Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Photo

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 7

PWR BTTM I

Throughout the course of 2015 I’ve been fortunate enough to attend upwards of 100 shows, festivals big and small, and spend approximately half a year living in a city that hosted a mind-boggling amount of quality shows on a nightly basis. To that end, it’s probably unsurprising that I wound up taking over 10,000 photos this year alone. Over the course of the next few days, this site will be running seven volumes of the shots that stood out as personal favorites, whether that was due to their composition, sentimental attachment, or an intangible emotional or intellectual response. It’s been an honor to be able to take even the smallest part in the ongoing sagas of the artists in the photographs below and an additional thanks is due to the venues that allowed me to shoot (as well as the people who encouraged me to keep shooting).

The preceding galleries can be accessed via these links:

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 1
2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 2
2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 3
2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 4
2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 5
2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 6

Enjoy the gallery.

 

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 6

Potty Mouth

Throughout the course of 2015 I’ve been fortunate enough to attend upwards of 100 shows, festivals big and small, and spend approximately half a year living in a city that hosted a mind-boggling amount of quality shows on a nightly basis. To that end, it’s probably unsurprising that I wound up taking over 10,000 photos this year alone. Over the course of the next few days, this site will be running seven volumes of the shots that stood out as personal favorites, whether that was due to their composition, sentimental attachment, or an intangible emotional or intellectual response. It’s been an honor to be able to take even the smallest part in the ongoing sagas of the artists in the photographs below and an additional thanks is due to the venues that allowed me to shoot (as well as the people who encouraged me to keep shooting).

Enjoy the gallery.

 

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 2

Girlpool I

Throughout the course of 2015 I’ve been fortunate enough to attend upwards of 100 shows, festivals big and small, and spend approximately half a year living in a city that hosted a mind-boggling amount of quality shows on a nightly basis. To that end, it’s probably unsurprising that I wound up taking over 10,000 photos this year alone. Over the course of the next few days, this site will be running seven volumes of the shots that stood out as personal favorites, whether that was due to their composition, sentimental attachment, or an intangible emotional or intellectual response. It’s been an honor to be able to take even the smallest part in the ongoing sagas of the artists in the photographs below and an additional thanks is due to the venues that allowed me to shoot (as well as the people who encouraged me to keep shooting).

Enjoy the gallery.

Bad Cello – Live at Palisades – 10/4/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)

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It’s strange for most of the buzz surrounding a show to be granted to the opening act but that seemed to be the case with last Sunday’s Bad Cello show at Palisades. The reason for that intrigue was due in part to the fact that this was to be the first time anyone would hear Patio, a band that’s been steadily practicing for months. As the trio took the stage there was a palpable level of both excitement and curiosity, with many people on hand to witness Patio’s public unveiling  (they’d draw the biggest crowd of the day).

Only a few songs in, the band had staked out an identity; minimalist post-punks with a flair for wry humor, dissonance, and a strong pop sensibility (Sonic Youth’s more contained side and the early ’90s slacker punk movement stand out as very clear influences). As is always the case with new bands performing for the first time, there were a few hiccups here and there but that only seemed to lend to the project’s considerable charm. Vocal leads were traded off with a relative ease and the band committed to a gambit that came in the form of “Micro-balls”, a song rife with absurd sexual humor that paid massive dividends. The band was in complete control by the time their set closer rolled around, all but guaranteeing a promising future as a DIY staple.

Jeanette Wall, who set the show up (and who, like Patio’s Loren DiBlasi, has contributed to this site’s A Year’s Worth of Memories series), took the stage next to perform a handful of songs from her Band Practice project. Never taking herself too seriously, Wall infused her set with some genuinely entertaining (and mostly self-deprecating) banter that never came at the expense of the actual worth of her songs. All of the songs remained engaging even when stripped of their full-band trappings, allowing Wall an excess of space that was ably filled with charisma. The set was effectively split between comedy and music, with each half of the equation complementing the other to a surprising degree.

