NXNE RECAP: Saturday: Bruise Cruise (The Return), A Trip to BLK BOX + Local Brews at Bellwoods
By Breanna Murphy on June 26, 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 and Friday's reports and, below, check out managing editor Breanna Murphy's final day of NXNE coverage. Thank you, Toronto...until next year!
On Saturday morning, I found myself with a bit of déjà vu as I packed my day bag: shorts, sunnies, sunblock... Yes, it was true: I was bound back on board the Bruise Cruise.
207 Queens Quay West
Walking down to the waterfront, I was definitely not alone; the beautiful weekend weather after a stormy couple of days had brought out families and couples who took the opportunity to head to Queens Quay, where a number of ferries and boats could take out you for an island daytrip or a lengthy relaxing afternoon out at sea. Arriving to my destination dock, a long line stretched alongside of our vessel for the afternoon, where people had begun lining up an hour-plus before to secure a spot aboard NXNE's Bruise Cruise showcase.
Fat Tony (Brooklyn, New York via Houston, Texas—USA)
As our boat pulled out of port, New York–via–Texas rapper Fat Tony welcomed us out to sea, joined on stage by his partner Tom Cruz, trading raps and beats from last year's collaboration Double Dragon, as well as Tony's new album Smart Ass Black Boy. The duo's smooth, rapid-fire flows about summertime block parties and going out to clubs, deftly strung together with clever pop culture nods ("Goldeneye"), were just the thing as the familiar combination of choppy waters, cold beers and thudding bass took hold and the shores of Toronto faded from view.
Already in need of fresh air (the shows were held in a below-decks banquet hall that one would imagine saw more dinner theatre than punk rock shows), the top deck and a freshly acquired Steam Whistle Pils offered great views and relaxation, respectively.
We Are Wolves (Montreal, Quebec—CAN)
Back below decks, Montreal three-piece We Are Wolves got the crowd moving, inciting a rowdy dancefloor with their heavy, hazy rock. Things got steamy fast, and I began to hear grumblings of sea-sickness as sweat and heat permeated the dense atmosphere. No one seemed to take much action against illness, however, and continued to pulse methodically along to drummer Antonin Marquis' truly formidable drumming. The band finished up their set with a really sweet take on Sabbath ("Paranoid"), before yielding the floor to Toronto industrial-punks Odonis Odonis.
Odonis Odonis (Toronto, Ontario—CAN)
Succinct and sharp, Odonis Odonis were a highlight of the weekend with an appropriately ship-shape set that came in under 20 minutes...tops. With most songs floating around under the two-minute mark, the -gazey threesome took the honors of the first moshpit of the afternoon, but it would not be the last.
MIkal Cronin (San Francisco, California—USA)
Our ship had pulled back into shore by the time Mikal Cronin and band took the Bruise Cruise stage...but this is what most of the crowd had come aboard for. Time of the essence, the band abandoned a STYX cover of "Come Sail Away" (Why!? So perfect!) in favor of cuts from Cronin's newest release, the excellent power-pop gem MCII. Despite having played an insane amount of shows at this year's NXNE (including a three-night residency at the Silver Dollar), Cronin and company were in usual top form, showing no signs of exhaustion, maritime-induced or otherwise.
The crowd responded in kind, with one kid mastering a really, really impressive crowdsurf that was akin to a limbo (how low can you go?) against the ship's seriously shallow ceiling. The audience clearly craving an encore, but imminently about to be kicked off the boat, Cronin shrugged. "Fuck it, let's do it," and appeased us with one more—a lovely and sizzling cover of Wreckless Eric's "Whole Wide World."
Younge and Dundas
Coming off the Bruise Cruise in a blur (thank you M Pour Montreal and Panache!), I had been rocked and rolled on the high seas yet again, but it was a touch of homesickness (not seasickness) that directed my next route for the afternoon, returning once again to Younge-Dundas Square to catch a hometown favorite: Big Black Delta.
