I had dubbed my second day of NXNE my "unplanned" day. I was just going to go with the flow, and see where the day took me. In the evening, this resulted in five shows, all in different venues, and all bands I hadn't seen before.
First, though, was the Audio Blood Rooftop Riot party. They boasted free Steam Whistle and vitamin water -- and later on frozen treats to combat the blazing sun -- with a number of the bands on their roster performing. The bands throughout the day were all pretty good; not too much that really caught my attention, but nothing that I didn't like either. There was a two-piece that was pretty good, but since they never said their name, I still have no idea who they are, and Sandman Viper Command put on an energetic set. But it was Les Breastfeeders that I was impressed by most. The francophone rockers had a good energy and catchy songs, and had their set not been at 3am, I probably would have caught them again later in the night.
Then it was on to the evening shows, the first stop being El Mocambo for Boxer The Horse. The PEI four piece had a straight up alt rock sound that was fun and catchy, with hooks aplenty. There wasn't much by way of stage banter, though, with only the briefest interactions with the crowd. But they let the music speak for them, even breaking a bass string at one point, with songs like the upbeat "Sentimental/Oriental" and a few covers, Edwyn Collins' "A Girl Like You" and "New England" by Billy Bragg. Despite the invading bass from downstairs, they still put on a very solid set and I'll be sure to catch them again in the future.
The next stop was The Velvet Underground for Stella Ella Ola, a project with a few of the members of Hollerado. The four-piece all shares vocal duties, with kind of a sloppy garage-pop sound that
They had a good energy, and were definitely having fun on stage -- especially Jake Boyd, who doffed his shirt at the slightest provocation -- but it almost seemed more like drunken buddies up there to have fun. Which is probably exactly what they were going for. I knew not to take it seriously, I know they're not trying to be anything more than a fun time, but I still just couldn't get into it.
Bishop Morocco was next over at the Rivoli with a dark sound and deep vocals very reminiscent of The Smiths or Joy Division. They had a bit of a muted energy with not much banter, and were not necessarily bad, but the show just seemed kind of flat.
The Great Hall was the next destination, for Daniel Romano, who I am woefully unfamiliar with. He took the stage with what can only be described as a sequined cowboy outfit, guitar in hand and pedal steel player in tow. He serenaded the crowd with his alt-country sound, beautiful lyrics and incredible talent. Part way through the set, he was joined by a drummer and bass player to fill out the sound, and brought the set to a rousing ending.
The show was good, but there was a bit of a disconnect as I was a little too tired to fully appreciate it; but I'll definitely have to see him again the next time he's through town.
The last stop of the night was sure to keep me awake, the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern for a throwback to the 90s, Bran Van 3000. Arriving a couple minutes into their set, their boisterousness was immediately apparent, with a stage packed full of horns and others for their disco-pop-soul sound. It turns out I knew more than just the one song when they played "Astounded" mid way through the set, and after the lead singer "grew" a pair of giant butterfly wings, they ended it off, as everyone expected, with their hit "Drinkin' in LA". With clusters of balloons through the crowd and confetti shot from cannons, the crowd was going wild, singing along with nearly every word.
As for tonight, I do have a plan; there are free shows from Eight and a Half, Plants and Animals and Matthew Good at Younge & Dundas Square, and then the tough decision of Brasstronaut (who I just saw), Rah Rah or Yamantaka//Sonic Titan (neither of which I've seen) all playing at midnight.