Following Wall’s entertaining theatrics were Glueboy, a young band that’s carved out a nice spot for themselves in Brooklyn’s DIY circle. Two releases into a young career, the band’s got heavy connections to DBTS and Double Double Whammy and those influences are very evident. Glueboy slipped into my listening rotation when I was looking for apartments in Brooklyn and wound up securing a spot where their bassist, Coby Chafets, was already residing (incidentally, I would move to that spot after a brief stint at DBTS).

Their brand of shambolic, punk-tinged basement pop appealed to me and allowed for some early ease of mind in the transition. However, despite that (and listening in on numerous acoustic jam sessions), I’d never seen the band play their songs live. On stage, their presence is relatively fearless, with each member making the most out of their granted space. Chafets and guitarist/vocalist Jonathan Marty trade off vocals at a rapid succession and occasionally sing in harmony, proving themselves to be a livewire act who manage to come across as both endearing and endlessly entertaining without ever sacrificing any substance.

By the time Glueboy’s explosive set had wound to an end, only a scattered handful of people remained for the electro-pop of Miscreant act Bad Cello, who still committed to the performance despite the glaring lack of numbers (I can’t think of a greater attendance disparity from opening band to headlining act that’s happened in recent memory). Showcasing material new and old, Bad Cello provided a dance-minded epilogue to the decidedly hodgepodge bill that somehow found a way to bridge a few contextual gaps. It’s difficult to imagine that each of the bills four acts won’t find their way to bigger things in their respective circuits as they move ahead. Genuine talent and a depth of promise wound up being the recurring themes of the matinee shows and it’ll be worth keeping eyes on each act as they move towards capitalization.

Watch a collection of videos from the show below and scan through a gallery of photos here.

 

 

Johanna Warren – Live at The Grove – 8/9/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)

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Johanna Warren is an incredibly important person to me who has been a central figure in two of the larger undertakings I’ve completed in the past year. The first was her beautiful contribution to the A Year’s Worth of Memories series (one where she detailed the first effort of what was originally going to be the video for “Black Moss” before it became “True Colors“) and the second being a multimedia artist profile for Consequence of Sound that included a photoshoot, a live video shoot, and an extensive interview. After being fortunate enough to take in Waren’s unforgettable, all-acoustic rooftop performance only a few weeks ago, I was more than willing to accept her invite to come to her quasi-release show (one specific to NYC) for this year’s outstanding nūmūn.

Held at a basement venue, the menu for the evening was far more eclectic than is usually covered here and perfectly suited to Warren’s sensibilities. An abbreviated meditation session was given, poetry was read, a mothering station was set up (and very briefly caught fire), tarot readings were available, and there was a bold, intense performance art piece from Gretchen Heinel (one of the directors of the “True Colors” video) involving nudity, white flowers, foreboding music, and a blood bag (which was partially consumed by Heinel herself). All the while, a few other vendors were offering their goods or services and a looped projection from visual artist Elisa Ghs. While it was officially titled a healing fair, the two main draws came in the form of its performing artists.

After Heinel’s incredibly intense performance art piece, Mikaela Davis (a new name to this site) immediately set about bringing some tranquility back to the proceedings. Davis is the kind of performer that exudes a natural grace that can frequently easily lend itself to an inherent magnetism, so I was very close to completely positive I’d enjoy her performance before a single note was played. After she’d set up her harp and made sure that Warren was seated at her harmonium (a recent addition to her live oeuvre), the duo had me frozen with a half-minute soundcheck of a beautifully arranged Elliott Smith cover. In less than a minute, Davis went from a promising prospect to an artist with my undivided attention. By the time her first song’s last notes were ringing out (the only she’d play with Warren and/or a harmonium accompaniment), an audience member succinctly summarized everyone’s reactions with a soft, awed expletive.

