Nadia Elkharadly: NXNE 2013 Wrap up

Nadia LogoI know it’s been more than a week since it ended, but I’ve still got North by North East on the brain.  Maybe it’s because I still can’t fall asleep before the crack of dawn (which is murder on my dayjob functionality).  Maybe it’s because I can’t shake my hangover shakes.  Maybe it’s because I still don’t have my full voice back – but you should hear my Demi Moore impression, it’s killer!  Actually, you will be able to hear it on the Bobcast very soon, but anyway.  Whatever it is, I’m sad that NXNE is over and that I had to get back to reality.  Reality SUCKS.  So, permit me to reminisce just a little bit.

I have to say that musically speaking, this year’s NXNE was a little underwhelming to me.  Maybe I’m getting a bit jaded, but it takes a lot to wow me in the musical sense these days.  That doesn’t mean I’m still not discovering amazing music every single day – I definitely am.  But my initial wide eyed wonder at every new band that came across my path has started to wane.  That being said, there were still a lot of acts that I caught at NXNE that did wow me, and some were complete surprises.  And I loves me some musical surprises!  What was most welcome to me, being a lady who loves the ladies (NOT THAT WAY!), many of the bands I found myself loving were female fronted, and rocked the fuck out of every show I saw.

IMG_3958While not a musical surprise, seeing the amazing Arn-Horn twins in their musical collaboration Courage My Love is always a pleasure.  I loved the edgier, more mature look that lead singer Mercedes was sporting, and was extremely impressed by new bassist Brandon Lockwood.  Not only did the new male addition to the identical duo’s band suit their next level sound, he had absolutely awesome stage presence.  The kid’s feet barely touched the ground; he was jumping around so much, all the while playing the hell out of his bass.  IMG_3999It takes a lot to keep up with Mercedes and Phoenix (The Arn Horne twins) – these girls are incredible musicians and amazing singers, but Lockwood keeps up just fine.  The band’s latest release Becoming came out on the first night of NXNE, making that Horseshoe Tavern appearance not just a show, but a celebration.  And from what I heard, the IMG_4072new material not only lives up to Courage My Love’s previous efforts, but builds upon what they’ve created, as every good new record should.  I’m glad to see the trio is still rockin as well and as hard as they have since the last time I saw them.  It was a great way to start my NXNE experience.

My first NXNE discovery actually happened completely by accident.  I had ventured out to the Hard Luck Bar on the second night with my lovely Betty (aka Kim) to check out the awesomely named Brooklyn punk outfit Vagina PantherPrelistens to the band’s music revealed a harder, heavier, the Bangles meets C’mon kind of sound that I found intriguing, so it was worth rushing out early on a Wednesday night for.  The band that was on the stage at the Dundas West bar didn’t quite feel right however – they were still pretty heavy, but with a distinctly poppier sound.  A few songs in IMG_4180the lead singer identified herself, and it wasn’t as a member of VP.  Turns out the smirk inducing-named crew couldn’t make it into the city for their appearance and were replaced at the last minute by a familiar name:  Anna Cyzon.  Some may remember her as a previous Canadian Idol contestant, and MTV Canada personality.  While Cyzon may have previously identified more as a pop star than a rock star, the blond bombshell is all rock now, and it definitely suits her.  Her performance was a cross between eighties video vixen and a cleaned up Courtney Love.  Whatever it was, it worked.  If you’re looking for some over the top sexy rock and roll fun, I definitely recommend checking out Ms. Cyzon’s work.

Speaking of pop princess to rocker chick transformations, another great NXNE 2013 encounter came in the form of Toronto punk/metal foursome Sumo Cyco.  I’d gotten a taste of what Sumo Cyco has to offer a few months ago at the Hideout and was immediately struck by the sexy lady IMG_4285lead singer’s absolutely wild on and off stage antics.  Imagine my surprise when I found out that the sultry Sever was, in fact, former popstar Skye Sweetnam.  I immediately knew I wanted to see the band do a full set, and I got my chance at Cherry Cola’s, a venue that suited the band to an absolute tee.  Sweetnam completely transforms from bubblegum sweet to salaciously seductive, sometimes within the same minute.  She bats her lashes, tosses her hair, then belts out an epic scream that would make any metal head sit up and take notice.  And while she’s definitely putting her sexuality and sexy-ness on full display, much like Cyzon, Sweetnam is totally empowered and in control of the sex appeal she’s throwing out there, as she should be.  Being sexy, and sexual, isn’t something women should shy away from, especially when creating intense and reactionary music like these women are.  It was great to watch Sweetnam own her sexy image and stage presence – honestly, it looked fun as hell.

IMG_4387While not female fronted, the feminine presence of Caitlin Dacey (Bella Clava, Little Foot Long Foot) in Public Animal was unmistakeable.  I’ve gone on record multiple times saying that I love anything that Sir Ian Blurton puts his name to, so when I heard from Caitlin herself that she and Blurton were collaborating, I couldn’t wait to see what they’d come up with.  Not only was IMG_4400Public Animal worth the wait, it rocked my world.  I’ve probably bored poor Ian to tears telling him how much I missed C’mon, but now I can shut my piehole on that matter because Public Animal exists!  Those rough and raw guitar licks that are Blurton’s signature are made all the better combined with Dacey’s haunting organ-esque keyboard, and throaty yet powerful vocals.  Public Animal put on my favourite performance of this year’s NXNE, and I can’t wait to see them play again.

I know I have to deal with the fact that NXNE is over, and that my time of daydrinking in parking lots and staying up til dawn are all the more limited as a result.  But as long as there’s awesome music to keep me company during the daily doldrums of real life, I’ll be able to survive until next year.

Until next time,




Nadia’s column appears every Wednesday

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DBAWIS ButtonNadia Elkharadly is a Toronto based writer with a serious addiction to music. Corporate drone by day, renegade rocker by night, writing is her creative outlet.  Nadia writes for the Examiner (.com) on live music in Toronto and Indie Music in Canada.  She has never been in a band but plays an awesome air guitar and also the tambourine.  Check in every Tuesday for musings about music, love, life and whatever else that comes to mind.

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