North by Northeast 2005

Toronto, June 9–11, 2005

The 11th annual North by Northeast Music a Film Festival, little brother to Austin’s South by Southwest, featured some 400 acts from Canada, the U.S., Europe, Australia, and the Orient. After three nights of strenuous club-hopping, Steve McLean came up with this list of highlights that you missed if you weren’t in Toronto from June 9 to 11.

Playing With Dolls

After seeing the New York Dolls in Austin in March, I couldn’t resist a return visit with David Johansen, Sylvain Sylvain, and the four younger musicians who comprise the 2005 version of the band that introduced the world to glam-punk. The group is tighter than ever and the warm interplay between Johansen and Sylvain clearly showed why they love their reunion so much that they’re going to write and record new material. The Dolls had the large crowd at its mercy in an 80-minute set that included “Personality Crisis,” “Pills,” “Trash,” a cover of “Piece of My Heart,” and an extended encore version of “Human Being.”

More Glam Rock for You

Owing a debt to the Dolls and vintage Thin Lizzy, Toronto’s Crash Kelly rocked the house with favorites from its Penny Pills debut and cuts from its forthcoming Gilby Clarke–produced follow-up for Liquor and Poker Music.

Dears Caught in the Headlights

The Dears were the first of the groups to bring real attention to the Montreal independent music scene a few years back with a sound and presence that’s both majestic and visceral at the same time. The multicolored back lighting was a nice touch that added a dramatic visual element to the rich Morrissey-influenced material. There was no major stylistic departure on the new songs that were introduced, which was just fine by everyone in the crowd who was singing along to some of the older tracks.

Going to the Dogs

Toronto’s Golden Dogs have gained confidence and a growing fan base over the past year since the release of its Everything in 3 Parts debut. The group’s varied, frenetic, and sometimes complex pop-rock songs can’t be pigeonholed, but let’s just say that they’re damn good. And the band’s live performance just takes things over the top.

54-40’s No Bust

Veteran Vancouver rock band 54-40 has had a string of Canadian hits, and many of them—including “Baby Ran,” “She La,” “Ocean Pearl,” “Nice to Love You,” “Lies to Me,” and “Radio Luv Song”—were dished out in both a regularly scheduled showcase and an after-hours secret show. More than 20 years after the release of its debut LP, the band exhibits no signs of slowing down with its freshly pressed Yes to Everything disc.

Meet the New Boss

No band had a bigger A&R presence at its showcase than Inward Eye, a group comprised of three lanky teenaged brothers who’ve clearly spent countless hours in the basement of their Winnipeg home watching The Kids Are Alright. The drummer is the reincarnation of Keith Moon, while the guitarist’s windmills can’t help but draw Pete Townshend comparisons. The musicianship is tight, the confidence is incredible for such young pups, and their melodic alternative rock songs seem destined for success.

Getting Back to the Roots

Elliott Brood’s Tin Type EP from last year was full of dark, southern Gothic imagery and sounds, but live this Toronto trio loses the menace and uses banjo, acoustic guitar, effects pedals, and a small drum kit to joyous effect as it stomps through its repertoire with energy and effervescence to provide a fun and fulfilling experience.

As both a solo artist and the frontman for Veal, Vancouver’s Luke Doucet has proven to be a singer, songwriter, and guitarist who can combine the best of pop, rock, and roots music and deliver it engagingly. The same can obviously be said of Bruce Springsteen, so it was appropriate that Doucet finished his set with a cover of “I’m on Fire.”

Heather Morgan has a beautiful voice to complement her violin playing in front of her band, the Company of Men. By blending alternative country, folk, jazz-swing, and bluegrass elements in her music, this lovely lady writes songs that sound old but aren’t.

Colin Linden has had a long and varied career, playing guitar on more than 150 albums and producing 30 others, while working with the likes of Bruce Cockburn, The Band, T-Bone Burnett, and Leon Redbone. While fronting a band that included his Blackie & the Rodeo Kings rhythm section and the Band/Janis Joplin keyboard player Richard Bell, Linden played songs from his new Southern Jumbo album, and it was a true joy to witness such high-caliber veteran musicians having such a great time while delivering top-notch performances. Cockburn joined in on guitar for half the set and even sang “Waiting for a Miracle.” Things don’t get any more professional (and I mean that in a good way) than this.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply