Concerts Concerts Kicking Off NXNE 2011 Courtesy of The Verge

Kicking Off NXNE 2011 Courtesy of The Verge

Hollerado at Skybar Lounge
NXNE 2011: The Verge XM Rooftop Party
Hollerado, Zeus, Dinosaur Bones, Washington
Skybar in Toronto, ON
June 16, 2011

Review by: Lee Fraser
Photos by: Pete Nema

XM Satellite Radio's The Verge hosted a rooftop party to kick off NXNE 2011, featuring a good cross-section of live music on offer.

Below a sky of threatening clouds, with a welcome breeze off of the lake across the street, Jeff Leake kicked off an afternoon party at the laid back Skybar. Bands, media and music industry luminati mingled and caught up while four bands with unique styles played on the cubby hole stage.

Washington

The entertainment started off with Washington, an Australian singer songwriter (Megan Washington is her full name) who sells out multi-night gigs at home. At The Verge rooftop party, she played a borrowed set of keys and sang sweet folky songs with passion. Although the songstress started off wearing sunglasses and focused intently on the keys, the small but attentive crowd built her confidence. By about half-way through her set, the sunglasses had been tossed and her body movement matched the intensity of her tales of love and heart-break. By the end of her set, she was smiling and making plenty of eye contact. With apologies for not having any merch, Washington wished everyone a lovely festival and left the stage to the sound of thoughtful applause.

Washington at Skybar Lounge   Washington at Skybar Lounge   Washington at Skybar Lounge  

Dinosaur Bones

With a fairly short break, Jeff Leake introduced local darlings, Dinosaur Bones. This band of four shaggy guys and a clean-cut drummer have been building a strong fan base over the years, touring alongside many of Canada's strongest talents. The first song of their set filled the open Skybar space and made a statement: We are here and you are going to have a good time. Returning from a solid two weeks of touring the U.S., it was evident that the band was thrilled to be playing to a home-town crowd, most of which migrated to the front of the stage. Fists were pumping, girls were dancing; Dinosaur Bones were on fire! This band plays the kind of good solid rock and roll that sounds familiar even the first time you hear it.  Even though chilling out and relaxing might have been on the agenda after weeks of touring, the band seemed to be very content to be in the midst of NXNE.

As Dinosaur Bones broke out a cover of Tears For Fears' "Everybody Wants To Rule The World", the skies starting spitting, but nobody cared. The party was on!

Dinosaur Bones at Skybar Lounge   Dinosaur Bones at Skybar Lounge   Dinosaur Bones at Skybar Lounge   Dinosaur Bones at Skybar Lounge   Dinosaur Bones at Skybar Lounge   Dinosaur Bones at Skybar Lounge   Dinosaur Bones at Skybar Lounge   Dinosaur Bones at Skybar Lounge   Dinosaur Bones at Skybar Lounge  

Zeus

Next up were the Toronto band of musically talented misfits, Zeus. Adding a bottle of Newfoundland Screech to the party scene on stage, Jeff Leake introduced the band amidst many hoots and hollers. Rob Drake (drums) was sporting his fashionable indie rock / playoff beard while Mike O'Brien (vocals, guitar, keys) wore some very eye-catching shades. Neil Quin (vocals, guitar, keys), with his floppy hair and bookish spectacles looked like an absent-minded professor, while Carlin Nicholson (vocals, guitar, keys) had a look reminiscent of a 70's porn star courtesy of his stylin' moustache. Unlike their recent opening gig for Sam Roberts Band at Massey Hall, the lighting was not an issue (unless you count the numerous encounters between the neck of Carlin's bass and the artsy light shade overhead). With 70's/80's anthemic rock as their inspiration, it didn't take long for the crowd to become a grooving, bopping choir of voices. Songs like "Marching Through Your Head" and "How Does It Feel" are perfectly suited to summer festival shows and rooftop parties. By the end of their set, the sun was out and spirits were high. And despite (or perhaps because of) the pre-set shenanigans, Zeus showed us once again the maturity and skill of a group of industry vets.

Info: Zeus
Connect: MySpace, Facebook, Twitter
Video: How Does It Feel

Zeus at Skybar Lounge   Zeus at Skybar Lounge   Zeus at Skybar Lounge   Zeus at Skybar Lounge   Zeus at Skybar Lounge   Zeus at Skybar Lounge   Zeus at Skybar Lounge   Zeus at Skybar Lounge   Zeus at Skybar Lounge   Zeus at Skybar Lounge   Zeus at Skybar Lounge  

Hollerado

If you have not experienced a Hollerado show in person, there will be plenty of opportunities this summer. Now that the band has moved to Toronto, their prevalence on the local scene is stronger than ever and it's not a stretch to say that every show will be a great one.

At the now-crowded Skybar, confetti rained down on us until there were gobs of it at our feet. Menno Versteeg (vocals, guitar) continued to make terrible jokes while tuning (with the exception, maybe, of musing about the ludicrous 80's trend of doing things because it's possible, like eating in revolving restaurants). Dean Switzer (bass) initiated plenty of group bouncing to the beat. Branko Scekic (bass player for Dinosaur Bones) joined Hollerado for some fantastic topical free styling during "Americanarama". Menno and Nixon Boyd (guitar) had a guitar duel within a precarious two square foot area atop a subwoofer. The microphone was thrust into the audience for some impromptu karaoke during "Do De Doot Doot". Jake Boyd (drums) took his shirt off, though he managed to keep his pants on... for a change. The crowd was a frenzy of ecstatic fans and the band members were all smiles.

It would be easy to believe that the energy of Hollerado's set was due to the audience, the industry representation, the love from fellow bands and the support from The Verge, but the truth of the matter is, this is what a Hollerado show is all about. Every time. The last chord was struck and Menno jumped off the stage and walked through the crowd amidst high fives and hugs. The future of the industry is down to earth, accessible, talented and fun.

All in all, this was a great showcase of what NXNE is all about, let alone the music scene in Toronto. On almost any given night, you can see an artist from outside of Canada who is a huge sensation at home, playing to a small, attentive crowd. Pretty much every night, you can see hard-working local bands who give it 100% every show they do, some of which were born and raised in Toronto while others choose to move here for the opportunities. And once in a while you get the opportunity to see bands that consist of in-demand musicians who have formed their own small collective to play the music of their own hearts and souls. This is NXNE. This is our music scene.

Hollerado at Skybar Lounge   Hollerado at Skybar Lounge   Hollerado at Skybar Lounge   Hollerado at Skybar Lounge   Hollerado at Skybar Lounge   Hollerado at Skybar Lounge   Hollerado at Skybar Lounge   Hollerado at Skybar Lounge   Hollerado at Skybar Lounge   Hollerado at Skybar Lounge   Hollerado at Skybar Lounge   Hollerado at Skybar Lounge   Hollerado at Skybar Lounge   Hollerado at Skybar Lounge