NXNE 2012, Day 2 (Jun. 14): From top to bottom

Our entire NXNE 2012 was full of great music, people and experiences, but if we had to pick a day that best sums up what you can squeeze into less than 12 hours at NXNE, it would be Thursday, from top to bottom.

Up on the rooftop

We started off the day with an interactive session, then headed over to Chinatown to spend the afternoon with fellow CBC Radio 3 bloggers at the Audio Blood and Bonsounds Rooftop Riot! presented by Steam Whistle. We didn't see the promised free haircuts and tattoos-- and would have been reluctant to partake of either-- but there was plenty of free Steam Whistle, Vitamin Water, tri-color popsicles and cupcakes. We did see two great sets of Canadian indie rock, from Francophone Les Breastfeeders (Montreal), and Burlington's Sandman Viper Command. We've been fans of SVP since last year, when they were feeling under the weather and still stormed through every song they knew, and then some at the Phog.

Pho sure

When the Steam Whistle ran out so did we. Waiting outside the venue for everyone from the group to gather, we had one of those NXNE moments. "Uh, isn't that Old Man Luedecke over there?" And it was. "I'm kind of here by accident," said Luedecke, who remembered us from his show in London a few weeks earlier, as "the ones from Detroit."

Next we had a dinner date with Pho Hung, which proved to be, chopsticks down, the best meal we had that week. One order of BÚN THỊT NƯỚNG, NEM NƯỚNG, CHẢ GIÒ (Grilled Pork, Spiced Grilled Pork Roll, Spring Roll with Vermicelli and Vegetables) and one order of BÚN XÀO BÒ, GÀ HOẶC THẬP CẨM (Stir Fried Vermicelli with Mixed Vegetables with Pork, Beef and Chicken), total bill $15.50.

Karen Silkwood and Peter Sellers

What do these two well-known names have in common? "Karen Silkwood" is a song by PEI's nerdy in the best way possible Boxer the Horse off their new album, French Residency. Their virtually perfect set of alt-pop/rock at the El Mo made us all the more sorry they missed the Said The Whale/Chains of Love show at Windsor's Capitol Theatre last April due to a scheduling mix-up.

Our next stop was the Velvet Underground to hear "Peter Sellers," the strongest single from Toronto's Stella Ella Ola. The new band features the two Boyd brothers from R3 favourites Hollerado, Nixon and Jake, Vince Rice (Atom Division) on drums and Anne Douris on guitar and vocals. Famous for stripping down to his skivvies during Hollerado shows, at a shouted request a tipsy Jake willingly doffed his shirt, but kept his pants on.

The kids in the hall

Our next show, both in artist and venue, couldn't have been more different from the previous two: the weather station in the Great Hall Lower Theatre. Instead of a mostly male raucous rock group, there was the fair and fey Tamara Lindeman, standing on tiptoe at the mic as she performed songs like "Traveller" to a reverent audience. As if using an electric guitar at the start wasn't daring enough, "We're going to try something crazy," she announced. Crazy was adding Ian Kehoe (Attack in Black, Marine Dreams) on drums and some back-up singers. Lindeman was as unique as her 80-year-old acoustic guitar, and just as treasured and lovely.

Up in the Great Hall proper, the phone rang: "Hello, Rachel? This is Spookey Ruben. I sit next to you in U.S. History. Yeah, and I traded your tangerine peels for pencil shavings. Did I mention that I play in a band?"... A dynamo making sunny 60s-inspired pop that rocks, Spookey Ruben (Toronto) gets our vote for most fun show of NXNE 2012, complete with hugs from a giant owl.

Photos: Russ Gordon/N2D Images