With 650 bands in Toronto this week, there’s a lot to choose from. This is what I checked out on Wednesday.
The Painted Lady - 8 p.m.
Winnipeg singer-songwriter Ingrid Gatin‘s NXNE gig came after seven weeks of touring Eastern Canada. Over the course of an enchanting, 30-minute set, Gatin switched between accordion and piano to perform songs like “Slow Dancing,” “How Did I Get So” and “Climb, Climb, Climb.” Forty-five appreciate audience members packed out the shoebox-shaped venue, which is decorated with a disco ball and Christmas lights. My only complaint? The set was too short. Be sure to check out Gatin in July when she plays the Winnipeg Folk Festival as part of the Young Performers program.
Mise en Scene
The Painted Lady - 9 p.m.
“Do you feel good Toronto?” Stefanie Blondal Johnson, singer-guitarist for Winnipeg rock quartet Mise en Scene, asked the crowd at The Painted Lady mid-way through the band’s seven-song set. The crowd definitely felt good, enjoying Mise en Scene’s upbeat, energetic rock ‘n’ roll. This band has been making a name for itself around Winnipeg lately, so it was nice to finally be able to see them live. Johnson and band mates Jodi Dunlop, Kena Olson and Marco Fiore definitely show a lot of promise, and it will be interesting to see how they develop over time.
The Meligrove Band
The Rivoli - 10 p.m.
Full disclosure: I am not familiar with a lot of the bands I am seeing at NXNE. That’s also the beautiful part of the festival, though—it’s about discovering new music. I’d heard good things about Toronto’s The Meligrove Band from some local publications as well as a recent interview with Rusty Matyas of Winnipeg’s Imaginary Cities. When I arrived at The Rivoli, the band had just started its set. And much to everyone’s surprise, instead of playing their own songs, the band decided to have some fun with it’s NXNE opening night appearance and play a set consisting entirely of Ramones covers. “Beat on the Brat,” “Judy is a Punk,” “Sheena is a Punk Rocker,” “Blitzkrieg Bop,” “Rockaway Beach” and more were included during the high-energy show that covered all of the Ramones’s biggest hits. Very nicely done, Meligrove Band.
The Garrison - 11 p.m.
Without a doubt, the highlight of the evening. New York four-piece rock band The Postelles just released their full-length, self-titled debut album, but they were already garnering critical praise in 2008 from the likes of Spin and Rolling Stone, who wrote that the band sounded like “the wound-up early hours of what will be a long Saturday night on the town.” The band’s 10-song, 30-minute NXNE set included songs like “Hey Little Sister,” “Can’t Stand Still” and a cover of Wreckless Eric’s “(I’d Go the) Whole Wide World.” Many current bands rock, but few rock and roll. With a sound that’s decidedly retro, The Postelles do both.
We Are Wolves
The Horseshoe Tavern - Midnight
After an ill-fated attempt to get into The Rivoli to see Regina’s Library Voices (the venue was at capacity), I headed to The Horseshoe just in time to catch Montreal’s We Are Wolves. This Montreal power trio has played in Winnipeg a number of times, but I haven’t seen them yet. The band members delighted the crowd with their abrasive, moody, rhythm-heavy, stoner punk dance rock. It was a great way to end the night.