That sentiment crept in again and again as Davis’ set progressed, looping through my head with each new movement and figure of her songs. Positioned in front of the projection screen, still looping visuals, the effect was so transfixing that it almost became unnerving. Undeniably beautiful and occasionally deeply mysterious, Davis’ slow-burning songs melted over a hushed audience, all of which knew they were witnessing a rarity and providing it with the according levels of attention. It was a mesmerizing set of songs that has less in common with Joanna Newsom’s work (a frequent comparison that holds some waters but mostly comes up somewhat flat) and falls more along the lines of the likes of Elliott Smith and Priscialla Ahn. As much as I wanted to see Warren perform again, it was impossible to want Davis’ set to end. It did, though, as all good things must, and watching/hearing the closing song was an unforgettable experience- one that ensured that this won’t be the last time Davis’ name is mentioned on this site. Mouth agape, it took me several moments to collect myself, process what I’d just witnessed, and prepare myself for whatever magic Warren had conjured up for the evening.

Before long, Warren was seated in front of the microphone, guitar in lap, ready to launch into a set that drew on nūmūn and new material at a fairly equal rate. “Figure 8”, “The Wheel”, and a handful of others all evoked the same stunned reactions that keep me coming back to Warren’s music and, surrounded by friends, family, and fans, she looked even more at peace than usual. When it came time for “True Colors”, Warren made sure to dedicate it to Heinel and the clip’s other director, Damon Stang, who were seated next to each other, all smiles. Warren’s set marked the third time I’d seen the songwriter perform this year and the performances have all occupied the same space of unshakable quiet intensity but, for whatever reason, “True Colors” came off as particularly alive in the basemen (officially titled The Grove).

As familiar as I’ve come to be with Warren’s work, I’d been keeping an eye on the untouched harmonium throughout Warren’s set, hoping she’d return for at least a song. Finally, at the very end of a characteristically arresting performance, Warren took a seat and began the repetitive motions required to breathe life into the instrument (one of my personal favorites). Titled “There Is A Light”, the song ranks among the best in her discography. Gentle, gorgeous, and reaffirming, it almost comes across as a once-silent prayer pulled out into the world. Instead of feeling voyeuristic, there’s a very welcoming sense found in the song’s radiant warmth- one that likely had more than a few people (myself included) on the verge of tears. As the final lines of the song hit (“Well, we could lie down and collectively seal our fate. You know it’s now or never but it’s never too late.”) and the chords drift off into silence, that silence is sustained. In that moment and the several moments that followed, no one made a sound, collectively drawing out the impact of a perfect ending.

A full photo gallery of the show’s musical acts can be seen below and a video containing some of the evenings performances can be found beneath the gallery.

2014: A Pictorial Review, Pt. I

Frankie Cosmos III

One thing that this site has strived to maintain is its own visual aesthetic. While it’d be impossible to find a photo in the archives, an original photo will be posted anytime the opportunity presents itself. Upgrading cameras halfway through the year provided a bevvy of new opportunities and the subsequent implementation of a more photo-centric presence likely showed. That’s not by mistake. Photography (especially event photography) has always been an important crux of multimedia journalism. It can be a way to implicitly (or explicitly) convey some of the more minute details of a singular moment to a reader- or it can simply act as an intriguing supplement. Those were just a few of reasons that went into the decision of photography investment (on both a personal and public level) and factored into why one camera or another was brought along to every show this site covered in the past year. Now, with 2015 just around the corner, seemed like as good a time as any to showcase a few photographs from the past 12 months that stood out as personal favorites. Since there are a few too many to go up all at once, they’ll be posted at random as part of installments that will run from now to the start of January. Most of these shots have been published on the site before (or on The Media), though there are a few that will be appearing for the first time. Enjoy!