Big Black Delta (Los Angeles, California—USA)
Seeing some familiar and fantastic faces from Los Angeles was just the fix I needed. I'd never seen (or thought to catch) Big Black Delta in the daytime—the band's deep, dark electrics lend themselves naturally to nighttime activities—but a sunset slot suited them excellently. Jonathan Bates stalked the stage, pacing (jumping, dancing, bouncing, grooving) from his laptop to his bassist and in between the pair of double drummers pounding out the rhythms of "Huggin' & Kissin'." Just watching him makes you break a sweat.
Thusly sated musically, but with my hours in Toronto waning fast, there was something I was missing...and only one thing for it: brewery time.
During my three days in Toronto, I'd been able to sample a couple of really delicious local brews—Mill Street Stock Ale and this earlier afternoon's Steam Whistle Pils—so I opted to try a brand-new place when I decided to stop into a Toronto brewery.
124 Ossington Avenue
Bellwoods had been recommended highly by several people, and as it happened to be in the neighborhood of my last venue of the evening, it seemed a perfect fit. I wasn't disappointed. The neighborhood walk through the Trinity-Bellwoods Park and nearby vicinity was wonderful in the warm, early summer air and it was a part of town I had sadly not explored until this, my last evening. I had been warned this small brewery and restaurant could get packed, and luckily I got in between rushes. I took a seat at the bar and upon looking at the menu, knew I had to try a bit of everything. The brewery switches up its menu regularly, and this evening had six signature beers, all different varieties, and the helpful staff brought them out in twos, pairing a dark with a lighter fare in every round.
1. Mashpipe: a sour Berliner weisse—usually I'd never order a sour beer, but this ended up being my favorite in a round of all close favorites;
2. Wizard Wolf: Bellwood's pale ale, refreshing but a touch too fruity and light for my tastes—I love a good dark beer, brew it with chocolate or coffee, I don't care...
3. White Picket Fence: a Belgian summer ale that actually had a nice bite to it;
4. Roman Candle: an American-style IPA—IPAs are my jam, and maybe it was just the fair weather (or the 6.8% ABV)—but this one left me a little à bout de souffle, and not necessarily in a good way;
5. Hoppy Heifeweizen; self-explanatory—I've never had a hef I didn't like, and this certainly was no different;
6. Witchshark IIPA; this excellently-named double IPA was in fact heavier than Roman Candle, but as my last beer, it was a really nice ending.
In addition to a open-air dining atmosphere that was divine, the Bellwoods menu looked delicious and intriguing, though I unfortunately had not the time to sample mouth-watering dishes like pork belly and clams or the spicy greens salad (smoked duck yolk, strawberry, tamarack tips and buttermilk dressing), that is exactly what return trips to Toronto are for.
Bellwoods definitely prepped me for my last night in the city, and just down the street, I'd find my last venue of NXNE 2013....
1087 Queen Street W
A sunset stroll from Bellwoods back down the Queen Street took me through some nice neighborhoods, but when I arrived outside a giant, 19th-century former YMCA building, night had fallen. Up the stairs of The Great Hall, a few turns inside (thank you, signs!) and then plunging down some steep stairs into the belly of the building is BLK BOX, by far the most unique venue I'd happened upon in Toronto. The name was apt, for starters—it was so dark I could barely see in front of me, the only points of sight were the modest bars lit by candlelight.
Chad Valley (Oxford, England—UK)
My entire NXNE in Toronto was a smorgasbord of delights—good people, delicious food, amazing music, beautiful city—and seeing Chad Valley (Jonquil's Hugo Manuel) was the pinnacle of a trip that I didn't think could get any better. Appearing out of the darkness, Valley performed cuts from his debut solo record Young Hunger, belting out lovelorn numbers like "Tell All Your Friends" and hitting every high note flawlessly. Illuminated by red and blue lights, the set had an air of undeniable sensuality, something that translated right off the record and into the BLK BOX that night.
It was a better end than I could have asked for to an incredible week...and I can't wait until I get to do it again.
Big thank yous to Kip Kouri at Tell All Your Friends; Michelle Cable from Panache; Deborah, Damien, Caelin and all the volunteers I encountered from NXNE; everyone I shared words and drinks with; the bands and venues; and, most of all, the city of Toronto.