Tuesday, June 19, 2012

NXNE at Dundas Square

Saturday was the big free concert for North By Northeast Music and Film Festival that the whole city seemed to be talking about all week in the build up.

In my never-ending quest to squeeze everything in when it's on, I first popped down to the Redpath Stage along Habourfront, in the quest to see the band that had been hyped as Canada's Fleet Foxes. Alas, it seems that this stage was not running to the App outlined timings nor line up, and so I caught Mississauga's alt-rock Illscarlett instead as I grabbed some lunch. In two minds as the music between sets played Mykonos and the ukelele was tested in sound check, I left as planned and missed People Of Canada.

As I emerged out of the subway and up the stairs into Dundas Square, I could hear the beats and energy of Art v Science. They had a captive audience up the front of the stage amid the very busy Square, all dancing and joining them in their encouraged moves.

The set was very much like the night before, but it was so cool to see these Aussie lads have such a massive stage on this side of the world!

Parlez Vous Francais was a huge track with the routine sculling of a beer in the middle, pumping Magic Fountain, and Flippers ended the set. Loved the fist in the air-pumping ending, 'we are Art....verses...Science....' I was moved enough to buy their album on offer!

Between sets I took the time to explore the Square, with a Ben and Jerry's caravan handing out scoops of ice cream, Wonka's stand handing out handfuls of lollies, and Contiki giving away a trip to Coachella (in my dreams!!!).

Back to the stage area for Canada's Hollarado, who really impressed with their indie rock tunes. Gina joined me at this point, and we both came away from the set with a new music find.

Oberhofer was next, who actually had the opposite effect on us. Nothing really grabbed me about this set, nor the music delivered, by this young and hyped NY based band.

But then came a set to blow your mind - of Montreal. The costumes, the background visuals, and risque lyrics and provocative acts constantly coming out on stage around the band made this indie pop experience something unlike any other.

I recognised at least 3 tracks from Skeletal Lamping, but with such a vast back catalogue, and a new album release this year, they had so much to choose from for this set. Engaging, amusing, and just crazy! The set ended with 2 of their extras in bodysuits, jumping onto the out stretched arms of the crowd, and travelling all the way out to where we were.

A set unlikely to be forgotten by anyone who was there!

Next up were Portugal. The Man, during which I took the opportunity to find somewhere to sit as Yonge Street was blocked off for the massive crowd forming. Needing the regain the energy to stand for the rest of the evening, I was still moved enough at one point to get back into better earshot by one particular track I could just hear from my vantage point.

Half of the square was soon jammed full of people, with very little room to move through either way, as this set ended and the light started to fade from the Summer's day. The anticipation was building by many of us who knew what to expect by the next, headlining act, and impatience was heard from others. Having seen the start of the set at Harvest, I knew it was going to be amazing!

Completing their soundcheck in front of this amassing crowd, The Flaming Lips assured us that the show was not far away, and I think they were really waiting for darkness to fall.

Once the sun had disappeared and the Square was in darkness, the band started to play as Wayne Coyne appeared in his bubble, as it was being blown up. The atmosphere was electric as the music built the mood, and soon the zorb ball was full - and projected out onto the crowd. Coyne rolled himself across the thronging masses, with the psychedelic tunes beaming out, and the crowd enthralled.

Once the ball was returned to the stage, Coyne emerged kitted out in fur and his wild hair, and the magic escalated. The confetti shots started, showering the whole crowd with coloured streamers and paper pieces - and then the huge coloured balloons, some confetti filled, were projected out to the crowd. A sea of colour, and bouncing balloons, and trippy tunes filled the Square. An experience like no other, it was so amazing!

Once the awesome colourful airborne mayhem started to dissipate, the songs started, and hearing that volume of people sing She Don't Use Jelly in unison was a treat to behold!

I decided to leave before the end, to beat the rush of people out of this area, and grabbed a streetcar. I later read that Coyne acknowledged that many people there that night were meant to be listening to Radiohead, which was cancelled after a tragic accident during the day, and then played a cover tribute. How amazing, and real.

What an awesome day of music, NXNE's headlining show is bound to have Toronto talking for weeks to come. Anyone who was there for The Flaming Lips has experienced something special, and mind-blowing, with music taken to a whole other level!

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