NXNE curators The Dirty Nil
NXNE curators The Dirty Nil

A Perfect Storm Dampened Toronto Festivities

Summer weekends in Canada's biggest city are routinely jam-packed with musical events and festivals, but this past one may have taken the cake.

The Toronto Jazz Festival began on Friday, June 23, U2 attracted 60,000 fans to Rogers Centre that evening, the annual multi-media extravaganza Luminato closed out its 12-day run on Sunday, and a gaiety of Pride celebrations added to the weekend's calendar of events.

The acclaimed international festival of hip hop dance theatre, Breakin' Convention, was installed at the Sony Centre, June 23-25, as part of Luminato, and the Indigenous Arts Festival and National Aboriginal Day activities took over Fort York greenspace June 21-25.

And then there was the annual North By Northeast Festival (NXNE) encompassing music, arts and gaming that was held during the week and culminated in the outdoor Port Lands Music Festival, June 23-25.

Clouds, sporadic rainstorms and perhaps an over-abundance of choice fixed attendance at some of these shindigs, especially those held outdoors.

In a press release, NXNE stated that "for the second instalment of NXNE Port Lands, the festival saw exponential growth from its first year (at the site) with more than triple the attendees."

Anecdotal comments suggested some hyperbole in the above statement, and like many events this season, online discounters were offering knockdown deals on a variety of ducats.

According to NXNE, "over 30,000 people were in attendance across the 10-day festival"  that advertised 100 speakers and 50+ artists showcasing in Club Land, and a further 75K online viewers taking part in the Game Land component.

The decision by NXNE last year to cut back on its the club showcasing component fest drew criticism and this year's Club Land series partially addressed the criticism, though on a smaller scale from earlier years when NXNE offered the most showcasing opportunities of any annual event in Canada.

An innovative twist with Club Land was that the shows line-ups had notable musicians such as Brendan Canning, The Dirty Nil, Moe Berg, Leah Fay, Ian D'Sa, Tasha The Amazon, The Rural Alberta Advantage, and Nick Rose from Dwayne Gretzky picking the talent.

The Dirty Nil could not attend the show they curated as they were flying to Europe to play a festival. Drummer Kyle Fisher told FYI that "we heard that it was good for the bands. We didn't consider it [the curation] a challenge, but more of a way to get some of our friends together to put in a solid rock show for the people."

He observed that "the festival has changed a lot since we last played it when it was a city-wide, club-hopping experience. That said, we are happy to see it embrace its roots a little more and make room for more club shows. Hopefully, they can expand this further in years to come. Young bands have to cut their teeth somewhere."

Toronto singer/songwriter and club booker (the Burdock) Charlotte Cornfield was invited by Brendan Canning to play his NXNE showcase at The Baby G. She describes it as "a memorable night, one of my favourite shows in recent memory. The turnout was great, the vibe was good, the lineup was strong. All-in-all, a total success!"

Cornfield added that "I think it is important for fests like NXNE and CMW to offer a platform for young and emerging artists."

It will be interesting to see what shape NXNE 2018 takes.

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