I don’t remember how I initially found out about North By Northeast, but I first became involved with the festival when I volunteered for the Toronto festival as a naïve 15-year-old girl. Growing up in the suburbs, just north of the city, I obsessively followed the Toronto music scene, but was never a part of it. This would be my foot in the door, I thought. And truthfully, it still remains to be one of the prime opportunities for me to meet and reunite with people in and around music, both in and out of this city.
It’s been seven years since I sat in that hotel, working the NXNE merch table (rockin’ an oversized red tee with a psychotic bunny logo on it), but every year, I encourage people to volunteer or participate to some extent, whether covering as media or casually checking out shows. It’s experience, but it’s also one of the most fun weeks of the year; the only music festival that I immediately run to mark down when I get a new planner in January.
NXNE, though similar in name, isn’t SXSW nor does it try to be. The city is laid out differently and is therefore unable to maintain its chaos within one specific area (or so I’ve gathered from talking to others; I’ve never been down south). But Toronto works with what they’ve got and year after year, the festival has utilized the city more, making this a wonderful way for tourists and locals to explore parts potentially unknown. Now including boat parties, park shows and new venues all around, NXNE is primed to ring in its 20th anniversary next year with something spectacular.
This year marked the first time I couldn’t fully commit to the festival and it broke my heart. Having to work full-time, preparing for the MuchMusic Video Awards, my time was spent listening to Down With Webster rehearse ten times in a row as opposed to seeing Mikal Cronin play three nights in a row. Never bring this up, I will start crying. Alas, I love my day job and I toughed it out enough to tackle both.
Highlights included sweaty dance parties at Blue Hawaii and Ryan Hemsworth, Braids dazzling the crowd with new material, Majical Cloudz hypnotizing everyone with his awe-inspiring live shows and even a little Beach Day action inside of an Urban Outfitters. I can’t attest to much else, but if Tweets and pictures have told me anything, it looked like a great time as always.
As this is a #TBT post, and last week is hardly a throwback, here are some of my favourite NXNE moments of previous years, both musical and non-musical:
1. Meeting my friend Frank (of Chromewaves) at a Coeur de Pirate show three years ago. And the various other people I’ve met at the festival over the years.
2. Japandroids playing a secret show at the Dakota Tavern: I climbed onto a chair to avoid the mosh pit. I was terrified and electrified.
3. Stealing Les Savy Fav’s rider at Wrongbar: I am so, so sorry for eating all your blueberries (and whatever other food you had). How I haven’t been banned from Wrongbar since that night (more happened, I cannot reveal), I do not know.
Notable low points:
1. When I almost got hit by a streetcar on my birthday.
2. When I got trapped near the front of the stage during the Flaming Lips last year. I had to force my way out three songs in and that experience triggered a panic attack, which forced me to cancel the rest of my evening. So yes, I’ve learned to avoid Yonge-Dundas shows since then.
Even through the bad times, though, I enjoyed myself and allowed the week to roll on by like a fantastical dream. As the festival itself tweeted last week, “It’s not real life, it’s #NXNE.” Exactly.
Already looking forward to next year’s festivities.
Always and forever,