Deafheaven at Bottom Lounge – 7/18/14 (Review, Photos)

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Last weekend Chicago’s Union Park hosted one of the Midwest’s stacked festivals of the year and various venues around the area hosted official after party shows. By weekend’s end, around 20 sets were taken in between the official showcases and one of the day 1 after shows. The latter of which featured the first sets I was able to see throughout the weekend (shortly after arriving at The Bottom Lounge- who were putting on the after show, Perfect Pussy’s Meredith Graves stole me off for drinks at the festival grounds and we were able to hear Beck float through an impressive-sounding set in the background). After running back to the Bottom Lounge there was a short amount of time and the night’s first act, Pink Frost, had their set off and running. The Chicago-based quartet have been a fixture of the local scene for years and now, with the release of Traitors becoming increasingly imminent (it’s due out in September), they’re operating at a higher level than ever. Mixing shoegaze, psych, and punk elements into something impressive and towering on record, they’re even more formidable as a live act. All of the years they’ve spent playing together has resulted in an extraordinarily tight dynamic where each tiny detail is woven into an arresting sonic tapestry full of complementary threads. Their allotted time may have been understandably brief but it wound up feeling like one of the more complete sets of the year.

Perfect Pussy were next to take the stage and, despite sounding near-perfect in the soundcheck, wound up running into some apparent mixing problems. Not that it mattered, though. The band’s made a habit out of turning even the worst situations into something unforgettable. So, while Shaun Sutkus’ synths were pushed so far up that they were overwhelming just about everything else, the band played with their trademark fervor. That passion for performing is one of the biggest reasons this band’s celebrated so frequently here and, to her credit, Graves gave the absolutely packed crowd her all, even while being more inaudible than usual- to the point of leaving some of her blood on the floor (and earning several scratches on her hands). All thing considered, it stood as another display of breathtaking fierceness from a band that refuses to quit, no matter the circumstance.

Deafheaven were the headliners for the evening and their set leaned heavily on the monumental Sunbather, one of the only records to draw as much criticism from genre elitists as Perfect Pussy’s Say Yes to Love, making comfortable bedfellows out of an otherwise curiously unusual pairing. They didn’t waste their time- or position- as headliners, they filled their set with as much material as possible. At least one new song was played that seemed to advance the transition Sunbather represented for them. Vocalist George Clarke, clad in all black, commanded attention with ease, frequently going in and out of the crowd- occasionally crowdsurfing in a corpse-like position (and it’s worth noting that every move felt organic rather than rehearsed). “Dream House” was one of several assured high points by virtue of being a moment that featured atmospheric crescendos hitting a note near the euphoric. By the time they were loading their equipment off-stage, they’d given the audience just about everything they could, bringing the first night in Chicago to a successful close.

Photographs of the evening can be seen below.

Perfect Pussy at Soybomb HQ – 6/21/14 (Review, Photos, Video)

Cellphone V

While NXNE provided a lot of the most memorable moments I’ve had so far this year, I’d be completely and totally remiss not to pay special attention to one of the non-festival shows: an absolutely stacked lineup flying under the Summer Melt banner and taking place in the middle of a halfpipe. Originally, the show (heavy on local Toronto acts) was going to be headlined by the Cleveland-based Pleasure Leftists– an incredibly casual last-minute offer allowed Perfect Pussy to step in literally hours beforehand as a secret headliner. To their credit, their secret remained a secret (unlike the Spoon debacle just a night before) and caught several attendees by surprise as they entered the venue (which had set times drawn up on a long sheet of paper and in plain sight). A late arrival meant missing a slew of talented bands including Wrong Hole, Das Rad, Toronto Homicide Squad, Petra Glynt, and Teenanger.

Even five bands in, the night was far from over. It didn’t take long for Cellphone (pictured above) to set up and it took even less time for them to impress. On record, the quartet emphasizes their roughness, eclecticism, and electronic leanings. Live? They explode with a fury worthy of the hardest-hitting bands of STT’s golden age. Hüsker Dü, Black Flag, and (especially) Dinosaur Jr. all came to mind as apparent touchstones during different parts of their set, which stayed rooted in something totally intangible and unique to them. Hardcore influences and progressions cut apart riff-heavy melodicism and the band frequently sounds like they’re on the verge of spiraling out of control. It’s a controlled mania that had more than a few people shoving and dancing as hard as they possibly could by their set’s end. It was one of a very large handful of shows the band played throughout the NXNE dates and the practice showed- the end result was the best set of the trip from a band I’d previously never heard of.

