Whatever the case, some otherworldly force shone down on Toronto this past weekend and blessed it with heavenly weather—a good thing considering one of NXNE's main stages, at Yonge and Dundas Square was an outdoor venue. The likes of X, The Stooges, The Raveonettes, De La Soul, and Mudhoney all kept the crowds for the free shows rapt, while Canadian heroes Sloan and rapper K-Os did the same for their hometown supporters. Our personal faves for this stage, though, were Vancouver's Said the Whale, who do straight-up power pop, but do it really, really well. (Listen to "Camilo (The Magician)" for instant indie-pop love.)
Big Freedia @ Wrongbar
Friday night, however, was really owned by New Orleans bounce rapper Big Freedia, down across town at West Queen West's Wrongbar. The room wasn't packed to the gills, but for the hyper-fabulous MC it might as well have been Madison Square Garden at capacity. Along with her DJ Rusty Lazer, Freedia, flanked by two scantily clad ass-clappin' dancers, had the straight-gay-white-black-hipster-rap crowd under her spell, rapping (mostly) about ass and relationships, and getting half the audience up on stage to bounce with her. When we spoke to her the next day and asked her what's the one thing she needs for a performance to go off, she said simply "one mic."
Avi Buffalo @ Lee's Palace
Saturday night, we made the rounds on Bloor West, and ended up at the far-flung locale The Piston to check out Jeremy Glenn, a synth-boogie crooner who's shared the stage with Dam-Funk and other nu-funk luminaries. Musically, his group showed some promise, but came off a little cheesy when it came to vocal stylings and songwriting. Unfortunately, his group failed to get over the hump of some technical issues, and so we headed back east to Lee's Palace, where Long Beach rockers Avi Buffalo strung together a nice Wilco/Big Star-esque pastiche, worthy of their recent Sub Pop contract.
However, little could prepare us for Cold Cave's onslaught, a clear front-runner for the festival's best performance. The sound was muddy as fuck, with a techno-club bass rumble that seemed like Wes Eisold and friends were attempting to rattle the building to its foundation (even the upstairs bathrooms felt as if they were going to crumble). Like the best parts of Fad Gadget and Depeche Mode combined with a supreme appreciation for heavy bass and noise, Cold Cave proved that night why they're currently the best synth pop band in the world right now. An incredible end to our first NXNE visit, which you can read more about here. And then check back later in the week for our exclusive interview with Big Freedia.