NxNE (day 1)

I was all stoked to see a band called Millions of Cats who turned on their masters, who were billed as cross between The Clash and Fatboy Slim. Which sounds great, right? They were playing at The Bovine Sex Club, the type of small, quirky venue with intense post-industrial interior design that Vancouver could never have, and so all was good. Except that they weren’t anything like they were billed as. Just plain, straight-up rock, and not terribly interesting rock, either. So we gave them a song + and intro to the next, and moved on. Off to the Reverb, where Slainte Mhath were doing their thing. An interesting mix, comprised of a keyboardist, bagpiper, drummer, fiddler and guitarist/fiddler. It was amazing to hear bagpipes in a contemporary sound, and watching the guy solo was just amazing. They were great fun live, although I couldn’t imagine their sound translating all that well to recording. In retrospect, I think their act was also made more enjoyable by the fiddler, swaying her hips while wearing a midriff-baring shirt – nothing overt, but sticks in memory. We headed up to Holy Joe’s, but the band playing (Detective Kalita), were just ending their last track, which was unfortunate, as I was really liking the sound as I came upstairs – kinda lounge-y, with trumpet.

Up next was Tift Merrit, who seemed to have generated the most advance buzz leading up to NxNE. She was ‘alt. country’, which I’m discovering really means ‘old country’, or more specifically, not over-produced pop-country that swarms out of Nashville these days. She had just an unbelievably beautiful voice, and interesting songs – all in all, she was great.

I took off then, heading up to The Comfort Zone to see Seatte Band Discohesive, whom I would describe as industrial-funk. The journey in was made interesting by a very thorough frisking by the doorman. I think the only thing he didn’t do was pull apart my buttcheeks to make sure I didn’t have anything hidden in there. Discohesive, while clearly talented, weren’t really my bag, so I headed next door to The Silver Dollar to check out The Farrell Brothers, described as “Hank Williams on double speed”. Full out Rockabilly/punk, they suffered a broken guitar string while I was in there so I didn’t get too much chance to hear them. Bonus points for excellent stage presence while dealing with the string, however.

I had one more band I wanted to check out within the 11-12 timeslot, and that was swearing at motorists, a great rock duo out of Dayton, OH. A hint of Rust Never Sleeps-era Neil Young, with a strong punk sensability and a dash of radio-friendly pop made them eminently listenable, although by no means groundbreaking. I’m a big fan of folks making do with less, and creating the sound they did with just guitar and drums is an impressive feat.

I hurried back down Spadina (with a stop in for a wretched slice of pizza (q: is it wrong for me to have foisted off a slice I could barely stomach to a homeless kid? He seemed grateful, but if he gets the runs from it, that could be prety bad)) to the Horseshoe, where Martin Tielli was due up. He was simply amazing. Playing a double 12-string/6-string guitar, he and his band rocked out hard. Hi high, shakey voice and the band interactions reminded me of Neil Young and Crazy Horse, but the lyrics were more along the lines of Primus or Phish. He’s well worth checking out if he’s anywhere in your area. At the same time, Mentalemetic were due to be playing at the B-side, just around the corner, so I cut out early to see them. However, they didn’t make it apparently, so a local hip-hop crew, Done Deal. They were decent, but not my scene.
I had heard that the Cameron House fills up, so I took off to over there, where Junetile was due up at one. I arrived, took a seat, and immediately started feeling a little ill from the quantity of smoke in the room. We’re really privileged in Vancouver, I think, to not have smoke-filled clubs. Junetile took the stage however, I forgot about the smoke for a while. Billed as

‘[delivering] dreamy, bittersweet, anti-pop via ethereal guitar, deep cello and cool sonic textures’

, they sounded much like Radiohead unplugged. The singer, who sounded like he was trying so hard to emulate Thom Yorke just a little too hard, was very wooden. That being said, they were very skilled. I appreciated the quality of their songcraft and musicianship, although by the end, I thought that if they played one more song (which they did: there was an encore I left before), I would be orced to slash my wrists because they were so depressing.

Ben, Brishen, Silas and I all met up again on the corner of Spadina & Queen, then wandered up Spadina in search of a chinese restaruant. We landed in ‘Excellent!’, which, to my surprise, was jam-packed. Just after we arrive, a man and an entourage arrived. Best described as a chinese little Richard, he had gobs of makeup, painted on eyebrows (and possibly painted on goatee), a little ponytail and wore a bright yellow jacket over black shirt and pants. My guess is either a pop star (which I think might be the case – his face was strangely familiar), or some kind of mafioso. That the cashier handed a wad of cash to a kid as he left the restaurant lends credence to the latter, although I still believe the former. We finished up our meal, then headed home after a long night.

Tonight? more to come, although I suspect I’ll be more sedentary after all my walking around last night.

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