Saturday, June 19, 2010

NXNE - Friday Night in the Dark

As if to set the mood for another sticky night of rock and roll, a good chunk of downtown Toronto was plunged into an eerie blackout just as the sun ceded to darkness. Bars and clubs emptied out into the street and the night air was exuberant with cries of laughter and car horns.

Way out west on Queen St, at the Gladstone Hotel, an enormous line of indie kids wound its way down the street. Inside, dd/mm/yyyy were setting up an array of pedals, broken cymbals, keys and guitars in front of a replete hotel lobby. After a lengthy set-up, the experimental post-punks started a set that was, not surprisingly, heavily tailored for the predominantly hip audience. The quintet played tightly and confidently, though they seemed somewhat distant and cooler than thou for the adoring audience.

Not pictured: a plethora of pedals.

As soon as their set was up, C'mon was ready at the front of the stage, road-torn 4x12s — actually haggard from touring rather than the carefully broken amps used by dd/mm/yyyy — rearing to blow the dwindling crowd away. As was to be expected, the Gladstone emptied out somewhat after the indie darlings' set, but the Toronto/New Orleans band was undaunted. To be sure, as soon as their sparse stage was set — just two guitar amps, a bass amp and the drums — C'mon played one of the best opening songs I've seen in a while. In just a few short minutes, frontman Ian Blurton called out anyone who remained after dd/mm/yyyy's set who was expecting more of the same, soloed wildly through the crowd, gave his guitar to an audience member, inviting him up on stage, and smashed his beer bottle on the far wall. In short, he woke the crowd up with nothing short of a kick to the teeth.

Rock and roll, the way it's meant to be played.

For the entirety of their 40-minute set — a set that was pushing up against the next time slot, to the consternation of the stage manager — C'mon refused to let up. A dedicated group of fans near the front rocked out, which the band seemed to appreciate, since most others in attendance were content to bob their heads in time with the raucous, loud and obnoxious rock and roll. Bassist Katie Campbell (ex-Nashville Pussy) tore her Rickenbacker bass apart as if she was trying to exorcise demons, thrashing on stage so much that her strap-lock button broke, forcing her to her knees as she didn't miss a beat.

A quick change of venue — and, decidedly, of pace — saw us arrive at Czehoski for Brooklyn three-piece Brit & the Cavalry. The jazzy rock band, fronted by the very talented Brit Boras, played a mellow show that delighted those few sitting at tables at the back of the narrow venue. Though it was perhaps not the best remedy for a Friday past midnight, it was still a talented set.

At one point, she was even double tapping the melodies!

Unfortunately, the rest of the line-up for Friday night was less appetizing. As we hung around outside, wondering where to head next, we ran into Sarah Ford, who passed on a rumour that Iggy Pop and the Stooges were playing a secret, intimate, show far west on Queen. Deciding it was unlikely, though too good a rumour to ignore, off we went to the Cadillac Lounge, only to be disappointed. Iggy Pop was not there and in his place was a mediocre band called Flashlight Radio. A quick cab ride solved that problem, though, and soon we were back at the Bovine to see Thee Oh Sees play their secret show at 2 am.

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