By: Chantel Ouellet, Russell Canceran
There’s not much that we can say about North by Northeast that hasn’t already been said. If you follow any Toronto-based publication you’ve probably already seen the pictures of a barren parking lot with scattered carnival rides and sponsor trailers. From the top of the free ferris wheel, it resembled an apocalyptic consumerist circus. Despite the poor turn out, lack of seating and crappy vibes, the musicians came out and did their best. Some of the acts that stuck with us the most were the ones who performed early to a handful of people and still got everyone going. It’s difficult to get a hot and tired crowd who are standing in an abandoned parking lot who may not like your music jamming, but artists like John River, MUNA, River Tiber and Twin Peaks made it happen. Headliners Post Malone, Kaytranada and Passion Pit also brought their all despite janky set ups and slow start times. Here are some of our highlights from the weekend long festival.
John River blew me away on Saturday. He was the first act I caught on Saturday after showing up a little hungover and incredibly skeptical. My doubts subsided when he came on stage and absolutely killed it. The Mississauga native grabbed the crowd’s attention by regularly dropping his back track and relying heavily on his emotive delivery. John River did not shy away from a range of topics, including absent fathers. In his song “Hope City II” he laces stories of his upbringing in Mississauga with a tale about meeting J.Cole and finding his own sound. By the end of his set, he had the whole crowd singing along and having a great time.
Later that day we caught LA based electro pop trio MUNA. The energy of this band was infectious with lead singer, Katie Gaven, jumping around the stage. At one point someone next to me said out loud to no one in particular, “this is going to be my song of summer”. This pretty much sums up MUNA. They are fun, sunshine soaked and poppy. They played a number of their songs including singles “Winterbreak”, “Crying on the Bathroom Floor” and “I Know A Place”. If you haven’t checked them out already, we highly recommend adding them to your radar.
I can’t remember the last time I danced so hard at a concert. The magic of Tinie Tempah began before he got on stage with his phenomenal hype man DJ Charles. He got the crowd dancing and vibing with his mix of throwbacks and current hits. When Tinie Tempah came on, the crowd was ready to go and go they did. He kept the crowd dancing and swaying his entire set. Near the end of his set my group of friends and I tried to leave to get a good space for a different act but every time we tried to walk away we stopped because another great song would come on. If you don’t believe us take a listen to his tracks “Girls Like”, “Mamacita”, “Written in The Stars” or “Pass Out” and you will see what we are talking about.
Bleacher’s latest album Gone Now (2017) dropped three weeks before they performed at NXNE. You could tell they were still riding the high of having a new album out. From start to finish, Bleachers played an amazing set. They played a good mix of songs of their first two albums Strange Desire (2014) and Terrible Thrills, Vol. 2 (2015). A large percentage of the crowd had come out expressly to see them play. This was obvious from the gaggle of women pressed up against the rails singing every word. No judgement here though, I was one of them. Jack Antonoff and the rest of the band put on a great show as they are seasoned musicians at this point. Bleachers started as a side project for Antonoff who was in the bands fun. and Steel Trains. This comfort is evident in their live performance as they engage in conversation with the crowd and mess around trying new instruments. They played their hits “Shadows”, “I Wanna Get Better”, “Rollercoaster” and their single off their latest album “Don’t Take The Money”. In case everyone in the crowd wasn’t already singing along, they pulled them in with their cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way”. Their performance was phenomenal.
The “White Iverson” himself, Post Malone headlined the opening night of NXNE Portlands and did not fail to get crowd hyped and singing along to all the hits. Coming off of the success of his debut album , the rapper/singer was the obvious highlight of the crowd’s first day. After a delayed entrance, Post Malone quickly won the crowd over by opening with his 2015 hit “Too Young”. The crowd enthusiastically singing along to the lyrics, “I don’t want to die too young, counting bands hallelujah” set the tone for the rest of his performance. Post Malone played a variety of tracks from his recent record with highlights coming in the form of Justin Bieber featured “Deja Vu” and acoustic guitar heavy “Go Flex”. Flexing his new range of musicality and discography throughout the set, the emcee has proven that he is not a one-hit wonder artist that critics had predicted him to be. With the very slow festival day coming to a close, Post Malone ended it on a high with his two most popular tracks “White Iverson” and “Congratulations”.
Coming in as a late replacement for the originally scheduled Day 2 headliner Tyler the Creator, Montreal DJ and producer Kaytranada did not disappoint. Arguably the most hype set of the the weekend, Kaytranada delivered all the tunes and the crowd danced accordingly. Known for his distinct blend of hip-hop and funk, Kaytranada got things popping off with a groovy remix of Chance the Rapper’s “All Night”. Despite having technical issues stemming from not having the correct DJ controller, Kaytra effortlessly pulled through to provide the audience with his seamless transitions. As well as playing his standard bangers from his award-winning album 99.99% (2016), the audience caught a glimpse of his new work with a remix of Usher’s 2002 hit, “You Don’t Have to Call”. Kaytranada’s dance-inducing set was one of the few saving grace’s of this year’s festival.
My favourite act of Day 3 of NXNE came in the form of Toronto-native, River Tiber. Coming off of touring with rapper D.R.A.M., this was River Tiber’s unofficial homecoming performance. Known for his moody production and unique mix of alternative/indie with R&B, it seemed almost inappropriate for him to perform in the middle of the day rather than in the evening. Regardless of the conditions, River Tiber and his two-piece band provided a performance that was deserving of a much larger crowd. River Tiber performed many tracks from his debut album, Indigo (2017) including hits such as “Acid Test”, “I’m a Stone” and “West”. River Tiber represents the next generation of Toronto musicians on the rise and is definitely someone to look out for.
This article was originally published on our old website at https://thenewspaper.ca/the-arts/nxne-2017/.