NXNE: Rancho Relaxo ends it on a high note

Goodnight, Sunrise//Photo: Michael Thomas

by Michael Thomas

I was glad to see that despite the slimmer pickings for Sunday shows, I managed to find one bill that would be considered stacked even during one of NXNE’s busy days. That bill was a showcase courtesy of Two Way Monologues, the excellent Toronto-based company that showcases local talent like no other. Naturally, Rancho Relaxo was the venue of choice.

My inability to understand the lack of streetcars at Spadina made me a few minutes late to the set of Vistavision, but I did manage to catch most of the songs they played. Described as a “raw rock and soul trio” the guys definitely did have a lot of soul. Their rock tended to be more on the melodic side, with lots of music jams in comparison to vocals. The three guys got a healthy amount of applause from those who had ventured out early.

Following them was an apparently last-minute replacement, Crowns for Convoys. Their whole set (somewhere between 30 and 40 minutes, I think it was) was comprised of four or five songs. Just like Vistavision before them, these guys had lots of jams, though there tended to be a bit more singing. It was hypnotic, actually, my feeling like I was listening to one huge never-ending song. For a last-minute substitute, the guys definitely won the crowd over.

In the 10 p.m. slot was Goodnight, Sunrise. Just like the last time I saw them play, they started their set with a band member or two on stage, with the rest joining them as the song moved on. And just like that last set, they brought a party with them. For one song they had the lights go out and distributed not only mini glowsticks but also glow-in-the-dark beach balls. Their technical difficulties didn’t break up the band’s energy in the least, particularly with their triumphant finale, “This is Yours.” They got a bunch of people onto the small-ish stage to dance with them and sing, and female vocalist Vanessa Vakharia launched some confetti into the audience.

By this point the venue was starting to feel like a sauna (and I thought I’d only have to deal with the heat of Czehoski!) and it got even more hot and sweaty for the biggest draw of the night- Amos the Transparent. For so long I had been aware of this large group, but it was the first time I had ever heard their music.

The band’s seven (!!!) members definitely showed the stage’s capacity- three guitarists, a drummer, a bassist, a keyboardist and a cello player. It was immediately apparent why this band drew the crowd they did- their heartfelt pop-tinged rock makes you feel like you’ve known these guys forever. They got the audience singing with them on several songs, and the happiness reached its pinnacle when one of the guitarists said “I get in trouble for saying this in Ottawa, but it’s good to be home.” After their set I was mentally kicking myself for not having heard their music before.

Following this band was an act that one my friends absolutely loves, so I was excited to finally hear them. Dream Jefferson are an electro-hip-hop group that were definitely a change of pace from the rock acts before them. Forget LMFAO, these guys should be the kings of party rock.

The act was also special because they started the set playing their new EP Manchester Blues (out today!). The band got things started on a high note. The band is four members, two of whom do the majority of the rapping, with one female backup singer and a guy who played guitar and did backup vocals. Their energy was absolutely enormous. I always love to watch singers who aren’t tied to an instrument, and the frontman went out into the audience several times among other things. The band had one really big fan who basically screamed whenever they said they would play a song, but they had a lot of other support from both new fans and current fans alike.

I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t stay for the band Miss Elizabeth (made of people from Gay and Powers, among others), who would have been fun, but NXNE exhaustion had set in. Regardless of my exhaustion level, it was a killer way to end NXNE.

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