>The past four years prior to 2011, I volunteered at Toronto’s North by North East music festival. I took tickets and checked wristbands, a short lasting fun position of ultimate music cool. It was a great opportunity to hear bands and get close to the festival, but on the downside I never really got to see bands. The gig did get me a upper crust Priority Pass (retail value $100).
This is the first year that I will get to go to the festival complete unhinged and only limited by my work and sleep schedule.
Here are my top picks for bands that will rock this festival:
The Lower Dens
Meet the Lower Dens who hail from Baltimore, Maryland. Led by a woman by the name of Jana Hunter, they pack more husk and grit than you’d expect with a female singer. Their music fits the mold of every offbeat independent act going right now (so maybe not so offbeat). Their popular tune “Tea Lights” plays light a Yo La Tengo tune or an easy Deerhunter song. But with Hunter’s drone vocals in combination with their intricate guitar noodles, their music somehow comes to life. I’m not going to lie, I bought this album a good six or seven months ago after the combination of hearing them in a Leslieville coffee shop and by a solid recommendation by a friend.
This has to be the first listen where I really feel something.
I think Jana Hunter could give Beach House’s Victoria LeGrand a run for her money as far as husky female vocals go.
GO SEE THEM: Wednesday June 15 at 10:00pm at the Garrison or Thursday June 16 at 1:00am at Lee’s Palace
Jennifer Castle (Castle Music)
I had the real pleasure of seeing Jennifer Castle play a few tunes at the Dakota last December. Her voice is very distinct, in a pool of female singer-songwriters that all have something to boast. She has a really neat vibrato that comes out real easy, without sounding forced.
She’s definitely one of the city’s hidden gems.
I, like most first laid ears on Brian Borcherdt as a member of Holy Fuck. I think years ago I saw him open up for a Canadian act at the Phoenix. His sound is a little slow for my likings, but I’m certain he’ll put on a show to dazzle.
Get those heart strings ready to be pulled.
I first came across Snowblink on a complete limb. I had nothing to do one evening and stumbled alone into the Tranzac for a surprisingly lovely front-room performance by Snowblink. Having no expectations at all, I was pleasantly surprised by what I came across – a very stripped down quirky girl-guy duo.
As it turns out front woman Daniela Gesundheit moved from California to Toronto in 2008. She however has well-nested in Toronto making music with Alex Lukachevsky and Bruce Peninsula.
Their album Long Live received little attention and a limited release a couple of years ago. It however was re-released and better publicised this go around in 2011. It’s kind of nice to have a set of songs that I’m already familiar with.
Snowblink will surround you with lovely.
Do you remember high school choir? The Cowgirl Choir all of the beautiful girls you’d find in the soprano section but could never sit next to. To accompany, they have an acoustic guitar, but let’s face it, these ladies definitely don’t need the help.
I saw them last December and they played a string of covers that everyone in the crowd was more or less already familiar with. My personal favourite was a bold cover of “Jolene,” that they surprisingly were able to pull of pretty well.
Forest City Lovers
Four years ago I walked into the old Rotate This location with my Mother and checked out their listening post. A featured selection was a very young Kat Burns’ project Forest City Lovers, I bought the album. I kept up with them for the next few years watching her band grow big.
Burns undoubtedly is an artist at heart. She started an art project called An Hour of My Time where she makes a piece of art in no more than an hour and sells it for the national average minimum wage of $24.75. I’m not sure how well she did, but you can read about it here.
But on Forest City Lovers – a real dynamite, minimal sound. Along the same lines as Snowblink, Burns has extremely soft vocals, with very little edge.
Mika Posen of Timber Timbre also use to and may still play with Kat Burns as Forest City Lovers.
For years I have passed Peter Elkas’ album in my store, I even think I took in a copy after a pal’s garage sale. But it wasn’t until last December that I saw Elkas in action. He is quite possibly the most attractive thirtysomething man I’ve stumbled upon. He has a lovely energetic rock sound that sounds like it could have been plucked off the Grey’s Anatomy soundtrack.
The Darcys are a real tight outfit. Last year, they were my pick for the festival – they put on the sweatiest gig I have been to a while at Rancho Relaxo. It was a swift reminder of why I love music so much.
These guys are nursing songs they’re well-acquinted with so without a doubt their show will be very smooth sounding. These guys absolutely know what they are doing.
Cash in on this gem before anyone else.
James Clark has been around forever, but he’s no less cool than any twentysomething hipster. Clark draws from a whole whack of inspirations from sixties rock to current indie, it’s pretty obvious who is influences are when you listen to his music.
His fantastic humour really oozes out in his shows, definitely worth a peek.
I was really surprised by this band. On a mediocre label UR Artist, this band has really diverged further than the other bands on the label. Last fall, they toured with Arts and Crafts sweethearts Zeus, able to hold their own against such a terrific band.
This band really harps on the good girl guy contrasts that Stars did so well around Set Yourself On Fire. The key difference between the two acts is Amos isn’t as fluffy as stars, they’ve got a bit more complexity and grit.
All girl band play covers of Weezer circa Pinkerton and Blue Album. Need I say more?
A free DEVO show? For all the flack I have given this band in the past, I can’t wait for this gig on Saturday. Don’t tell anyone, but I kind of like this band. Another gem to come out of Akron, Ohio.
Hopefully, it won’t be as packed as the Iggy Pop show this time last year.
SEE THEM FOR FREE: Saturday June 18 at 9:30pm-11:00pm at Yonge and Dundas Square
No questions, this is where I’ll be Saturday at midnight. The Great Hall is quite possibly one of the most versatile venues I’ve been to.
This may be the show of the festival. I’m pretty excited.