(TORONTO, ON) – It’s been some time since I really got my ears blasted in a tiny venue of 20-50 people happily listening to non-mainstream bands, although ask these down and out rock n rollers if perhaps they’d sell their soul in a minute to obtain fame. Wasn’t it Dire Straits that sang, “Money for nothing and the chicks for free”?
I had the distinct pleasure of attending two concerts last night at the huge NXNE Festival in Toronto, that runs from June 13-22 in venues dispersed throughout the city; many of them clubs and bars. Looking at the bands involved I respectfully say there are no “mega bands,” but if the two shows I watched are indicative of the festival then what I like is the intimate nature and the rawness of rock n roll.
Imagine playing your guts out for a mere 50 people or even less. Yet these bands launch into their sets as if they were playing at a packed auditorium. Just look where the band Hands and Teeth performed on an outdoor patio.
It’s definitely not glitzy as the two bands I saw unpacked and packed up their equipment. No roadies here, serving the divas. I even saw one of the audience members steal a hamburger. Its raw power unleashed. The question is can this power be harmonized and packaged into a listenable product?
The first band I saw was Hands and Teeth at the back of the Analogue Art Gallery on hip and trendy Queen Street West, although this part of Queen Street is a bit rough with highly intoxicated people and panhandlers abounding.
The Analogue Art Gallery had many rock n roll pictures on its wall. Craft beer and some horrific looking wine in mega bottles was being served. Then some mystery burgers with a $3 sign were outside on the patio where the band played its short set.
Graffiti adorned the patio walls and a chain link fence separated the stage from a back alley. I can assure you no limos were waiting in the alley to pick up the musicians.
In terms of instrumentation and sound, this band was very tight and very professional.
Where She Goes rocked with an intense and sharp base guitar. Sunset Park highlighted the immensely talented drummer’s ability to guide the band with forcefulness. The band exhibited flawless skills except, unfortunately, for their vocals which, let’s say, were best not accentuated. The louder and more excited the lead vocalist became the more readily apparent it became she should relax a bit and bring the octaves down. Unless the vocals are restrained Hands and Teeth will continue playing small venues.
Considering their immensely professional instrumentation this is a shame.
The venue was perfectly grunge, complete with the vocalist’s Janis Joplin-esque sunglasses and the ripped jeans of one of the guitarists. I’d rather take this real rock n roll over most of the sanitized top 40 drivel I am subjected to on a daily basis.
Just down the street at The Hideout, Lyric Dubee from Barrie was playing with his band. Unlike the lighter and popish Hands and Teeth, this band was sizzling at its best with hard rock. Pure, driving, and pulsating for the most part.
I really don’t think there were many more than 20 people watching this band. The harder they rocked the better they sounded.
Black Ice started off on the slow side but picked up real quick with the lead vocalist showing good range.
They Said was a slower song but the vocalist was well controlled and measured throughout. These guys and their female bassist have just delivered their third album entitled Black Ice and are no puppies, but their vocalist looks like a junior Kurt Kobain.
I Can’t Believe I Put Up With This Shit was perhaps the strongest number of the night, which was a beautiful and seamless collaborative effort, both musically and vocally. A perfect harmony of guitars with a pulsating beat.
Now this band has started to win me over until the discordant disaster of Last Breath and Bridge to Nowhere that sounded like a song from the The Wedding Singer.
Crossroads, a Cream cover from the 1970’s, sounded like it was delivered by a teenage band practicing in a garage. The danger of doing a cover song.
These boys and girl will do fine if they stick to the hard stuff. Nifty website.