NXNE 2013: Day One

Just when you think you've got NXNE figured out, it throws you a curve ball.

After three years of traffic on the Gardiner that added nearly an hour onto our drive in, we breezed to the Grange Hotel in record time. That meant a leisurely walk instead of mad dash downtown to grab our passes and meet up for the first CBC Radio 3 listener/blogger festival of hugs and a raucous tour redux of Steam Whistle Brewing. Special props to our guide Vicky for putting up with us (What? We were only supposed to pull the steam whistle once?) and for Steam Whistle for hosting us again.

We officially kicked off NXNE with dinner at Sneaky Dee's (see our note below) followed by a healthy dose of hip hop and rap from Wordburglar (not Wordbugler, Woodburglar or any of the other goofy misspellings he endures) and D-Sisive. "I'm like a toy company with rhymes, a Hasbro" Wordburglar introduced himself. Far from a has-been, with More or Les at the turntablesWordburglar polled the audience with questions and then stole their answers for some great freestyle rap. It was "Rhyme O'Clock" when he closed the set with More or Les and left us "Sufficiently Saphonsified."

D-Sisive has threatened to hang up his toque more than once. We're sure glad he hasn't... yet. He was in fine form with his partner in rhyme Muneshine and DJ Tek 12 as they rapped through favourites like "If...", "To The Moon" and sampled "No More Words." If this is D-Sisive in retirement, we're okay with it.

We left Sneaky Dee's for The Great Hall to see Coeur de Pirate and encountered another NXNE first: rain. We never could grab a streetcar and underestimated the walk. By the time we arrived, a band of bloggers were leaving. "She's lovely," noted blogger dawn.h, but loyalties run strong on Radio 3, so we followed the crew to catch the end of Loon Choir's set. This Ottawa band just keep getting better since we first saw them last year at NXNE (and two Windsor shows in between).

If there was a lyrical theme for NXNE 2013, it was wolves. We're not sure what fascination wolves hold for singer-songwriters, but the word kept cropping up in lyrics throughout the weekend. And without a doubt, Montreal's We Are Wolves at Wrongbar fascinated us. With Vincent Lévesque at the keys, we couldn't take our ears off their pop-punk, including "Night" from their latest album La Mort Pop Club and "Paloma." We couldn't take our eyes off them, either: lead singer Alexander Ortiz' facial and oral antics (licking the mic? wow) or drummer Pierre-Luc Begin's hyperactive drumming in a shredded piece of cloth that barely qualified as a t-shirt. A top show that night, did NXNE peak early? Stay tuned.

Best meal deal in Toronto: We think it's the Jalisco combo at Sneaky Dee's. For $10.75, you get one robust taco and one enchilda (beef, chicken or veggie), rice, frijoles and en salada. Order two, and if you don't add on a margarita (sorry, Sneak's, not nearly as good as the one we had last time), a beer, and sour cream and guacamole sides, your bill won't be $50 with tip.

Photos: Russ Gordon/N2D Images