Segarini: NXNE 2012! UPDATED!

Geoff Pevere will be back next week. In his place, here’s Monday’s column today, which makes Friday the new Monday, which is kind of cool that this is being published at all. It is a hectic time in the Republic of Bob. We have been preoccupied with finding a new place to live (which we have) finding the money to facilitate said move (which we haven’t) and dealing with other changes in our steadfast course of the last 8 years or so. All is well, but believe me, I would appreciate it if God (He, She or It) would find someone else to toy with for a little while so I can catch up….did I mention that Geoff will be back next week…oh yeah, I did…never mind.

NXNE or How Can You Be Five Places at Once When You Can Barely Be in One….

Here in Toronto we are blessed with an abundance of music year round. A good, solid raft of dependable venues and scores of independent artists and bands that continually impress, evolve, and mature on local stages, many moving on to regional, then national success, and a surprising number who go on to achieve international status. Per capita, I believe Canada spits out more top ten artists than any other country on the planet. I also believe we release the least Auto-tuned records and depend more on talent than on popular producers, beats, and committee songwriters. However, we are responsible for The Bieber (whom I quite like) and Drake (whose success absolutely mystifies me), and Nickelback (whom I can admire while being absolutely mystified at their success).

In Toronto and its environs (GTA, the Greater Toronto Area, which includes most of Southern Ontario) you can almost always find local artists in the clubs who are as good as anything that is trending out there, and in fact, there are numerous bands working the boards locally that tour frequently, release their own CDs and EPs, and mature before our very eyes and ears all on their own, sometimes with the help of nurturing local labels, while lesser talents, armed to the teeth with a major label, management, and money, fall under the wheels (and radar) of the public, unable to build the kind of following only constant performances and great songs can provide. People keep saying today’s music sucks. To them I say, turn off the radio and go out and hear some real music. You will change your mind…and before anyone sends me an angry email about how such and such a record they heard on the radio is really, really great, yes, there are exceptions, but it could also be we have completely different tastes, criteria, and definitions of ‘great’ that define our enjoyment of mainstream entertainment. Please remember, popularity, celebrity, and financial success, are completely different from, and not dependent upon, musical greatness, good songwriting, or talent.

Sooo…a few times a year Toronto experiences a plague of artists who descend on the city seeking traction for their music, deals with Indie labels headquartered here, and big city audiences to win over and add to their fan base. Blessed as we are with a couple of Jazz Festivals, various Street Celebrations, Luminato, (a city wide art/music/performance art mash-up), and myriad other week long functions like Caribana and Pride Week (both of which provide a wealth of live music), there are three major events that literally overwhelm the venues, the populace, and the city itself with more music than most cities hear in a lifetime. They are Canadian Music Week, which occurs in the Spring, Indie Week, which drops in the Fall, and NXNE, a feast of Indie music that heralds the beginning of Summer every June, and like its sister celebration in Austin Texas, SXSW, has become bigger and more diverse with every passing year.

The only way you would have been able to experience everything on the menu this year would have been to have the speed of The Flash, the livers of David Crosby AND Keith Richard in their prime, the stamina of a porn star, and a shark’s ability to not need sleep. A healthy bladder wouldn’t have hurt, either.

Both Cam Carpenter and Nadia Elkharadly have written about NXNE’s fine selection of movies this week, and Nadia has been running a terrific series on the music in her blog over at the Examiner. Cam continues his coverage in next week’s ABCs of Rock. As much as I wanted to, I didn’t have the time to take in even one film I wanted to see. Nor did I make it to any of the Interactive Panels which drew great crowds this year and made for a lot of spirited conversations about the state of everything from the music itself to everything surrounding it. A lot of these (both the films and the Panels) took place early in the day, and seeing as how I was getting home around 6:00 in the morning every day, I was (understandably, in my mind at least) absent.

There was a good vibe on the street all week, especially in the Queen West Corridor from John to Dovercourt, and the corner of Ossington and Dundas, which sports the Dakota Tavern and the Painted Lady, two bars whose eclectic musical tastes are matched only by their equally interesting menus. The authentic Southern Mac and Cheese at the Dakota, and the White Trash Nachos at the Painted Lady are stand-outs, but you can check out the full menus here, and here. And speaking of food, God Bless the Shanghai Cowgirl for their late hours during NXNE. The all day breakfast saved my ass more than once during the festivities, even though I usually crave their pork fried rice or chicken fried steak, their breakfast is right up there with the best of the offerings on their menu. I love food.

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Like every year, most of NXNE is a blur in retrospect. It is hard to remember specific days there is so much going on, and it is hard to take notes with a beer in one hand and your phone in the other. The great thing about today’s technology; continuous calls and texts updating what is going on, when, and where. Great PR and promotion is now personalized and immediate, a great boon to those of us whose short term memory is that of a goldfish. Without the people who understand how important staying in touch is when there are so many options, most of us would have spent the majority of our time trying to remember where we were supposed to be instead of being there. Kudos to all.

