NXNE RECAP: Friday: Center Stage with The National and a Night Out At Sneaky Dee’s with Julian Lynch
By Breanna Murphy on June 20, 2013
Seven days, one thousand artists, sixty venues across the city... FILTER headed out to Toronto for the 19th year of NXNE to experience all the bands, brews and bons moments we could fit into a 24-hour day, and we weren't disappointed. Catch up with Thursday's report and, below, check out managing editor Breanna Murphy's Friday coverage of NXNE and stay tuned throughout the week for the rest of the festival recaps.
Waking up jet-lagged at 11 a.m., your head still ringing from standing next to the house speakers, calls for an extraordinary breakfast. Plus, what better start to the day is there besides poutine? (The answer is nothing. Nothing is better than waking up to poutine.)
Thusly satisfied with the country's official and delicious fast food, and with a handful of free hours before the night's activities were to start, I took a train out to Scarborough, a suburban district of Toronto to explore the shores of Lake Ontario. My stop at Rouge Hill, about 20 minutes just north of the city, was right on the edges of the lake. The small storm that had blown through the days previous afforded spectacular views; the waters of Lake Ontario were in wonderful contrast to the traditionally dark waters of the Pacific Ocean. It was a nice chance to get outside the metropolis, and I'm grateful I did. The night was going to be a wonderful and long one.
Younge and Dundas
After arriving back in the city via Union Station, my subway stop landed me right in the middle of my first destination of the evening in Younge-Dundas Square. NXNE showcases some of the festival's biggest acts for free to the public in this large commercial epicenter, which this year included Ludacris, Social Distortion, We Are Scientists and this particular evening's headliner, The National.
The National (Brooklyn, New York—USA)
As if I was going to miss this current issue's cover band. Though I had arrived to Younge-Dundas Square no less than 45 minutes before The National's set, every available bit of room was occupied. A group nearby me commiserated together on the impossibility of grabbing a beer for the show from the at-capacity beer garden, before shrugging it off affably, as if to suggest, "Oh, well—we're seeing The National!" The band emerged just after nine from a side stage, packed with VIPs, to the warm thunderous applause from the crowd before launching into a one-two punch of material from the new album Trouble Will Find Me. "Bloodbuzz Ohio," followed, and it was something of a realization that the single from the band's 2009 album High Violet has become something of a classic at this point—as nearly all The National's songs do to their fans.
I reluctantly boarded a streetcar headed west for my next show, and the train thankfully got stuck in a traffic jam in full earshot as Matt Berninger urged the crowd on. "Raise our heavenly glasses to the heavens!"
1197 Garrison Street West
Valleys (Montreal, Quebec—CAN)
On this side of town, the cars and heavy foot traffic of the eastern side gave way to dozens of festivalgoers on bicycles as I approached The Garrison to stop in to catch Montreal duo Valleys, who just released their "sad but beautiful" (and awesomely-titled) Are You Going To Stand There And Talk Weird All Night?. The venue was empty when I arrived, but soon brought in a decently sized crowd to see the band in the small venue. A sparse setup—Matilda Perks on Korg manipulator and Marc St. Louis on guitar; both on vocals—proved successful, despite starting late. Melodic, mood-altering and haunting, Valleys filled up The Garrison with enough lasting, stirring emotions to guide me on to my next venue of the night.
431 College Street
Upon my arrival to Sneaky Dee's, a graffitied dual-level venue (restaurant/bar downstairs, stage and bar upstairs), the M Pour Montreal showcase was in full swing. I slid past an underager arguing to no effect with the bouncer and headed up the stairs. I had been in Toronto now for 36 hours and had yet to sample the local beers—save for the Molson I enjoyed in Calgary. At the Sneaky Dee bar, upon recommendation, I nabbed what would become one of my favorites of the trip, a Mill Street Stock Ale, and headed towards the front of the place to get a good spot for Julian Lynch, who, along with his tourmates The Luyas, were unpacking instruments and setting up gear.
Julian Lynch (Madison, Wisconsin—USA)
I had known long before flying off to NXNE that catching Julian Lynch was an absolute must for me, as a longtime admirer of the musician. The multi-instrumentalist's recordings are brain-bending sonic odysseys, and seeing him live did not disappoint in the slightest. Supported by The Luyas—who provided a diverse and solid backing of drums, keys, baritone and French horn—the set was a fully-drawn, wonderfully-colorful visual and musical escape to Terra and Lines and beyond.
Not precisely the cerebral journey his music presents on record, Lynch's live performance was surprisingly direct and straightforward, his vocals unladen by effect or their usual day-dreaminess, bringing the myriad sounds he and the band produced into dynamic focus. It was a shame for the set to be cut short because, honestly, I could have listened all night.
Brazos (Brookyn, New York—USA)
After the jazzy space-scaping of Julian Lynch, Brooklyn-by-way-of-Austin songwriter Martin Crane, along with bandmates Ian Chang on drums and Spencer Zahn on bass, got the crowd at Sneaky Dee's moving with cuts from their recent Dead Oceans release, Saltwater. The precise and groovy basslines of "Charm" especially resonated throughout the room, with Crane crooning aptly, "I feel summer sweeping out... / I'm trying hard to say that everything that's green turns gold."
One more Stock Ale in my hand, and The Luyas took the stage again, as did Julian Lynch who provided bass clarinet and guitar backup for the Montreal foursome. "We've been in the van traveling..." vocalist Jessie Stein offered, "Are you all trees?" she directed at the packed venue, laughing. The group did look a touch weary, but I chalked it up to a 1:00 a.m. set time—certainly no mean feat.
The Luyas (Montreal, Quebec—CAN)
One a.m. was hitting me hard, as well, but so did the welcome wake up call of The Luyas. Asking the house to turn down the lights low, only the soft glow of the filament bulbs on the stage shone any light, casting shadows on Stein and Mathieu Charbonneau as they traded smiles between songs from last year's Animator. Finally, though, time was no longer on my side and not even the Stock Ales could save me. After all, I was going on cruise tomorrow.
Stay tuned for the rest of our coverage, with tomorrow's final recap from Saturday at NXNE—including a return to the Bruise Cruise and a visit to one of Toronto's local breweries!