Up early Friday after another night (and day) of great music and fun times with good friends at many different venues, from outdoors in a green Toronto park to crowded nightclubs. I'm meeting two journalist friends this morning, but I’ll get started on this recap now and work on it throughout the day.
Thursday afternoon, I walked to Trinity-Bellwoods Park to do one of my favorite things–listen to music outdoors. I heard sets by Olenka and the Autumn Lovers, a trio whose sound is tinged with Eastern-European tones; Maylee Todd, who with her 6-piece band wowed the happy crowd seated on the grass with her R&B sounds and the expressive dancers that accompanied her songs; and Kalle Mattson, a talented singer-songwriter who with his three bandmates played a song he co-wrote with Jeremy Fisher, another favorite Canadian musician of mine. Under threatening clouds, we were all really glad the rain stayed away long enough for these three sets.
In the early evening I walked down Bathurst in heavy rain to a party sponsored by the e-reader company, Kobo. I know them of course as a book industry presence, and was really glad to see them representing at NXNE. Held at a club called the Hoxton, I was excited when I bumped in to several friends from the CBC Radio 3 blog community, folks whom I would see at other venues later in the evening.
The rain let up as I walked to the Cameron House to hear Inlet Sound, who played last night as an acoustic trio, sans their usual drums&bass. Playing seated, they showed great voices which the big room could barely contain. Their own songs are terrific, but they really surprised and pleased with a cover of Wintersleep's rock classic, Weighty Ghost,' great to hear in this unplugged setting. After their set, I was excited to get a copy of their album, The Romantics.
Shred Kelly, a stoke folk outfit from ski haven, Fernie, British Columbia, played one of the most rousing sets of music I've ever had the good luck to hear. Foot-stompin' hardly does justice to the live show this 5-piece put on last night at the Supermarket club in Kensington Market. I love their style and am eager to hear them again tomorrow when they'll be playing an acoustic set at the annual CBC Radio 3 picnic, also held in Trinity-Bellwoods Park, coordinated by CBC host Grant Lawrence.
Next, I cabbed over to the Great Hall with two CBC Radio 3 friends for a mostly solo bluesy set by Michael Rault.
From the Great Hall I walked to the nearby Drake Hotel where in their Underground club Loon Choir was to play an 11PM set. There I met Katherine Cauley, who plays fiddle in this 7-piece outfit from Ottawa. Also in the house were Katherine's parents and her brother Brian, who until the other day had been on the CBC Beetle Road Trip that's brought Grant Lawrence all the way from Vancouver in a 6000KM road trip. Brian is a radio engineer, who's been producing radio segments that are then being shared on the CBC Radio 3 website and in social media. Brian and Grant were joined on the trip by videographer and filmmaker Brent Hodge, who was also there last night to hear Loon Choir. Other Radio 3 fans in the room were friends who I know mostly by their blog and twitter handles: @Shonica and @HedgeHogFriend. Loon Choir is a terrific live act with lots of dynamic energy, particularly from their lead singer, Derek. At one point, he unfurled a banner emblazoned with a message, Occupy Gezi Park, in support of the current uprising by progressives in Turkey. The music had lots of uplift and great power chords that made the tunes, many of which I hadn't heard before, instantly likable. I got their two CDs and look forward to hearing their studio sound.
At 11:45, I hailed a cab and asked the driver to take to the Mapgie, where rootsy band Union Duke would be playing at the top of the hour. I had been invited to this concert by a new friend I made this week, Toronto journalism student and TV company staffer, Harriet Luke. She has a few friends in this band, and I was delighted to have been alerted to them. Like Shred Kelly, they are another foot-stomping 5-piece featuring banjo, handmade percussion, and great vocals. The room was humid and warm, and soon people were shedding their jackets and hitting the dance floor.
I cooled down on the walk back to my hotel and soon hit what my late father Earl Turner used to call the featherball, i.e., the pillow, eager for Friday and another day of fun at NXNE.