NXNE 2015: What can we say?

What can we say about NXNE that we haven't said before? Well...

We can say that because it was scaled back this year, it just didn't have the same feel of being part of something big. Attendance was obviously scaled back as well. There was almost no one picking up badges and wristbands when we arrived at The Hub-- the new NXNE headquarters at Queen and Spadina-- on Thursday afternoon.

We can say not a single show we attended was packed, unlike previous years (keeping in mind we avoid Yonge-Dundas by choice). Too much competition? There were two other music festivals going on in Toronto at the same time as NXNE. You can't swing a guitar now without hitting a music festival, spreading bands and attendees thinner and thinner. Music malaise? From our tunnel view, the industry has been stagnant. Maybe we were just at the wrong shows.

We can also say we've never had so many gaps in our show schedule. Of course it depends on what you want to see. But in past years, our days and evenings were packed, and only after plenty of angst over conflicts. Bands we were super excited about when they were announced ended up playing only on Wednesday, long after our vacation days were locked down. We heartily wished the Paper Bag 100 at Lee's Palace on Thursday could have been Saturday night, because must-sees that evening were a bust.

We can say, just like in previous years, NXNE staff were great, we had some great moments and saw some great shows; stay tuned.

Show Alert: A double dose of dreamy

Tue., Jun. 16
Bahamas with Hayden (opening)
The Ark ~ Ann Arbor

When we saw that Bahamas-- aka Afie Jurvanen-- was in the lineup for The 38th Ann Arbor Folk Festival this past January, we weren't at all surprised he turned up on the calendar with a show of his own. We knew they'd fall in love with him just like the CBC Radio 3 community has for years: he's the "Hey Girl" Ryan Gosling meme to R3 bloggers.

What did surprise us was Hayden showing up as an opener. There are some artists we thought would never come to Michigan, and Hayden is one of them. Plus, he can fill a room in Canada all on his own. We've been listening to Hayden even longer than Bahamas; we can remember when "Bad As They Seem" was getting airplay on 89X in Detroit.

We fully expect these two supremely talented musicians will deliver one of our top shows of the year.

Where N2D won't be at NXNE (and will be, too)

One place we definitely won't be is anywhere Action Bronson is. We're all for free speech, but pretty sure if he was glorifying violent acts against minorities, no one would have given him a stage at Yonge Dundas. At least we hope so. Apparently, it's permissible if it's about women. Anyway, that's our take, and in the end believe NXNE organizers did the right thing.

We've alternated between arriving Wednesday and Thursday over the years, weighing the cost of an extra night at a hotel versus getting to see more shows. We opted for Thursday arrival this year, and of course the Wednesday lineup looks great.

Where we won't be on June 17; get there for us, will ya?

8 p.m. on at Lee's Palace: The whole lineup looks pretty great. It would be tempting to just hang out there all night, but we'd head out for...

9 p.m., Mod Club Theatre: Tasseomancy

10 p.m., Rivoli, NQ Arbuckle

11 p.m., Horseshoe Tavern, Moon King

Where we'll be on June 18:

 8 - 9 p.m., Lee's Palace: Paper Bag 100. Another great lineup at Lee's. But we definitely want to check out...

10 p.m., The Silver Dollar: Nancy Pants. We'll be sticking around after for Comet Control.

Where we'll be on June 19:

Friday is conflict night. We already had a solid schedule laid out, then CBC Music announced their Music at The Hub lineup. But we'll for sure be starting out the evening at...

7 p.m., Mod Club Theatre: Language Arts

8 p.m.: Dinner at Hey Meatball! (just down the street from the Mod Club) or How Sad at Handlebar

9 p.m., Mod Club Theatre: Aidan Knight (if we don't go from Handlebar to The Hub)

Where we'll be on June 20:

Saturdays used to be a no-brainer. We'd be at the Shoe at the CBC Radio 3 Showcase. Lately it's been our least packed night. But last year we ended up on a streetcar with Wintersleep, so who knows? Here are two shows definitely on our sked.

9 p.m., Handlebar: Louise Burns

10 p.m., The Horseshow Tavern: Slim Twig

The Almighty Rhombus: The Shape of Things to Come

For obvious reasons, the beginning of the year is typically the slowest when it comes to Canadian indie bands touring through Windsor and Detroit. We kicked off 2015 with a great Elliott BROOD show in mid-January at The Ark. Our next must-see was a month away. What to do in the meantime?

We checked our show calendar. The Almighty Rhombus? From Sudbury? What's a band from Sudbury sound like?

"Sudbury has all kinds of different bands," says Clayton Drake, keyboardist and backup vocalist. "But one thing that unites us all is that, over time, our bands all end up getting way heavier than when we start. There's a brashness to Sudbury bands. We all write big songs that you can't really ignore. It's music that you're supposed to pay attention to."

We're glad that four years after forming the band, The Almighty Rhombus haven't hit that heavy phase yet. As we knew from hearing them on CBC Radio 3, the band's solid indie pop is upbeat, well-crafted and has a refreshing clarity to it. Plus, they're a whole lot of fun. Check out The Almighty Rhombus Facebook page for proof, or better yet, see them live when they return to Phog on Fri., Jun. 19. Until then, you can get to know them better through this email interview with Drake.

N2DS2W: Pretty sure we heard some new songs when we saw The Almighty Rhombus at Phog Lounge. What's the status on a new album?

Those tunes you heard are tasty meals that we've been preparing in the Rhombus test kitchen. We need to keep working on these delicious recipes until they are ready to scale up to the industrial level and pump them out through our vertically integrated chain of restaurants. Once they are perfected, we will have a mouthwatering buffet of new material ready for mass consumption. It'll likely be another year or so.

N2DS2W: What do you like best about being in a band and making music?

The feeling of elation of performing on stage and connecting with an audience is like a narcotic. There's also a deep satisfaction that comes with putting music together in just the right way with a group. We share a lot of laughs in this band as well. Plus, we all want to be filthy rich and we figure starting a rock band is the best way to do that.

N2DS2W: What are the origins of the band's name?

The word Rhombus is derived from the ancient Celtic deity Grombs, who, while extremely hideous, was purported to visit children in their sleep and whisper sweet things in their ear, giving them nice dreams. As science progressed, Rhombus came to represent a shape, and mathematicians still regard it today as "The Kindest Shape". We are like the king of the kindest, sweetest, shape.

N2DS2W: What's on the band's wish list (beside world domination and making a million dollars)?

Mainly, we hope our van the Wet Jet never breaks down and leaves us stranded again.

N2DS2W: Today's music industry: what would you most like to see change?

It'd be nice if Pay What You Can and Pay to Play went extinct. Also, it'd be great if Sonicbids just went away and never came back.

N2DS2W: What else would you like listeners to know about The Almighty Rhombus?

If you let us sleep on your couch, we promise to do all your dishes.

The Almighty Rhombus are: Michael Kenny (lead vocals, guitar); Clayton Drake (keyboards, backup vocals): Keegan McDonald (guitar); Laura Willett (bass, backup vocals); and Carter Drake (drums, backup vocals). Check out their video, released earlier this year, for "Down South."

Photos: Russ Gordon/N2D Images