NXNE 2011: Day 3, Part 1-- larks in the park

One of the things we learned at NXNE this year is that it's about a lot more than shuffling from venue to venue to see shows. Part of that was simply because unlike last year, we committed three solid days to being in Toronto; part was due to acquaintances we've made through shows we've seen and N2D (leading to some great conversations); part was due to taking advantage of extracurricular opportunities like the Kelp Records/Line of Best Fit barbecue and the XM/Verge rooftop party at Skybar.

But by far one of the biggest reasons we enjoyed NXNE so much this year was because of CBC Radio 3, its community of hosts and bloggers, and all the activities and meet-ups we shared. These culminated on Sat., Jun.18 at Moniski's NXNE/Goodbye Picnic in Trinity Bellwoods Park, a fare-thee-well for Ireland-bound CBC Radio 3 2010 Fan of the Year Monica Skorupski. First order of the afternoon: a strike (only in Radio 3 land, folks).

 With Radio 3 host Grant Lawrence emceeing, we were treated to three intimate performances: Wayne Petti of Cuff the Duke, who included a beautiful rendition of "Follow Me" in his set; Matthew Barber (how did we not fully appreciate this talented singer-songwriter before?); and Graham Wright (of Toyko Police Club and frequent guest host on Radio 3), who just released his first full-length solo album, Shirts vs Skins. Everyone left with an earful of great memories, and, thanks to Grant shooing away the errant Larry/Barry the dog (intent on consuming leftover chicken bones) with an umbrella a la Sean Connery in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, an eyeful as well.

The Live in Bellwoods NXNE Picnic series was on our schedule every day because of the solid lineups of artists playing half-hour unplugged sets, but it took us until Saturday to finally make it. We were sorry to miss most of Toronto band Sweet Thing; what we heard (those being the key words, as we discovered) was a great example of the concept done right: wonderful harmonies, strong vocals, lively music.

They stayed on to back Allie Hughes. Despite Sweet Thing's very capable support, the park setting didn't do Hughes justice. We had a hard time hearing her, a surprise given her usually robust vocal performance. We couldn't hear the next singer-- the lovely Kat Burns of Forest City Lovers-- at all, which was a shame. Her voice and tiny ukelele were simply lost under the trees. Which just goes to prove: sound checks are invaluable.

So what did sound good? Trying the legendary nachos at Sneaky Dee's. Nearly $15 for the Kings Crown is pretty legendary, but nothing we couldn't make at home. The sour-mix free margaritas, however, get the Yort seal of approval.

Next post: the NXNE 2011 finale, finally.

Photos: Russ Gordon/N2D Images