Toronto’s Ice Cream may not have had the blinding energy of Cellphone but they certainly weren’t lacking in intrigue. The band’s a very minimalist post-punk act made up of nothing more than vocals, bass, a very occasional guitar, and synth. While they were stealthily making their way through their set (and the bottom of a bottle of liquor), they ran a bubble machine to its dregs. A little more than halfway through their set, a very-probably-inebriated audience member kept trying (and partially succeeding) at getting the bubbles back up and running, as the band played on, relatively amused and unconcerned. Most of their set hinged on bright melodies and pop-leaning basslines but when they deviated away from this, especially towards the end of their set, they found new life and hit new peaks. When their set finally wound down, they’d succeeded in creating an impression while simultaneously leaving the space wide-open for Pleasure Leftists to do just about anything they wanted.

Pleasure Leftists took full advantage of what was essentially a new slate after Ice Cream wound things down. After a string of strong releases on Deranged Records, the Cleveland band was in rare form, which was likely in part to the excessive amount of touring they’ve been doing lately. They’ve sharpened their brand of brooding post-punk and the fangs  that they’ve grown along with it. While the whole band is incredibly formidable in their respective roles and fully capable of creating towering soundscapes of tension-filled dread, vocalist Haley Morris still stands out. Onstage, Morris is a force to be reckoned with; a constant- and constantly expressive- larger-than-life presence. Pouring an endless supply of nervous energy and pure feeling into her delivery, Morris commands attention so completely that it occasionally runs the risk of losing track of what’s happening around her- don’t make that mistake. Pleasure Leftists’ instrumentalists are so well-versed in post-punk that on first listen someone could easily mistake them for a long-lost 70’s UK band that split small club bills with Warsaw. Their set was everything anyone could hope for and was rousing enough to leave the audience absolutely stunned. Everything that Pleasure Leftists are currently doing is clicking so neatly into place that it’s impossible to expect their trajectory to stabilize in anything other than ascension.

Finally, at a time roughly between 3:00 and 3:30 A.M., Perfect Pussy had set up and was off with their usual intensity. It’s no secret how I feel about this band and this won’t be the last time I write about them- or come even remotely close. I have made my feelings about them very public on multiple occasions and will continue to do so- because they are firmly rooted in all of the ethos that I believe in. Morality, integrity, independence, acceptance, and a commitment to DIY are all present in both their music and their interview. Vocalist Meredith Graves, in particular, has been very vocal about things that people need to start being more vocal about (and almost all of them are extensions of basic human kindness, compassion, and empathy). I would probably know next to none of this if I hadn’t been absolutely blown away by their 2013 demo I have lost all desire for feeling and made it a point to get as close to the band, who were making music I loved so fiercely and championing ideals I so firmly believed in, as I possibly could. It’s been a downright honor to watch the public interest in them skyrocket since the release of that demo and when Say Yes to Love came out, it made them feel revelatory all over again.

As with any band experiencing success, this meant seeing the venues housing them gradually grow- and the tickets fly much faster than they used to. So, when Graves pulled me aside after their Great Hall appearance for a beer at a Toronto bar to catch up and explain the events of the previous night, I was already on a barely-contained adrenaline rush. When we were interrupted by a guy offering to add Perfect Pussy onto an already-stacked bill that was being topped by Pleasure Leftists in a halfpipe in the middle of the night, all I could do was look at a noticeably excited Graves and hope she’d say yes. After all the details got figured out, it became evident fairly quickly that this was probably going to be the show that I remembered most from the Toronto stay. A band I’d loved and been chomping at the bit to see for the longest time (Pleasure Leftists) playing in a small, DIY space with who is arguably my favorite band of the moment playing after them as a secret headliner? With local support to top everything off, it seemed fail-proof. It was. Even though the late slot meant playing to an exhausted/subdued crowd, when Perfect Pussy tore into their set, it finally felt like they were at home. It was the exact kind of space that the band has fostered mutually symbiotic relationships with- even as their stature would suggest they’ve outgrown them.

