NXNE 2013: Day 3, part two (and three band tips)

The first show review we ever did for N2DS2W was for the Gregory Pepper/Islands show at the Magic Stick in July 2010. While Islands was great, Pepper and his Problems made an impression we've never forgotten. Three years later they did it again at NXNE at the Silver Dollar. Pepper has presence, voice and a penchant for exploring mortality and immortality ("Dearly Departed") that deserves more the "pinball pop" label in the NXNE guide. The set list also included "Down With The Ship," from Pepper's alter ego and Factor pairing, Common Grackle.

Band tip #1: introduce yourself. Preferably more than once during your set. This may seem elemental, but you'd be surprised how many bands forget. Good thing we already knew Michael Rault (Edmonton, now living in Toronto) took the stage after Gregory Pepper, because he never said who he was. Which is too bad if you're looking for something with rhythm and blues roots that go a little deeper than the current 60s throwback pop craze, like Rault's "Lay Right Down And Die" and "I Wanna Love You."

Usually there are more bands than we have time to see at NXNE, or we have to choose between bands playing at the same time. For whatever reason, we struggled to fill some slots this year. Strangely, Saturday night was one of them, in part because there was no traditional CBC Radio3 showcase. With logistics against us as well, we went off  schedule and decided to see a band we knew only from the Radio 3 blog: PKEW PKEW PKEW (gunshots). So here's band tip #2: never underestimate the power of hanging around on the R3 blog.

We ran into Pete Nema of Sticky Magazine on his way to the same show. His recommendation was good enough for us. But when this Toronto punk band launched into their first song and the crowd was singing along, we knew we were seeing some hometown favourites. How could we not love a band whose lyrics include, "If those were your glory days you must be real shitty now"?

Band tip #3: If you don't have a good hook, you won't catch anything. Just a thought we had listening to the band before Hot Panda at Sneaky Dee's. You're welcome.

You know what they say about meeting your heroes-- or finally getting to see them live. And Hot Panda (Vancouver) is something of a hero to us when it comes to Canadian indie. They embody the best of the genre: fun, quirky, smart, original. When they had to cancel a Detroit show earlier this year, we looked forward to seeing them at NXNE even more.

Some people told us Hot Panda were terrible live when they'd seen them. But we don't let things like that colour our expectations. As it turned out, they were nothing like we expected. In fact, they were not the band we expected to see. Who knew Hot Panda was one of the best high-energy punk bands around? We loved their show so much, we didn't even care they only played one song we actually recognized: "Whale Headed Girl," from Volcano, Bloody Volcano. When they launched into a punked-up cover of Nirvana's "Territorial Pissing," and S2W launched into some of the best moshing N2D has ever seen, our NXNE was complete.

Photos: Russ Gordon/N2D Images