NXNE Festival Toronto 2011 Report 3

NXNE-2011Hi there…I’m still alive … I’ve learned that sleep is for the weak… I continue to solider on in to the third day of what is now becoming a pretty epic NXNE 2011

Days one and two had their highlights, their awkward moments, some tough sleep-deprived, droopy eyed slogs through my day job, but day three is the beginning of the weekend and feels much more consequence-free than the previous days… There’s something in the air tonight (in that non Phil Collins way) I feel it’s going to be epic…

writer NXNE 2011 reviewIt all begins at Lee’s Palace, on the schedule? Writer, and Vancouver BC’s Dirty Beaches.
There’s a buzz in the room, folks are starting to stumble in fairly early in order to secure their spot for a highly-anticipated evening that also includes; UK folk-pop darlings Cults.

Writer take the stage at 9pm and this scruffed-up brother duo (Andy and James Ralph) launch in to a set packed with fuzzed out, countrified woe.

It’s the kind of music I’d like to imagine a “Space Cowboy” would listen to (if Space Cowboys existed) during all of those lonely nights out on the “space-ranch”.

The vocals are drowned in echo and have a Noah Lennox (Atlas Sound, Animal Collective) quality while the guitar lines are a little blurry –as if heard while trying to reach the bottom of your local community pool.

Start a War” is a definite highlight– the repetitive guitar strum, driving kick-drum and cymbal splashes, culminate in a big grinding crescendo and you can’t help but let this one wash over you.

Next, Dirty Beaches.
Just one man, a pompadour, jean shirt, guitar, handheld mic and boiling angst for miles – Dirty Beaches scrapes out some eerie, stylized, sonic noir that has the feel of a David Lynch movie.

dirty beaches NXNE

Influenced by 1950s pop and doo-wop, but without the “happy sunshiney” parts, these songs could have easily been early Elvis demos if he’d embraced his inner darkness much earlier in life. They’re familiar, guitar-driven songs that sound as if they’re spilling out of an antique radio. Because he leans heavily on aesthetic (the hair, the snarl, the fuzzed out production), the entire show could feel like a one-note pony, but there are enough shifts in tone (from the drone of “Speedway King”, to the sweet ‘Sock-Hop’ slow dance of “Lord Knows Best”) to keep things a little interesting.

All set long he stands there alone, making no eye-contact with anyone, yelping, stubbing the toe of his boot in to the stage. You’re watching the tortured twisting of a man trying to a hitch a ride, as car after car passes him by.

It’s the absolute isolation of his live show that has left many a concert-goer divided, either reveling in the “mood”, being bored, getting off on the voyeuristic thrill of watching a man turn himself inside-out for all to see, or feeling intensely connected to his brooding lovelorn sentimentality.

While I appreciate the slow-burning spectacle of it all, I don’t feel I’m given enough as a viewer/listener to feel anything more than a little sleepy and bummed out and I end up having a hard time staying interested…

NXNE Report day 3