It felt like a subtle, extraordinary moment and it was a privilege to be there to witness something like that happen. Even though the band’s set was abbreviated (even for them), it still hit with the force of an all-out military strike and the band laid just about everything they had on the line. Drummer Garrett Koloski was simultaneously battling to keep his kit upright and continuing to beat the living shit out of it- bassist Greg Ambler was tapping into an inward violence- guitarist Ray McAndrew was thrashing about more spiritedly than ever- synth/noise artist Shaun Sutkus was tucked away in the back, occasionally letting the music move him into making frantic body motions- and vocalist Meredith Graves (easily one of the finest bad leaders that this generation’s produced) commanding as much attention as humanly possible without being consumed by the din around her. All of the songs they played that evening were initially written down on a sheet of paper, cut into ribbons, and placed in a hat where the setlist was drawn out of- with the exception of one, which McAndrew took it upon himself to launch into, without warning, adding an element of surprise for both the audience and his bandmates. That moment was the only sly sidestep in an otherwise pulverizing, straightforward set that re-confirmed Perfect Pussy as one of the most entertaining live bands currently playing shows. By the time “Advance Upon the Real” wound down into Sutkus’ noise epilogue, they’d provided the evening with enough punch and verve to ensure that it wouldn’t be an evening that anyone who was present for it forget about it anytime soon. It didn’t feel like they’d officially arrived; it felt like they’d arrived home.

The photo gallery of this show can be accessed by clicking the link below. Beneath that link is a video of Perfect Pussy ending their set with “Advance Upon the Real”.

Soybomb HQ (Photo Gallery)

NXNE: Day 4 + 5 (Review, Photos)

Courtney Barnett XIV

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: Once again, apologies are necessary for the long drought of material. I have been organizing, writing, shooting, editing, and attending more events than usual. This has taken up a considerable amount of time but Heartbreaking Bravery hasn’t been forgotten. In fact, most of it has been for the site and will be posted about shortly. Full attention will return shortly and regular posting will resume along with it.]

NXNE is now more than a month in the past but it’s difficult not to keep returning to those shows. The last two days of that Toronto trip were made up of some of the most explosively visceral and gratifying shows anyone could possibly ask for. Two of those shows won’t be accounted for in this review as they weren’t official parts of the festival. Both shows will be given their own full reviews following everything here. Now that all of that’s out of the way, onto the shows themselves.

Day 4 of NXNE kicked off at Sonic Boom where noise/hardcore duo Creep Highway immediately set about providing as much sonic destruction as they possibly could. The duo, led by guitarist/vocalist Michael DeForge, played a fierce, ragged set that saw inflections of powerviolence weaving in and out of their songs. It was an arresting start and both DeForge and drummer Patrick Kyle looked exhausted, but happy, when the last bits of feedback were finally cut off. After happily enduring their onslaught, it was a mad dash over to The Great Hall for Perfect Pussy, looking to avoid another unfortunate situation.

Not two steps were taken into a crowded Great Hall before hearing Graves’ earnest “Hi, we’re Perfect Pussy” led the band straight into their usual chaos. Only this time, unlike the (admittedly mesmerizing) performance not even twelve hours prior, everything went off without a hitch. Their levels were mixed well, Graves’ confrontational pleading was audible, Greg Ambler’s bass- and bass amp- were both in tact, and the audience fed into the band’s energy with a strong display of their own. All of the usual highlights remained extraordinarily strong moments (“Interference Fits”, in particular- still as much of a contender for “song of the decade” as it’s ever been) and by the time Shaun Sutkus’ loops were turning into decays in the epilogue section of “Advance Upon the Real”, Graves was sitting onstage with her backpack, entranced by her bandmate, and looking deservedly pleased. All in all, it was over in about twenty minutes and wound up as another strong example of their live prowess.