I do remember walking into the Hyatt Regency on King Street, NXNE’s headquarters, and picking up my media pass on Wednesday. A much better layout than last year with easy access to the registration counter, quick service, a handy media/press room manned by two gracious (and extremely attractive) women, and a new addition, an outstanding performance stage presenting a fine array of acoustic entertainment.

Musical Highlights….

As usual, my vantage point for all things musical starts and ends at Cherry Cola’s, as fine a bar as you could hope for in a city of fine bars. What separates Cherry’s from the vast majority of watering holes are the attentive bar staff, the presence of the owners, the happy mix of suburbanites and downtown hipsters, the commitment to rock and roll, and the best bouncers/doormen in the city (The Bovine runs a close second). Stir in the familiar camaraderie of the regulars and a slew of energetic, talented young bands, and you have the perfect destination, just off the Queen Street Strip, to enjoy Toronto’s music-centric nightlife. Cherry’s lands you smack dab in the middle of a dozen live music venues within a five minute walk down Queen Street in either direction. I have seen so many great bands in this place, it rivals the legendary heyday of the Whiskey in L.A and the Fillmore and Avalon Ballrooms of ‘60s San Francisco as your best bet for music discovery in Canada. There are three very comfortable barstools at the far end of the bar. My ass is usually parked in one of them. It is from here I headed out to the other venues and here where I returned. I am a creature of habit.

Poor Young Things: Yipes! Better every time I see them, this band is on their way.

Courage My Love: You know I love them. Over a million hits on You Tube and a just signed deal in Japan. Teenagers making music for teenagers. These people are not only fine writers and musicians (and half the age of most of the bands out there) their live shows have the energy of a herd of kittens on catnip. See this band before you have to shell out a hundred bucks for nosebleed seats in an arena.

Kumonga: They rock and they rock hard. Go see them, take your Ya Ya’s with you and when they hit the stage, get your Ya Ya’s out.

Seedy Seeds: From Ohio, but built for Toronto. Saw them last year, but this year they outdid themselves by a mile. Their label, Sonablast, throws a hell of a party at the Football factory every year and their bands play on the patio. So many good bands on this label, check them out. John and Lindsay, and the rest of the Sonablast team should be bursting with pride.

Jumple: A carnival, a Circus, a band of thrift-clothed Gypsy’s in a mad whirl of musical mayhem. They bring Technicolor to bear in the musical equivalent of an exploding confetti factory. Come prepared to dance, sing along, and drink gallons of vodka. The only band I know of who would look normal arriving on stage riding Unicorns. Da!

Mad June: This all girl band from Montreal kick some serious ass and leave a smile on your face when they do. Would love to see a bill with them, Courage My Love, A.P.E, Dearly Beloved, and Die Mannequin. Girl power, ya’ll! Every one of these bands are outstanding this year. Somebody make that show happen!

The Danger Bees: Karen Bliss’s brilliantly named label (Daycare) leads with a band whose quirky music stands slightly to the left of their contemporaries. Must see. Oh, and Daycare’s cutline? Daycare Records; Babysitting Your Stupid Band.

Mediazoic: LOTS of music recorded live in their studio during NXNE. Among the participants, Julian Taylor, whose singer/songwriter credentials are right up there with David Celia, Andrew Cole, and Matty Powell. Thanks to Greg Nisbet and his fine team for providing a great house party, stellar music, and delicious ice cold Cameron’s Beer on a hot day, in a hot town, during a hot event. Check Mediazoic out here, and Cameron’s Beer out here.

Best Party: Once again, the tip of the Segarini Hat to Mobile Backstage’s Tom Greiter and David Hazan for another intimate gathering in their beautiful suite at the King Street Hyatt. Where else could you find journalist/writer/producer Martin Melhuish, and an unparalleled  view of the city and CN Tower, at the same time? Nowhere, that’s where. Check out the ingenious Mobile Backstage here.

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I know I promised Frazier’s Farewell and Xprime today, but thanks to having to pack for our move at the end of the month and some pressing obligations, they will be in Monday’s column. Tomorrow look for Jaimie Vernon’s latest, and join me Sunday for the first chapter of our Rerun Series, “The Art of Touring”.

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Segarini’s column appears here every Monday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

Bob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and The Segarini Band and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now 85), and now provides content for radiothatdoesntsuck.com with RadioZombie, The Iceage, and PsychShack. Along with the love of his life, Jade (Pie) Dunlop, (who hosts and writes “I’ve Heard That Song Before” on RTDS), continues to write, make music, and record.

2 Responses to “Segarini: NXNE 2012! UPDATED!”

  1. thanks for the shoutout bobert!

  2. […] of June, hours of cutting edge music was recorded live in the Mediazoic studio during NXNE. In Bob Segarini’s blog titled NXNE 2012 UPDATED,  he writes about some of  the great artist that performed including some of our […]

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