Irresistible lineup closes NXNE
- June 20, 2011 3:22 PM |
- By Arts Online
Chad VanGaalen rocked out on a self-built guitar for his North by Northeast show. (Laura Thompson/CBC)
My ears are ringing. My nail polish is chipping. My outfits from the past three days are hanging on the doorknob of my closet, rather than in it.
Another year of NXNE has come and gone. And what a high note to go out on. My entire final night took place at The Great Hall, a converted YMCA from the 1900s. When faced with a line-up like this, how could one resist?
- Jennifer Castle
- Chad VanGaalen
That's a trick question. The answer is that one cannot.
Jennifer Castle has made a name for herself around her hometown stomping grounds of Toronto. But for visitors, she must have been quite the pleasant discovery: just a girl with a guitar singing beautiful, unpretentious folk songs. Not much else to it, but Castle is a star at making less feel like more.
Oh, Braids. I try to put you in a box, but I just can't. Part ambient tribal sounds, part collegiate art-pop, the band's ethereal music builds from gentle whispers to passionate victory cries.
The story goes that this quartet formed over muffin-talk in a high school cafeteria in Calgary. They all moved to Montreal for a higher education and the rest is history. Beautiful, elegant, they leave an indelible mark.
Chad VanGaalen is another Calgarian who has hit it big in the indie scene. A Polaris Music Prize-nominee in 2009, he's bonafide and ever the consummate artist (he animates all his own music videos).
A notorious homebody, he rocked out on a self-built guitar that looked like an electrical fire waiting to happen. His show was creative, quirky and experimental, but plagued by tuning issues. He stopped to address this once, twice, three times.
Good thing VanGaalen makes carefree look cool. Despite the delays, the guys approved and the women swooned.
Then, a new face (for me) took the stage: Claire Boucher, a.k.a. Grimes. The young Montrealer grooved and swayed to her mystical, dark beats. She yelped and wailed, hitting a high register that sent these songs into an otherworldly realm. Think a PG-version of the girl from Die Antwoord. All the while, her frizzy-haired special guest, Daniel Woodhead of Spiral Beach fame, kept a driving rhythm on the drums.
Whether or not pounding back three cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon in 30 minutes had anything to do with it, Grimes got lost in a sparkly cloud of her own sublime, spacey soundscapes and the crowd was right there with her.
Canadian band Braids performs at North by Northeast. (Laura Thompson/CBC)
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