After sticking around to hear a few enchanting songs from ANAIKA and leaving with Graves for a very revealing conversation about the previous nights events, it was off to the Ryerson University outdoor stage for an enchanting set from Frankie Cosmos. Graced with good weather and good sound, the young (and very prolific) singer-songwriter delivered each of her songs in high spirits to a small but appreciative crowd. Fan favorite “On the Lips” proved to be an easy high point; it’s as sweet and startling as it’s ever been. All of Cosmos’ bands played off her to near-perfection, each seeming like a natural extension of her songs themselves. By the end of the set, they were all miming their respective parts before falling down in a memorable bit of unassuming humor that wound up being the perfect capper to what was one of the festival’s most endearing performances.

When Frankie Cosmos’ set had come to a close, it was difficult to keep up (any serious festival attendee or reporter will attest to how exhausting the most extensive can be) so there was a dead-zone until Swearin’ took things over at Smiling Buddha. After dealing with some unfortunate mixing situations the previous night, it was a thrill that bordered on catharsis to enter a venue and hear the band in fine form, mixed to perfection. Once again, they offered up an incredibly balanced set that had clear highlights in particularly fiery renditions of “What A Dump”, “Dust in the Gold Sack”, and “Movie Star”. By the time their set had drawn to a close, they’d thrown down the perfect reminder of why they’ve earned so much critical adoration and fan loyalty. Swearin’ are one of the best bands out there- not an easy claim to make, but an impossible one to ignore after seeing a set like that one. A perfect way to end the official festival portion of Day 4.

Day 5 would be split between two venues and only one of them was an official NXNE showcase, which is why this is being included here instead of given separate billing. That showcase took place, once more, at Sonic Boom (and was graciously hosted by the inimitable Chart Attack– who had hosted the previous day as well). It began with a rousing set from one of Australia’s finest exports, Courtney Barnett. An early crowd had formed for the on-the-rise artist and Barnett delivered the way she always does; with warmth, grace, and an endless supply of smiles. No one in the band seemed able to contain their happiness or gratitude and were even smiling through their technical difficulties (which were expertly maneuvered into noise sections that fit the songs so perfectly that it almost felt like they should be integral parts of the band’s sound/records). It was a surprisingly ragged set (made even more ragged by Barnett’s virtue of refusing to use a pick) that sounded as blissed-out as the band looked, even in some fairly startling heaviness the band’s adopted into their palette. Everything about Barnett’s set pointed to one thing: her name isn’t one that will be disappearing anytime soon.

Local band Army Girls‘ bluesy post-punk leanings were next to be featured and the duo lived up to the promise of their recordings. It was one of their first appearances in a while and if there was any rust, it didn’t show. Between seriously impressive displays of fretwork and control from guitarist/vocalist Carmen Elle and drummer Andy Smith, Elle would offer up some biting banter before launching into the next song. Nearly everyone in Sonic Boom couldn’t seem to take their eyes off of them; even Courtney Barnett was dancing in between the aisles and shouting between-song encouragement. She wasn’t alone. Army Girls’ set had an even, practiced feel to it that warranted both attention and investment. If this band ever decides to make a serious run, it’ll be one to keep both eyes on. That their set was the last official NXNE showcase to be taken in felt appropriate; it was another perfect example of the independent spirit that the festival built itself on- and of the city that hosted it. Here’s to NXNE XX- and here’s to looking forward to the 21st installment.

The photo galleries of both days can be accessed below.

NXNE: Day 4 (Photo Gallery)
NXNE: Day 5 (Photo Gallery)