I started off saying that NXNE was a marathon, and this statement felt even more true once we’d hit the wall - exhaustion can kick in pretty apbruptly from running to concert after concert. But believe me, once overcaming the initial hump, I came through, with an invisible, but very present medal. Then, don't believe a word of what I just said for the only ones deserving credit and recognition for the work accomplished for the are these bands who expended much efforts and energy only to blow us away.
Saturday, June 16
Was I the only one who had forgotten how good an act Hollerado are? I would believe so, seing the enthusiastic crowd singing along with much excitement to the lyrics of all the known ones around me. It felt particularly good to hear “Hey Philadelphia” again, and “Got To Loose”, these oh-so-contagious and catchy hymns that were made to resound in a stadium, a purpose of which Dundas Square served very well. The band gave us a good glimpse of their new album coming up, which got us very impatient for the awaited upcoming record, to come out into this world. Hollerado ended beautifully by shooting confetti à-la-Flaming Lips, not without informing us that they were risking a $2000 fine for such an illegal act. “Hope they pay it!”, mockingly said lead-singer Menno Versteeg.
I have this unconditional love for Portugal. The Man- First, the band is incapable of producing a bad record, which is quite astounding counting the number of songs and albums they have under their belt. Secondly, their songs are inflicted with so much soul, inducing a slight psychedelic flavor, cheerful and catchy beyond compare. Unsurprisingly, this formerly Alaskan band proved themselves to be of the best contemporary live act, we were blown away by the musical accuracy and and the laid-back vibe that was instantly set. If were all waiting for the chant of “Work All Day”- the hedonistic working-class’ unofficial anthem, we got it pretty well-delivered, along with other songs from latest album In The Mountain In The Cloud. Band members Zachary Carothers and Noah Gersh had been telling me earlier how fun it was to throw surprise songs into live jams, and there they played “Helter Skelter”, by none other than The Beatles, sagaciously thrown inside a chord progression and as a finale, “Sleep Forever” was cleverly turned into “Hey Jude”, bringing me to tears. If you are not yet a fan of this band, I suggest you check them out asap, you can only get something good out of it.
Then, the moment we all had be anxiously anticipating: The Flaming Lips playing a free outdoor concert at Yonge-Dundas square, all for our own benefit. Although the mood had been seriously undermined by the tragedy happening earlier in Downsview Park with the Radiohead stage, everyone had been claiming that seeing the Flaming Lips live was a life-changing experience, and there was indeed something surrealist and holy about this whole scene. The Lips got on their traditional stage gimmicks - experimental visuals, rains of confetti, Wayne in a giant inflatable ball, and smoking megaphone, and we realize that Wayne Cone is primarily an entertainer - from this point of view, he looked more like a guru than an rock and roll legend. It somehow felt like more talking and and fooling around than singing (not necessarily a negative thing) and only a few songs were played, such as “Sweat Leaf” (original from Black Sabbath), “Worm Mountain” (album Embryonic), “Is David Bowie Dying?” (collaborative album Heady Fwends), and “Waitin’ For A Superman” (album The Soft Bulletin). The Flaming Lips also gave a heartfelt tribute to their friends Radiohead with a famous cover of “Knives Out”. Nothing was over before singing the forever heart-warming “Do You Realize”, a song which emotional powerfulness could only be ascertain every time is it heard.
After such a blowing experience, it was time to get back to my senses and meet with friends. MAK is certainly Montreal’s most promising band- these musicians have a talent and instinct that can rarely be assessed among young bands. Drifting between alternative, rock, folk, jazz electronic influences, MAK’s original compositions stand in a high level of musicality, still effortlessly delivered through Jesse MacCormac’s vocal abilities and mastered interpretations. These guys are already capable of great things, which would let me predict a bright future for the band.
C T Z N S H P is my latest discovery from our local music scene, and I must say that it was love at first listen, as they say. This three-piece Montreal-based band asserts themselves in some impressive powerfulness gathering into a maelstrom of driving bass-lines, pounding drums, and acute guitar riffs by which we get drawn in. Deliberately loud and soothing, we were definitely missing a band like this in town. For a comparison, the dark soundscape is singularly reminiscent of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's early work, dark and poignant, yet melodious; I can sense beginning of a new obsession.
The very last NXNE shoutout goes to Amos The Transparent, who’s name has been on so many lips and will definitely stick to mine, now having known until now what the buzz was about. I was completely charmed by the sight of this 7 piece band of joyous sprites. Again here, genuine and heartwarming song built of harmonies, inspired lyrics and appeasing melodies, all filled with radiant people who would love Amos The Transparent for the same reasons any would fall for Mumford and Sons - they are dynamic, endearing and they make the kind of music that comforts and elevates the soul, inviting you to jump in and sing along.
Closing the deal, I must hail to the one I dearly wanted to see but time and travel constraints made impossible to do: Akua, Folly And The Hunter,MacDemarco, Mozart Sister’s and Young Empires are these other acts who left a strong impression on my musical mind the for the times I’ve seen them performing (they are all Montreal residents, except for the last one). With that being said, what a bummer to get back to town after such a thrilling journey, but the thought of Osheaga makes us look forward to another great musical adventure. NXNE, you've been good to me and we shall meet again next year same place, same time.