NXNE 2011: Day 2, Part 2-- Tour de Fource

No, that's not a misspelling. It's just an appropriate way to sum up the four bands and amazing tour of instruments, genres and vocal styles we saw the evening of Fri., Jun. 17 at NXNE, beginning with The Most Serene Republic (TMSR) at the Mod Club at 8 p.m. There was plenty of elbow room in venues the night before; predictably for a Friday, we saw that change, especially as the hour grew later.

Not all bands are as suitably named as TMSR (Milton, ON), whose music reflects the beauty of a time and place that existed for a thousand years beginning in the seventh century. Fronted by possibly the only lead singer/trombonist in Canadian indie, Adrian Jewett, and anchored by the fine and melodic keyboard work of Ryan Lenssen, the band's co-founders, their set easily earned a spot in our Top Ten. Their songs are more eclectic than the usual alt rock label would suggest, ranging from rich brass sections, orchestral arrangements to intelligent pop/rock, depending upon whether Nick Greaves is on the guitar, using the Ebow or the banjo, and Simon Lukasewich is manning the bass or violin. No one likes a nihilist, but there's something for everyone to like about TMSR.

Arriving at our next destination, the Garrison, we caught the end of Jesuslesfilles' set, the opening act for the Osheaga Showcase. And Jesus, these Francophone rockers from Montreal were loud. They're better than the volume that buried their appealing garage/grunge/mid-80s sound. Check it out on Bandcamp, where Jesuslesfilles' first album, Une Belle Table (Sept. 2010) is available for NYOP (name-your-own-price).

Between shows at NXNE is like an ocean tide: an ebb of people moving to the bar, on to the next venue, and then flowing back towards the stage. Based on the surge into the room for Elephant Stone, another Montreal band, they're still riding the crest of a single full-length album from 2009 (The Seven Seas, a Polaris long-lister) and a 2010 EP (Glass Box). We'd never seen anyone play the sitar before, and were totally captivated right from the overture of a psychedelic instrumental jam led by Rishi Dhir. Maybe it's because we both grew up with CKLW in the 60s, but we also love Elephant Stone's perfect pop interpretations of that era, with or without the sitar.

Dhir was in the audience when the tide turned and returned in even greater waves, flooding the Garrison for one of the most hyped bands of NXNE: Braids. Their debut album Native Speaker, released in January, was named to the Polaris long list the day before; it's since landed on the short list. Braids is often described as art rock, and with long trance-inducing phrases, their seamless set perfectly recreated the album's painterly soundscape. We would debate those that call Braids abstract or avant-garde. Exactly as the album title suggests, we find a very organic, aboriginal quality to their music, especially Raphaelle Standell-Preston's lead vocals.

In a completely different way, it doesn't get more organic than the Pack a.d., our 1 a.m. nightcap at the, ahem, pack e.d. Horseshoe Tavern. One drummer (Maya Miller), and one singer/guitarist (Becky Black) plumbing the primordial depths of bluesy garage rock, nobody does the less is more philosophy better than the Pack. Their new album, Unpersons, drops Sept. 13; we hear there may be a Detroit date in the near future.

Next post: NXNE Day 3, part 1-- a picnic with a Duke, a Barber, a (Toyko) Police (Club) man, Larry/Barry the dog and whispers in the park.

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