Posts Tagged ‘Toronto

15
Jun
08

An eye for the swag

Sunday June 15, Toronto, Holiday Inn. Last night was the last night of North by Northeast, and this time I was determined not to stress about seeing certain bands. So naturally I stressed about seeing certain bands. However, the good news is that I saw most of what I wanted to see, although I missed Tel Aviv band Monotonics. More on that later, if I remember to get to it. 

Anyway, we started the afternoon at the Drake Hotel on the outdoor patio. For some reason Wingy things every party is a barbecue so he assured myself and Kim H. that there would be food at this party, which was being held by Vice Magazine. As you would expect from a party held by that hipster rag, the patio was populated with tattooed, bearded dudes and stylish ladies. We were there under the aegis of Carling A., who as much as I begged never did get me a beer. It wasn’t a barbecue and there was very little food, but Wingy and I circulated like the pros we are–talking to three Swedish sisters, the dude who heads up the Polaris Music Prize (a big deal in Canuckland music circles), and a few old pals from Vancouver. Despite Carling’s reluctance, we managed to keep scoring enough drink tickets to keep us buzzed. 

Fortunately, Rancho Relaxo was serving up some vittles upstairs, where we saw Tiger and Me, an Australian man-woman duo who performed pretty cool torch lounge pop ballads. Then Wingy’s eye was attracted to a bright blue Whole Foods bag everyone outside the El Mocambo seemed to be clutching so we went in to investigate and were immediately handed a bag o’ swag. This convinced us to stay for the band, a seven-piece Norwegian outfit whose name I can’t pronounce or quite remember, but which I will add later (yeah, right). They were jumpy, energetic and fun as hell, and reminded me a little of Little Creatures-era Talking Heads. Rebekah Higgs from Halifax rocked out at the Horseshoe, and 6 Day Riot, a folk pop group from the U.K., was excellent at the Cameron House. At the Bovine Sex Club we caught the tail-end of the set by Koogaphone, another U.K. group but with a harder, hard-rock/punk edge and fronted by Julie, the girl we shared a cab ride with the previous night. We hightailed it over to Sneaky Dee’s for one of the reputed highlights of the festival, the Monotonics, but it got so crowded and claustrophobic our party bailed one by one–first Wingy left to get pizza, then Kim went home, and finally I went outside. Wingy, a friend from Vancouver now living here and I made it to the Red Kross show at Lee’s Palace, though I’d said I wouldn’t return to that sweatbox. But I did! Then I got mad at Wingy for some reason but now we’re friends again, at least until he pays the hotel bill. 

14
Jun
08

Wingmen reunited

Sat. June 14, Toronto, North by Northeast Music Festival: Two days into the four-day music marathon known as NxNE. A northern cousin to the South by Southwest similar event in Austin. For this one, Wing-y and I have put aside our differences long enough to room together at the Holiday Inn on King, centre of the conference. All you have to do is walk out into the hotel and you could be schmoozing with a SxSW organizer or a famous British radio DJ. I just got back from the fitness centre, where Bob Harris was on a stationary bike. Apparently, he’s a big deal British DJ.

But you want to know about girls, not 60-year-old British radio DJs working up a sweat. Well, there are lots of them around the conference, from the volunteers to the managers to the label execs to the musicians. At the kickoff party Wednesday night, Wingy and I met three girls from some short film distribution company called Ouat; Brady, Sophia, and Doreese. Brady is a husky-voice rocker chick, Sophia a tall blond, Doreese [sp.?] dark-haired and a little zaftig. We were all on the bus heading towards the kick-off party at the Palais Royale. There, Wingy rubbed shoulders with comedian Dave Foley (Newsradio, Kids in the Hall).

Thursday, our first full day here, we had lunch with the illustrious Carling, who once worked with Wingy and is now living with her boyfriend, some dude with Vice Magazine. She took us to an excellent Italian restaurant and we sat on the patio, a relief from the incessant rain of Vancouver, and then showed us the beer store. Thursday night was the usual music conference mad rush to see everything, beginning with the famous EMI rooftop party. As I was on the list and Wingy was not, I was truly hoping this was the moment where the infamous Wingy luck would fail. He was frantic at the prospect of being turned away and having to pass all the music industry types lined up behind us. But, true to form, the yellow-shirted security guards let him in.

