk, heading off to their next show or grabbing a quick smoke before the next set, their ears buzzing, their heads filled with the raw, electric hooks of one of Toronto's best fuzzy punk bands. 


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Read all our coverage of NXNE 2015 here.

Words by Adam Bunch, Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project and Toronto Historical Jukebox. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at adam@littleredumbrella.com.

Photos by Carmen Cheung, the Arts Editor for The Little Red Umbrella.


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NXNE 2015: Mozart's Sister @ Lee's Palace

THURSDAY – We've seen Mozart's Sister play in all sorts of venues. In the dank dark of the Comfort Zone basement. In the red glow of the lights on stage at the Garrison. In the golden sunset of a backyard in Little Portugal. But Thursday night's set at Lee's Palace — part of the epic celebration of Paper Bag Records' 100th release — may very well have been the biggest, most confident set we've seen Caila Thompson-Hannant play yet. The Montreal electro queen was, as always, a captivating presence, coaxing synthetic noises from her instruments, her voice a beguiling shape-shifter, always moving, never still.

But that was only the beginning. As the brief set neared its end, Paul Saulnier was waiting in the wings, beginning to slide his fingers across the strings of his electric guitar. The PS I Love You guitarist is easily one of the best our country has to offer. And when he stepped out into the bright lights, his fingers now a blistering blur, an electric roar took Mozart's Sister's electro-pop to a new level. It was a jaw-dropping moment. As Saulnier let loose, Thompson-Hannant was swept away, buckling first to her knees and then collapsing completely on the stage, spent. As the night's host, the CBC's Lana Gay, pointed out later: even the musicians in the green room all crowded to the window overlooking the stage, witnessing a moment that is bound to stand as one of the highlights of this year's festival.


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Read all our coverage of NXNE 2015 here.

Words by Adam Bunch, Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project and Toronto Historical Jukebox. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at adam@littleredumbrella.com.

Photos by Carmen Cheung, the Arts Editor for The Little Red Umbrella.


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NXNE 2015: Alana Yorke @ Lee's Palace

THURSDAY – Paper Bag Records celebrated their 100th release in style on Thursday night, filling the stage of Lee's Palace with a whirlwind of bands — many of them familiar staples of the Toronto music world, like Young Rival, Laura Barrett, and even some of Broken Social Scene. But one of the standout acts was making her very first appearance in Toronto. Alana Yorke is from Halifax; her debut is only a few months old.

With 16 different bands sharing the stage, each performance was brief: Yorke only had time for three songs. But the quick set made for a perfect introduction to a new audience. Yorke lists Kate Bush and Enya among her influences, and it's easy to see them in the gentle majesty of her piano-based tunes, now quiet, now dark, now soaring and bright. On a night celebrating so many big names, it wasn't easy for the newer acts to make their mark. But Yorke did just that. Not a bad way to make a first impression.

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Read all our coverage of NXNE 2015 here.

Words by Adam Bunch, Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project and Toronto Historical Jukebox. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at adam@littleredumbrella.com.

Photos by Carmen Cheung, the Arts Editor for The Little Red Umbrella.


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NXNE 2015: How Sad @ Handlebar

FRIDAY – We were a bit late getting to Handlebar on Friday night — the Bathurst streetcar had been turned into a shitshow thanks to the Taste of Little Italy. So by the time we walked into the bar, How Sad's set was already in full swing. But that only made their first impression even more striking. The band had been given the challenge of an early 8 o'clock set; maybe not the best fit for the kind of dance-happy pop songs that beg for the abandon of a late night crowd. But in the purple light at the back of the bar, far from the bright daylight of Augusta Avenue, the Montreal indie poppers were bouncing through their catchy tunes. Frontman Harris Shper was a bundle of barely restrained energy, his arms shaking, his body twisting, as if it were taking all of his effort to keep himself from leaping out into the crowd.

And that crowd responded in kind. They filled the space at the front of the stage, dancing along to the band's seemingly endless supply of catchy, upbeat hooks. And as they did, it was easy to forget just how early it was. As the set climaxed and the final notes of "Indian Summer" faded away, it was a shock to head back out in the light of Kensington, the sun only just now beginning to set. How Sad had turned day into night.


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Read all our coverage of NXNE 2015 here.

Words and photos by Adam Bunch, Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project and Toronto Historical Jukebox. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at adam@littleredumbrella.com.


