Concerts Concerts NXNE 2011: Welcoming the Weekend

NXNE 2011: Welcoming the Weekend

Elephant Stone at The Garrison
NXNE 2011: Friday Night
Library Voices, The Most Serene Republic, Art Brut, Elephant Stone, Braids, Olenka and the Autumn Lovers, Bialystoker
Toronto, ON
June 17, 2011

Review by: Chad Hutchings
Photos by: Julie Lavelle

North By North East 2011 might be all wrapped up, but with 650 bands all crammed into 5 days, Sticky still has plenty to report about the highs (and lows) that your favourite artists had to offer.

A few days ago, you read all about our first two nights spent wandering the streets. Now we're stepping up to show you what turned out being this team's most memorable day of the festival — Friday night at NXNE 2011.

Library Voices

With a bright and early start (that is to say, shortly after dinner), our weekend got rolling at The Mod Club, where our team made ourselves comfortable and aimed to take in the entire showcase before sunset. 

To set things in motion, Regina's Library Voices played the role of the perfect opening act, warming up the crowd with their spunky indie pop.  Despite the fact that this pop sound wasn't well-fitted with the acts to follow (who, in fact, weren't terribly well-fitted together, either), the sprawling 7-piece had no trouble keeping the audience's attention — an audience that spared no strength clapping, dancing, and singing along, heard at their loudest during fan-favourite "Step Off The Map and Float". Although this track stood out as the most creative that the band played, it was hard not to notice how similar each of the other songs were to the next. But with that aside, what the set lacked in variety was more than made up for in life; every member of Library Voices was bursting at the seams with energy, spilling over onto a crowd who stayed beaming long after the last act left the stage.

Library Voices at The Mod Club   Library Voices at The Mod Club   Library Voices at The Mod Club   Library Voices at The Mod Club   Library Voices at The Mod Club   Library Voices at The Mod Club   Library Voices at The Mod Club   Library Voices at The Mod Club   Library Voices at The Mod Club   Library Voices at The Mod Club   Library Voices at The Mod Club   Library Voices at The Mod Club   Library Voices at The Mod Club   Library Voices at The Mod Club  

The Most Serene Republic

If the spotlight was crowded for Library Voices, it was absolutely jammed when the nine musicians made their way on-stage to form The Most Serene Republic's live act. Unlike the pop work they followed, the group played music that was much darker and richer, heavily layering their broad instrumentals with stunning drum-work, while mixing in awkward banter and silly jokes whenever a silent moment popped up. The Most Serene Republic, too, was brimming with energy and they didn't mind showing it, yet the show never overshadowed their true artistic strength, best displayed during their performances of monumental works like "Present Of Future End" and "Phages."

The Most Serene Republic at The Mod Club   The Most Serene Republic at The Mod Club   The Most Serene Republic at The Mod Club   The Most Serene Republic at The Mod Club   The Most Serene Republic at The Mod Club   The Most Serene Republic at The Mod Club   The Most Serene Republic at The Mod Club   The Most Serene Republic at The Mod Club   The Most Serene Republic at The Mod Club   The Most Serene Republic at The Mod Club  

Art Brut

Maybe it was the early hour, but The Mod Club floor was still feeling roomy when headliners Art Brut replaced The Most Serene Republic on the stage. The group has had mixed critical reviews over the past few years with the release of their latest works, but, if you ask around, it seems that at least one recent consensus has been formed: Last week's NXNE show awed everyone who showed up, and it stands as one of the best performances of the festival. Lead Eddie Argos kept his fans hanging off of his every word, at one point even spending time in the audience mid-song, weaving a clever story that had the crowd both sitting on the floor and then bouncing hard enough to shake the walls. Stories aside, the set (laden heavily with hits) was played wildly and with wide-eyes, with every member seeming genuinely happy to play their part in a performance that held up strong to the band's namesake.

Info: Art Brut
Connect: MySpace, Facebook, Twitter

Art Brut at The Mod Club   Art Brut at The Mod Club   Art Brut at The Mod Club   Art Brut at The Mod Club   Art Brut at The Mod Club   Art Brut at The Mod Club   Art Brut at The Mod Club   Art Brut at The Mod Club   Art Brut at The Mod Club   Art Brut at The Mod Club  

Elephant Stone

With College Street conquered, we next found our way from The Mod Club to the Osheaga Showcase at The Garrison, rushing in to find Elephant Stone chipping away at the early selections on their set-list. We were joined by a lot of others who seemed to have the same idea, and the room quickly filled up as the group came through with great rhythms and clean vocal work. While their entire set was full of gems, the tracks that were shining brightest came when singer Rishi Dhir chose to trade in his guitar for a sitar, a sound at it's best in the striking "A Morning Song." The act blends the instrument seamlessly into their indie rock songs, creating a unique sound that narrowly avoids the kitschy air that comes all too often when the sitar is introduced into a rock setting. As far as live performances go, if you're looking for a single recommendation from our time at NXNE, Elephant Stone is a top candidate.

