Tuesday, 2 July 2013

NXNE 2013

NXNE 2113 Reviews;


The Normals ~ Cherry Cola's Lounge;
The Normals were part of the tiny Montreal punk scene back in the late 1970's and early 1980's but like most bands of that era they were short lived, little recorded and less traveled. So this was their Toronto debut after getting back together two years ago, although drummer Chris Howe did play with New-Wave dance band Rational Youth in the mid-to-late 1980's. The Normals were firmly in the Ramones/Buzzcocks/Undertones school of short, fast pop-punk and they haven't lost a step since then, closing with a Buzzcocks cover. They have a new cd of material written back in their heyday but recorded now. They also have another new dc coming out of live tapes from 1978 so they would seem to be more busy than they were the first time around. Nothing like striking while the iron is hot. At any rate they will most likely return, perhaps in the fall so stay tuned.

The Standstills ~ Cherry Cola's Lounge;
Yet another two piece guitar/drums male/female duo playing riff heavy blooze rawk. They're OK and if you like this sort of thing you'll like them. After a few songs or so my mind starts to wander though.


Social Distortion ~ Dundas Square;
NXNE always have at least one classic punk band at Dundas Square; Iggy, X, Descendents, Devo. Social D are different in that they have been to town a few times so it's not as much of an event, which may explain why it wasn't nearly as crowded as past years. After suffering through the jam packed and sweaty Stooges show I'm not likey to complain about this. Still Social D are always a solid live band and Dundas Square has better live sound than you might expect. Over the years the sight-lines have been cluttered up by obnoxious corporate ads and booths shilling for cell-phone plans just like punk never happened. Watching Mike Ness run through his rote "I was a punk before you were" stand-up routine makes me wonder if it did.

Public Animal ~ Lee's Palace;
This is Ian Blurton's new band, it's not that different from his last band, C'Mon. All 1970's riff heavy grunge-boogie although this time he has added some keyboards and more varied dynamics for his strongest band since Change Of Heart.

White Cowbell Oklahoma ~ Lee's Palace;
I'm always a little surprised that this one-joke novelty band is still around after a decade or so. True, they've cut way down on the shtick and I'm convinced they can really play but I'm not convinced they have more than a couple of actual songs. I can't help but notice that their best songs date back to their first album which is never a good sign.

The Supersuckers ~ Lee's Palace;
The OTHER self-proclaimed "World's Greatest Rock & Roll Band" really have turned into The Rolling Stones, or at least The Faces. Even more than Social D, a band they resemble. Both are somewhat rootsy Rock & Roll bands that started out as straight forward punk bands, both have experimented with more traditional country rock with some success but where Social D seem like they're following a script Ness wrote years ago the Supersuckers still seem more heartfelt in their boogie, if noticeably less successful and iconic. Rather like The Faces.



The Downbelows ~ The Opera House;
The Downbelows were one of the Queen Street old school punk scene of the 1990's along with The Sinisters, Son Of Bronto, Dear Departed, Cheerleader, Throbbing Hoods and Plasmablast, and like all of those bands they recorded one fine record before their inevitable disintegration. Why do shitty bands live forever? At any rate they got back together a little while back and have been in the studio but there's nothing like an invite to open for Black Flag to motivate a band to get busy. They were rock solid and they were able to make the cavernous Opera House reasonably club-like which is no easy task. I'm having them down to the CIUT studios in the summer to do a recording session.

Genetic Control ~ The Opera House;
A 1980's Montreal Hardcore band who last played here at the long, lost Larry's Hideaway which shut down circa 1987 so it's been awhile. I'm not to familiar with their material but they seem like a basic pre-thrash hardcore band of the era. They were tight enough but I thought their songs lacked the dynamics of the best of their ilk. Including The Downbelows for that matter.

Organ Thieves ~ The Opera House;
I've never heard of this local band and I don't know how they scored the choice spot opening for (Black) Flag. Their post-hardcore/reggae/funk was well done enough and they are certainly good musicians but they are rather sleep inducing and really didn't belong on this bill, especially since The 222's were playing the same night for a crappy opening spot at Lee's Palace. Why do these music fests always have these kind of booking fuck-ups?

Flag ~ The Opera House;
That would be Black Flag to you. At least Black Flag minus Greg Ginn (who is not on speaking terms with anybody by this point) and Henry Rollins, who'se not an original Flag anyway. I am always a little surprised how many people don't know that but I swear it's true. In fact the original Black Flag singer was Keith Morris who had some sort of falling out with Greg Ginn (who hasn't) after one ep and left then later went on to from The Circle Jerks. He was replaced by Dez Cadena for the next few albums. This line-up contained both Morris and Cadena along with original bassist Chuck Dumbowski and drummer Bill Stevenson who played in Black Flag for awhile in between stints with the Descendents and All, along with a guitarist borrowed from All. I figure that's an authentic enough line up to run through the entire pre-Rollins cataloge otherwise known as "all their best stuff before Greg Ginn decided he was some sort of fusion guy". It's always good to remind the younguns what hardcore used to sound like before thrash-metal crossover and all those various grind-crust bastard children with their widdly-widdly guitar solos and cookie monster vocals. The band was as tight and polished a machine as you expect from these old pros and while some complained that Morris was mostly stationary he sounded in good voice as was Cadena. And it's not exactly resonable to expect a guy in his fifties (seriously) to be stage diving anymore anyhow. It was a typical Opera House gig; great sightlines (assuming you were in the balcony) and crappy sound. The high ceiling doesn't make anybody any acoustic favours but the view looks like the back cover of the first Cramps album with a full panoramic view of all the attendent carnage at stage front.



White Lung ~ The Horseshoe;
Another new neo-garage buzzband. White Lung have plenty of energy and even some charisma but they play every song at such a warp speed that none really standout, and singer Mish Way's high pitched yelp doesn't help. Needs more seasoning. I should have stuck around for Danish band Iceage but the Shoe was so packed (I assume for headliners Fucked Up) that I left to get some air then couldn't get back in, but since I was planning on heading down to Cherry Cola to catch 222's later that night anyway I strolled that way.

Waxy ~ Cherry Cola's Lounge;
Billed as "Psychedelic", which can mean any number of things, not all of them good. In this case it apparently means "hippy-grunge-jams that could never have shared a stage with the 222's back in the day". At one point the singer announced they were going to play some "blues". At that point the ghost of Howling Wolf marched in, smacked them upside their heads then grabbed their beer tickets and stomped off muttering something about "Stupid White People". And I missed Iceage for this shit? That these guys actually drove up all the way from Palm Springs, California shows just how clueless they were.

The 222's ~ Cherry Cola's Lounge
The 222's were the other first wave 1970's Montreal punk scene at NXNE so of course they were scheduled on different days since putting them on the same bill would make too much sense. The 222's had a slightly longer and more successful run than the Normals and had a more charismatic singer and slightly more poppy sensibility but other than that they are both firmly in the Buzzcocks/Undertones school and have managed to age well. They have also been in the studio and have a new cd comming out.


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