I’m flowing with a sea of drenched kids out of The Garrison. My clothes are soaked with sweat. My moccasins torn to threads. There’s confetti all over me and a purple glow stick clutched in my hand. I desperately need a shower and there’s an involuntary huge smile plastered on my face. How did I get here?
DAY III at NXNE was just a big DANCE PARTY!!!!!!
I wake up at the Holiday Inn Toronto around 11 a.m. and my Attorney is gone. I spring to the bathroom to make sure I’m not Bill Murray and this isn’t a reoccurring day of my life. I couldn’t bare to have my laptop stolen again.
The clock says I’ve overslept roughly four hours. I’m sitting at the desk writing and thinking about how we’ve gone through this whole trip without using our cell phones, and miraculously kept track of time without a watch or clock to our name.
All of a sudden there’s a pounding on the door. I open it to Dimitri, standing there with a glazed over, delirious look in his eyes.
“I had to sleep in the car!” he says, raspily. “I went out for a late night smoke and we had left the Canadian Food Network on so you couldn’t hear me banging on the door.”
“Yeah, I passed out pretty hard,” I say disinterestedly. My mind is elsewhere. We need to meet up with Corbin ASAP. We have big plans for today.
The room has gone to hell. There’s “pizza sauce” splattered across the floor from the room service pizza I don’t remember ordering last night (which according to the Toronto Airport Holiday Inn is a side of ketchup). Then last night all starts coming back to me. We were watching Canadian Comedy Central… Comedy Inc. I believe—laughing uncontrollably at their absurd sense of humor—let’s just say that South Park uses little exaggeration when mocking Canadian comedy. There really were just a bunch of people in a room farting.
I actively try to forget how strange that was as we quickly pack up and book it downtown because we’re late.
Corbin from the Torontoist shows us the following Youtube video before taking us to Marco’s green house across the street with a purple Camero in the driveway. Apparently this is a music video by the band Holy Fuck, and it is the Canadian Youtube sensation right now. So we’re bringing it to the U.S.:
+500 points to Canada for this gem, I accidentally say out loud.
Thinking how I’ve got to tally all the scores makes me nervous, so I say we should leave.
But not before learning some valuable information from candid conversation. Pot is decriminalized in all of Canada first. Second, the best smoking spot seems to be “everywhere.”
After going into some record stores on Queen St., secretly buying my Attorney a Pissed Jeans vinyl by executing a covert operation with the shop owner, and purchasing a one-of-a-kind Star Wars poster where Hans, Luke, and Leah are rocking out on stage, we happily head towards The Mod Club, where Art Brut is playing at nine.
In true festy fashion, the whole road outside of the Mod Club is closed off, with gyros, smoothies, ice cream, and festival food galore. Adults and kids alike crowd the streets so we can barely walk. Carnival games are set up and the
restaurants lining the street have specials as everyone sits on outdoor patios and watches the masses pass by. There’s live accordion music and street performers everywhere.
Friday night is chock-full of bands who should write the book “Live Shows for Dummies.” There wasn’t a single show out of the four we saw when a band member did not enter the audience. It is amazing how close you can get to these artists; this is no Iron & Wine show. They want to party and enjoy the music with us.
I’ll do the moonwalk for this dance competition and rate the four shows we saw backwards, ending with one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen.
4th Place would have to go to the Bouncing Souls, but if you hadn’t seen the three other bands you’d be like what the hell, Lauren, that was SUCH a dance party.
The huge Phoenix Concert Theatre screams rock n’ roll in every way shape and form. It boasted a stage about as big as the one in Dundas square. But the best way to describe this venue is by reading the scrawling Sharpie on the bathroom stalls and seeing things like “Mike got punched in the face tonight!” and “this dub is the shittiest thing since the industrial revolution.” The classic punk group from Jersey ran on stage with a floor-to-ceiling Bouncing Souls banner behind them and a packed rock hall of moshing kids in front.
When I say interactive, I mean it.
The Bouncing Souls let their Casualty-patch-wearing, spiked-jean-jacket and blue-haired fans jump, grasp, pull themselves up and crawl on stage, dance around the band for a while, and do bellyflops back into the crowd. In fact, the whole show seemed like an excuse for the crowd of angsty punks to get on stage—at one point, about six kids were dancing up there at the same time.
Lead singer Greg Attonito knew what they wanted: a set list of punk rock anthems that the crowd chanted in chorus when the music paused. At one point, he laid down right at the edge of stage left, inches away from me and the kids in the front row, just so his fans could get their grungy hands all over him.