Elephant Stone at The Garrison   Elephant Stone at The Garrison   Elephant Stone at The Garrison   Elephant Stone at The Garrison   Elephant Stone at The Garrison   Elephant Stone at The Garrison   Elephant Stone at The Garrison   Elephant Stone at The Garrison   Elephant Stone at The Garrison   Elephant Stone at The Garrison  

Braids

As luck would have it, though, another prime candidate was next up on the bill. Montreal art-rock act Braids has been seeing quite a bit of favourable press lately, and their set on Friday never fell short of expectations. As with their recorded work, the group offered up a softened post-rock that, despite being rich with vocals, puts more weight on the stunning delivery of these vocals than on the meaning behind the words. As far as the performance goes, the songs translated surprisingly well on stage and, while Braids was unsurprisingly meek and mild in front of the crowd, their dreamy music spoke for itself — warm and ambient, hazy and heavy with complex beats that had the audience undeniably entranced. 

Info: Braids
Connect: MySpace, Facebook, Twitter

Braids at The Garrison   Braids at The Garrison   Braids at The Garrison   Braids at The Garrison   Braids at The Garrison   Braids at The Garrison   Braids at The Garrison   Braids at The Garrison   Braids at The Garrison  

Olenka and the Autumn Lovers

Making our exit as the crowd grew shoulder to shoulder, we took a short stroll south to The Gladstone, where the party also was still going strong. Inside, we found Olenka and the Autumn Lovers ready to share their (mostly) whimsical sound, incorporating indie-rock, folk, and a hard-to-define Eastern European/Balkan/gypsy styling. At this late an hour, the audience had made their fair share of visits to the bar, which turned the first half of the set into a bit of a battle against the background roar. Defiantly, though, Olenka Krakus and her band put on a beautiful performance of their earthy, lively work, and the lead stayed cool and coy when she engaged the audience, earning their full attention as the songs passed by. By the time Olenka offered up, "Are you ready for some songs about Communism and joy?", the wiley crowd was all hers, and they were left begging for more as the set drew to a close (a request to which the group yielded, offering up a quiet number to cap things off).

Olenka and the Autumn Lovers at The Gladstone Hotel   Olenka and the Autumn Lovers at The Gladstone Hotel   Olenka and the Autumn Lovers at The Gladstone Hotel   Olenka and the Autumn Lovers at The Gladstone Hotel   Olenka and the Autumn Lovers at The Gladstone Hotel   Olenka and the Autumn Lovers at The Gladstone Hotel   Olenka and the Autumn Lovers at The Gladstone Hotel   Olenka and the Autumn Lovers at The Gladstone Hotel   Olenka and the Autumn Lovers at The Gladstone Hotel   Olenka and the Autumn Lovers at The Gladstone Hotel  

Bialystoker (formerly The Lovely Feathers)

For the last set on The Gladstone's bill (and the last band on our heavy Friday schedule), the spotlight offered up the newly-named Bialystoker (formerly The Lovely Feathers, renamed after resizing to a four-piece). By this point, the rowdiest members of the audience had found their way to the door, but the crowd that remained was in no way quiet and reserved; the room was full of the happiest, most unabashed fans we'd end mingling with for the entire week, and Bialystoker played in perfect suit. They let loose on stage, performing fast, gritty tunes that, despite the free-for-all feel of the set, maintained an elaborate sound with intelligent pacing and great beats. One drunken dancer may have said it best when he shouted, "You're still lovely!" The group was a happy mess, and their live show was a wild time, entirely earning the cheers, shouts, and generally unchecked revelry that had taken over the floor.

Bialystoker at The Gladstone Hotel   Bialystoker at The Gladstone Hotel   Bialystoker at The Gladstone Hotel   Bialystoker at The Gladstone Hotel   Bialystoker at The Gladstone Hotel   Bialystoker at The Gladstone Hotel   Bialystoker at The Gladstone Hotel   Bialystoker at The Gladstone Hotel   Bialystoker at The Gladstone Hotel   Bialystoker at The Gladstone Hotel