by Michael Thomas
On Saturday, I realized 8/15 of the bands I saw during NXNE were from Toronto. But who cares, Toronto is awesome.
Animalia at the Painted Lady began my night. Jill Krasnicki’s music is fairly simple, but she turns it into something monumental with the physicality of it. With just backing tracks, Krasnicki conveys the weight of each song with her elastic vocals. From belting it out to drawing out her syllables, she conveys a wide range of emotions. And then there’s the fact that she doesn’t stay still–walking into the audience is no problem for her. Despite her saying mid-set that voice was starting to crack, from an audience perspective there was no trouble at all.
There must be some sort of yearly mandate for NXNE to feature Michael Rault. All the better for Toronto, because Rault always reliably puts on a good show. Saturday night at the Garrison was no different. His slick, slacker-garage-rock always feels fresh no matter how many times he and his band play it. Plenty of psychedelic riffs guided the audience through a packed set (it helps having short songs), and Rault always makes for a reliable anchor. As per nearly always, he ended the set with the wonderful “Suckcess,” which had the added punch of a wicked few minutes of pure instrumental jamming.
It was hard to tell at first what to expect from JOOJ, the duo of Sook-Yin Lee and Adam Litovitz. The set began with a wordless piece consisting of piano for Litovitz and a long tube for Lee, and then Lee began dancing. Then the equipment failed and they did the song again. It was a tad awkward, but the set picked up again as they launched into the meat of their set. Litovitz played the keys for most of it while Lee sang songs with dramatic lyrics, occasionally even moving into spoken word. She also had an array of instrumentals, from a wood block to mini-piano to a woodwind of some kind. The 45-minute set took many twists and turns and kept everyone guessing.
If only Jennifer Castle could have played last night’s set at a venue other than the Garrison. Her set had all the hallmarks of a Castle performance: crisp guitar playing, gorgeous lyrics and vocals and of course, an enthusiastic crowd to witness it. Only, there was major sound bleedthrough from the front room, so while Castle was playing a quietly brilliant song on stage, some shitty house music was intermingling. That aside, if you could focus your ears on Castle you would have heard great songs like “Working for the Man” or the uplifting “Sailing Away.”
That’s it for my NXNE experience this year.