A foxy brunette in a red polka-dotted dress caught my attention. She was with some goateed dude but that didn’t stop me from turning to her in the burger lineup. Turned out she’s Sky Sweetnam, a singer who had a minor hit a couple years ago. She sang a few bars–something about “Billy Shakespeare.” There were probably some other minor celebrities there but none that I recognized, though I did run to an old friend, Tatiana, now a yoga instructor in Ottawa. Oddly enough, her name had come up earlier in the day for the first time in a long time because she’d added Wingy as a friend on Facebook. Wingy, who spends most of his free time on his iPhone, email, or Facebook, suddenly rent the air with the question, “Do you know Tatiana N*****?” And I did.

Our first music stop of the night was the Rivoli on Queen Street W. for Smothered in Hugs, a PEI band named after a Guided by Voices song, Small Sins at the Horseshoe with their hit “Stay” (a pop song about fidelity, of all things), and then back to the Rivoli for Mardeen from Halifax and finally Two Hours Traffic, a fine power-pop unit also from the East Coast. At some point in all this we got to talking to a couple of ladies sitting at the bar away from the music. One was an Aeroplan employee and just as I was trying to figure out a way to extricate us from a boring conversation Wingy came over with a couple of chairs for he and I. Good timing.

I know this is rambling but I’m on vacation so you’re just going to have to deal with it. Later I’ll put up some pictures and cut the more extraneous stuff which will probably make this post one of the shortest ever. Also I just have to say I am halfway through Then We Came to the End by Joshua Farris and it’s one of the funniest novels I’ve ever read.

Anyway, back to NxNE. Yesterday was Friday, and we decided to try and see Fred, an Irish band which was playing outside behind Eaton Centre. We’d met their managers, Sheena (Ireland) and Jen (Memphis), who had insisted we come out. We gave it the old college try, even taking a cab, but I brought us to the wrong stage so we missed the set. However, Wingy did emerge from the nearby H & M with two hats, two bathing suits, and six pairs of socks.

None of which he was wearing (well, maybe the socks) when we met up w/ my Lavalife editor Kim (yep, believe it or not, someone edits this stuff) for the Manitoba party at the Drake Hotel. Being from that province myself I wasn’t going to miss out on this one, which featured perogies, cabbage rolls, and other fine Winnipeg-type Ukrainian food (I’m half Ukrainian, you know). Much hobnobbing went on, and though Kim had entered with a lowly wristband she emerged with a priority pass and a super pass. Wingy thinks 20-year-old Hill (short for Hillary, who plays in a band called Drowning Girl) is going to get us into the MuchMusic Video Awards party tonight. We’ll see about that.

Oh yeah, also ran into Vancouver singers Adaline (Shawna) and Nat Jay yesterday at one of the panels in the hotel. The race was on after 5 minutes of chatter from the panelists to see who could leave the room first, them or us, due to pressing, more important appointments.

God, this is long-winded. I’m gonna jump ahead here to the Dakota Tavern where, around 11, we saw Priya Thomas, whose last album I really liked but tonight was doing a more low-key thing with just a bassist, guitar player and a bass drum, which she played along with guitar and vocals. There, we met a couple of Brits from a band called Koogaphone, Julie and the manager, and they ended up sharing a cab with us to the Horseshoe. I thought Julie and I were hitting it off but once at the venue she gave me the cold shoulder so nuts to her. I had bigger fish to fry anyway, although I lost track of one of those fish, Liz, a Liv Tyler-esque brunette I’d met earlier at the Horseshoe, and a member of the Edmonton band the Summerlad. Too bad but that’s the way these things go. Well I did end up seeing Swervedriver, a reunited British guitar-rock band from the ’90s, at Lee’s Palace, which had been the evening’s ultimate goal. However, the venue was a sweatbox and I was tried from the day’s drinking and schmoozing, so it was hard to enjoy. Who knows what today will bring… probably another trip to H&M.




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