The good, the bad and the ugly of NXNE

Photo by Kate Turner

Their looks had it all, but the delivery unfortunately fell short for The Black Belles. Clad in black dresses, sunhats and black lipstick, the ladies of the band took the stage and filled the room with anticipation.

You would think that after signing a deal with Jack White’s label, The Black Belles would be one of the best performers of NXNE. But whether they were playing “Pushing Up Daisy” or “In a Cage” the sounds emitted from each instrument showed no creativity or variety from one single to the next. Some of the strong points were guitarist Olivia Jean’s solos, but they only managed to last around 15 seconds.

The highlight of the show was when the band performed a song that they wrote, Honky Tonk Horror, hoping to aspire to the country genre. Did they succeed? Nope, but at least it was different than their other music.

Purity Ring at Wrongbar: Thursday, June 14

A spectacle worth staying up late for, Purity Ring’s combination of set design, electro-fuzz music and a mind-blowing light show not only made squeezing into an overcrowded bar worthwhile, but managed to put every audience member in a trance.

Corin Roddick, who created a percussion/synthesizer instrument, also synched lights to go off in various colours whenever he tapped on them. It was almost as if the audience was watching an experimental art show rather than a concert. Much like Roddick had command of his instrument, he had command over the audience as the crowd anxiously waited to see what colours and beams of lights would go off next.

Bleached at The Silver Dollar Room: Friday, June 15th

What do you get when you have girls wearing dresses, thigh-high tights and guitars? The best-dressed, edgiest punk band at NXNE. However, despite their adorable appearance, lead singer and guitarist Jennifer Clavin pulled off her best “I don’t a fuck” façade and demanded the attention she and her band deserve from the audience.

“You guys should be dancing!” was her first remark after playing their first two songs. Although there wasn’t much room in the crammed bar, people got the message and the bobbing of heads and wiggling of bodies began. Heavily influenced by the Ramones and Misfits, Bleached’s songs are edgy, simple and short but extremely enjoyable. For those disappointed with Best Coast’s newest album and lazy-vibe, take it from these girls (who are also from L.A.) to kick it up a notch when you’re wanting that fun, summery beach vibe.

The Flaming Lips at Yonge & Dundas Square: Saturday, June 16th

The most anticipated show of the festival proved to be the most mind-blowing, yet disappointing to those who did not show up on time. This set proved that Yonge and Dundas Square is the worst venue to host any big headliner. Actually Yonge and Dundas square is a horrible place to host any concert for any well-known band. Unless you plan on standing in the exact same spot for four hours, or don’t mind craning your neck to catch a glimpse of the big screen, this is not a show that a huge mass of people could enjoy.

Those stuck in the back were blocked by the horrible placement of promotion tents, which, if placed properly, could open up a whole lot of room for viewers stuck all the way back at H&M. The experimental music and aesthetics of the Flaming Lips were proved to be worthwhile for all the dedicated fans. Disappointed Radiohead concert-goers also got a nice treat when the Lips managed to sneak in a cover of “Knives Out” during their two-hour set.

Visually this show went above and beyond: there was confetti, the giant ball and, most excitingly, large balloons. Once again, those who could not see a thing (ahem, me) were at least able to enjoy live music in the background while waiting impatiently for those waves of giant balloons to make their way over to the back.

Teenage Kicks at El Mocambo: Friday, June 15th

With a surprisingly huge following for this Georgetown-based band, the ending to the Friday night NXNE goings was strong thanks to the energetic and powerful performance of Teenage Kicks. Front man Peter Van Helvoort put on his best Roger Daltrey impression by picking up and swinging his microphone around while also parading on the stage in the most destructive, yet entertaining manner.
While Teenage Kicks’ sound presents nothing new to the table, audiences got their loud rock’n roll sound experience from their simple melodies, loud sound and energetic “rocking out” moves from the band members.

Audiences responded back to their energy by singing along passionately to every single song: a reaction that did not occur at many NXNE shows. While their singles “Heart of Darkness” and “I Get What You Give” were the band’s most popular songs of the night, their choice of ending the set with two Creedence Clearwater Revival covers, “Proud Mary” and “Brooklyn Bridge” brought the El Mo show to a whole new chaotic uproar.

Of Montreal at Yonge & Dundas Square: Saturday, June 16th

Every element of putting on an entertaining, quirky and enjoyable show was there but unfortunately for the band, the delivery was not quite up to par. The back up dancers with the costumes, the psychedelic images on the screen in the background, and with the makeup, you would think that the band would have all the right elements to fill the stage and connect with the audience.

However the most important thing was missing: the quality of sound that Of Montreal tried to project. Songs like “She’s a Rejecter” and “Heimdalsgate Like A Promethean Curse” had the potential to be crowd-winning sounds however the lack of delivery coming from the instruments and front man Kevin Barnes’ normally impressive vocals could not keep up. Aesthetically speaking, the show gets an A+ for putting on a weird, yet hilarious performance. The true stars of the show have to go to the backup dancers who had fake sword fights, put on burlesque dances and managed to successfully crowd-surf all the way from the stage to the back of the audience group.

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