“This song is called ‘Punks in Vegas,’” Attonito screams to his adoring fans. “But tonight, we’ll call it ‘Punks in Toronto!’”
Everyone is a rock star at a Bouncing Souls show.
Third place in the dance contest goes to Art Brut. Under the retro red and blue lights of the Mod Club, it was more a theatrical performance than one continuous dance party. I wasn’t expecting to like it so much but their live show was seriously phenomenal …. and hilarious.
The lead singer Eddie Argos looked straight out of a London pub: sweaty and drunk, with a big pot belly, a belting voice, and a lighthearted personality. Basically, I would love to get a pint with this guy. In true London fashion, the whole band was stylishly dressed in collared shirts that were saturated with sweat. The scene was beautiful and Eddie is truly the king of improvisation. Telling spoken word stories over energetic 1-2 punk, he walked straight into the crowd while admittedly making up lyrics as he went along.
The highlight of the show was when he told the story of a trip to Amsterdam while walking into the dancing crowd as they lose their shit from excitement.
“We went down 17 stories in a lift. We went down, down, down, deep underneath the streets of Amsterdam,” he narrates as the center of the crowd gradually dips to their knees along with him and, like ripples in a lake, the circular area of crouched kids expands until almost everyone is squatting.
“Then I think, Eddie, what are you going to do? You’ve improvised yourself into a corner!”
After an explosion of laughter, the crowd errupts and starts jumping crazily with Argos in the middle.
He ends after asking for any requests and playing the well-known “Emily Kane,” pausing amidst the last song to theatrically introduce his entire band, and shouting:
“Give me your hands, you’re wonderful!” as my eyes meet the amazing sight of every single person in a huge venue throwing up their hands simultaneously. The perfect ending to a good rock show.
Though we had to pay eight bucks for 40-minute parking, we were too psyched to think about it as we jumped into the car and rushed to see Kidstreet at Supermarket, a hip bar on Augusta Street, a diverse section of Toronto that reminds me of Williamsburg in Brooklyn.
“I hope you guys are ready to dance!” the duo of dueling synths shouts, and in minutes everyone in the crowd, including me, is involuntarily doing a fast-forwarded David Byrne dance to this electro-pop band who you all should download and listen to, for your health (especially track 5 below).
Lead vocalist Edna Snyder’s voice does more than any auto tune ever could. We couldn’t figure out how she did it, but she could sing faster than the fastest rap I’ve heard—so fast that it sounds digitally manipulated. But the magic of Kidstreet is that Snyder is naturally singing that quickly and having fun doing it.
The result was a beautifully original electro dance party.
You could tell Canadian Seth Rogan look-alike Karl Snyder was having a blast—chugging beer and partying along with the audience. At one point he jumped into the crowd handing out and blowing whistles and dancing with his fans as everyone contributed to making the music. Retro dancing clapfest!
Kidstreet could definitely “do this all night long.” Their songs are like lovely versions of Daft Punk. We bought their EP and have blasted it in the car ever since. It makes driving feel like a video game.
The winner of the dance competition is Halifax DJ Rich Aucoin.
Corbin told us earlier in the week that this unadvertised show was the “best live show you’ll ever see. Not just at NXNE, but period.” Aucoin’s DJ set lived up to my every expectation.
He has a big screen with flashing colors and lyrics projected onto it during the show so people can sing along with anthems like “when you give it all up, you get it all back.” As we scream along, “We are not dead yet, we are the undead!” he shouts “Fuck me, you guys are so awesome!”
Electro dance party! Aucoin jumps around on stage and into the crowd dances and jumps right along with us in his bright turquoise shorts and white t graffiti’d with orange double peace signs. The energy is out of control and spreading like The Plague.
Best part of the show (besides all of the confetti crackers he sets off) is when he throws us all a giant blue, red, green and yellow parachute that we spread out in a big circle among us, and throws handfuls of rainbow glowsticks onto it as we wave it up and down.
Then, 1-2-3 and all of us run under the parachute and it’s a parachute dance party! I have never had so much fun without any of Maxwell’s “tools” since Kindergarten.
For the final song Aucoin loses all control and jumps into the crowd, surfing on top of us as we shout with him “We won’t leave it all in our heads! We won’t leave it all in our heads!” while confetti and glowsticks rain down from electro-heaven.
“I’m not selling any music but my phone number’s up here, so if you text me I’ll give you whatever you want!”
This has got to be too good to be true.