NXNE 2017: Day Three Recap13 July 2017 / by Jennifer Hyc (author)
The final day of NXNE Port Lands started with some uncertainty - a lightning warning left the festival in a brief state of limbo. Fortunately, the forecast cleared by early afternoon, pushing back the set times and causing slight overlap between the two stages.
Midday Swim started off the day, followed by The Kents who played some new tracks and one of their songs off their last EP Waking.
Toronto psychedelic rock band Lost Cousins were next to play on the Skyline stage. They performed their older tracks as well as their latest single “Quarters.” Other local acts that performed include indie rock band Teen Ravine and R&B singer-songwriter Saya.
Amongst the first few bands to start the day were Grandson, the gritty electronic-infused project of Jordan Benjamin. It was a necessary jolt of adrenaline for the first half of the day, which surely made for some new fans that day.
Next to perform was indie electronic pop duo Humans. They had a unique live set where they created sounds and beats on the spot then built upon them. It was interesting to witness their process of creating music live.
River Tiber has been making big waves within the Toronto music scene. The smooth, R&B influenced artist’s set was highly anticipated. The slow-burning groove resonated well with the audience, and since Toronto audiences are typically muted to begin with, the dynamic was well-alligned.
Seasoned disco-infused indie rockers Yukon Blonde revived NXNE’s pulse and set the tempo for the remainder of the evening. This was the sound of a band who have honed their craft and were extremely comfortable playing together. Band members and attendees alike were grooving, as Yukon Blonde played songs off of their album On Blonde, including “Saturday Night” and “I Want To Be Your Man.”
The Soul Rebels featuring Talib Kweli put on an undeniably memorable live set. Their sound was full and immediately likeable. Although they had strength in numbers, great musicianship was evident with each member. Together especially, The Soul Rebels were a force of nature. The collaboration with Talib Kweli diversified their sound by adding rap to their soulful funk music.
Lizzo’s infectious positivity and feel-good music are deserving of much larger audiences than Toronto has provided recently. Her last appearance in Toronto fell on a Tuesday in the dead of winter, which rarely leads to solid attendance. NXNE’s audience fell into that pattern. Despite the size, however, Lizzo was phenomenal and made new fans out of the ones who were unfamiliar. She even brought some of her audience onto the stage to dance with her and her backing crew. Lizzo’s music is a pinnacle of self-love and body positivity. Her set, like her music, was empowering, assertive and absolutely infectious. She performed songs off her album Coconut Oil and also gave us a sneak peak into her next album.
Passion Pit closed off the night, with enough fervour to keep the momentum going. Michael Angelakos’ brand of indie electronica pop music is celebratory and nostalgic. Notable hits like “Sleepyhead” and “Take A Walk” were perfectly nostalgic and still hold up with enthusiasm to this day. Regardless of personal taste, there are just some songs that you can’t help but feel joy hearing.
Between low attendance and the unfavourable location, it makes people wonder what part of this new festival design was expected to be a success. Implementing the model a year ago was met with a lot of hesitance and skepticism, and that was reflected in the turnout and the festival’s overall reception. It came as a surprise to see that the model was being used again this year. There was something uniquely Torontonian when the festival was focused around club-hopping which made them stand out. With the adoption of Port Lands, and thus a more classic interpretation of the festival experience, NXNE has actively moved into the shadow of its competitors in a deeply-saturated market.