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NXNE 2015: Yamantaka // Sonic Titan @ Lee's Palace

THURSDAY – There were lots of big names at Lee's Palace on Thursday night as Paper Bag Records celebrated their 100th release. Born Ruffians. PS I Love You. Even members of Broken Social Scene. Sixteen different bands were scheduled to take the stage during the epic, seven-hour show. It was a marathon. By the time the wee hours of the morning rolled around, the weeknight crowd had begun to thin. But those who stayed were treated to one of the highlights of this year's North By Northeast: a set by one of the most striking live acts in the country.

It's not every band in Canada who can say their influences include everything from prog rock to Kabuki theatre, from metal to Chinese opera. It seems a bizarre mix. But seeing Yamantaka // Sonic Titan live, those strange influences make complete sense — and are far from just a gimmick. Stepping out under the lights all dressed in black, their faces white with paint, the band members seemed almost like ghosts on stage. But their music is far from insubstantial. At Lee's Palace this Thursday night, it was a physical force, thundering through air as the band blazed through a too-brief roar of a set.



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Read all our coverage of NXNE 2015 here.

Words and photos by Adam Bunch, Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project and Toronto Historical Jukebox. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at adam@littleredumbrella.com.



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Meet The Band: Midday Swim

A version of this post was originally published on March 5, 2015.

"A day at the beach." That's how the summery Toronto indie rockers Midday Swim describe their music. "Our sound is deep and heavy, and it washes over you in waves, but on the surface it's carefree and sunny." It's also very catchy. "We essentially write pop songs," they explain, "we've had audience members singing along with us to brand new material by the time the final chorus rolls around (which is a really great feeling)."

Listening to a song like "Summer Eyes," it's clear the band is best suited to the carefree days of June, July and August. And while Midday Swim were busy during the cold winter months, too — playing the Horseshoe as part of Indie 88's Nu Music Night and releasing a brand new slow-burning single, "We Got The Feeling," among other things — this is surely the weather they're meant for. They'll be hitting the stage at Sneaky Dee's tonight (Friday) as part of the AB Co. NXNE showcase and will be in Trinity Bellwoods on Sunday for the Great Heart Festival.

Before then, get to know them a little bit better:


VITALS


Members: David Krygier-Baum (Vocals, Guitars); Stephan Ermel (Keyboards, Vocals); Sebastian Shinwell (Guitar, Vocals); Craig Saltz (Bass, Vocals); Max Trefler (Drums)

Hometown: Toronto



FIVE QUESTIONS


1. If you could open for one current band that you haven't played with before, who would it be?

We’d love to open for Kurt Vile. I’m not sure how his fans would react to our music, but whenever we listen to Smoke Ring for My Halo.We’re blown away by how well crafted and intelligent his music is, while still seeming apathetic and sedative. You get the sense that his lyrics are very misleading. On the one hand he sounds like he sits around all day doing nothing, but you know there’s no way that’s actually true.


2. If you could play one venue you've never played before, what would it be?

It would maybe have to be a variation of tunes, but Roy Thompson Hall or Massey Hall would be a dream. Even with the best sound guy/girl, it sometimes feels like you’re fighting a venue’s acoustics. We’d love to set up our gear at Roy Thompson Hall and just start wailing.


3. What’s the craziest live show you've ever seen?

Crazy show? Back in their heyday a couple of us went and saw Sigur Ros live at Massey Hall. It felt like our faces were melting off. We might have just been crying though, it’s pretty emotional music.


4. Say, for some strange reason, all the music in the world is going to be destroyed, but you can save all the songs from one decade. Which decade's records would you save?

That’s an impossible question to answer! Does it make us huge nerds to admit that we’ve genuinely considered this in the event of a Zombie Apocalypse? It’s basically like the desert island question with way higher stakes, because it includes all of mankind. We would argue that any decade would be as important as the next. But if we had to choose, we would say the last decade. At least the totality of music would find its way in what is being created now and it would all survive as being influential.


5. If you were going to be a groupie for one band, who would it be?

Milk Carton Kids. Not many bands are making music as beautiful as them.



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LINKS


Website: www.middayswim.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/middayswim
 
Twitter: @MiddaySwim

Bandcamp: middayswim.bandcamp.com


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Meet The Band is a regular feature in which we introduce you to bands we like.

 




Posted by Adam Bunch, the Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at adam@littleredumbrella.com.


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