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- Posted on Jun 17th 2009 12:20PM by Jonathan Dekel
So here's a handy breakdown of NXNE '09. You can thank us when you recover!
What's it all about?
Started in 1994 and modeled after Austin, Texas' SXSW festival, NXNE has grown into a massive showcase of music, speakers, movies and arts from more than 25 countries.
Festival organizers have made it easy for folks to check out some great talent without breaking the bank, branching out in recent years to include free shows in unorthodox venues such as Union Station and Pearson Airport, as well as 'best of the fest' presentations at Yonge and Dundas Square. Unlike its American counterpart -- which aims to attract mostly industry-- the priciest VIP NXNE badge is $250, but most go for the $50 five-day wristband that gets you into everything the festival has to offer, provided you arrive early enough to get in the door.
Plus, this year 27 bars are extending their drinking hours to 4AM. Rock 'n' roll!
Why should I care?
Aside from the 4AM last call? It may lack the big-name fire power of Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza, or even SXSW, but North by Northeast has always been a breeding ground for up-and-comers: Feist, Dears, K'naan and Broken Social Scene all cut their chops at NXNE before blowing up internationally.
Its street-level DIY aesthetic, right down to its disturbing mascot (which bears more than a passing resemblance to legendary local promoter Dan Burke), attracts many of the hipper underground bands, labels and media, both local and from abroad.
What should I check out?
NXNE offers a wide range of genres for festival goers to choose from. Here's a quick rundown of some highlights.
Creating the most advanced blog buzz is local indie label Arts & Crafts' two-night takeover of the Courthouse. Both nights feature "special guests" -- rumored to be Broken Social Scene and the Stills -- as well as several of the label's newer signings. While most will be clamoring to get in for the headliners, get there early to check out the lesser-known likes of Timber Timbre, Happiness Project and Years.
For hip-hop fans, this year's biggest attraction is Wu-Tang Clan member GZA. As well as performing, the outspoken rap star is being interviewed as part of the conference by iconic hip-hop historian Fab 5 Freddy. For those who prefer their urban sounds a bit more new-school, check innovative rappers Cool Kids, Freeway and rap-punkers Ninjasonic. Be sure to check out the free Sunday show at Yonge and Dundas square that Mr. Freddy is presenting, and be on the lookout for GZA to recreate his collaboration with Atlanta noise-rockers Black Lips.
The biggest trend at the festival this year is the return of the overdrive pedal. From garage-rock pioneers the Sonics to Los Angeles electro-punks Health, the amps will be cranked to eleven all over. Also don't miss hotly tipped acts such as UME -- hyped as a harder Yeah Yeah Yeahs -- Sub Pop noise duo No Age or Spinnerette, the latest project from ex-Distiller Brody Dalle.
But as with any such festival, the best thing to do is just see as much music as possible. Many of the best bands can be found at places like the Bovine Sex Club (rumored to have a secret show Saturday night, which may or may not feature Spinnerette).
So go out, enjoy the 4AM drinking curfew and find the next band you can brag to your friends you saw at a small club way back in 2009. It's what NXNE is all about.