Staying in tune with NXNE 2016

  In it’s 3rd decade and celebrating 22 years as the most anticipated summer music event in Toronto, The NXNE Festival and conference showcased bands, brands, for bloggers, media & music fans a like.  It brought Indie artists (music, art, comedy, film, technology & gaming) to the forefront of Toronto’s oldest and hottest venues, seeing 350,000 in attendance to catch 160 musical acts in 20 venues from bars to concert halls to outdoor live performances, generating millions into the city’s economy. 

June 13th was Day 1 brought me to meet Damien Nelson and her 25 year Flip Publicity Team who did a fantastic job promoting this 7 day festival.  First stop musically was the 69 year old Legendary Horseshoe Tavern, located in it’s iconic 155 year old structure on Queen Street West.  Horseshoe is famous for it’s warm and friendly staff and for hosting the planet’s largest ICONs that once upon a time cut their teeth here.  It is a staple every year for NXNE, show casing today’s Indi talents from around the world, selling out mostly by 10pm. I was anxious to review this lineup of talent that came from as far away as England who appeared on David Letterman-Eagulls. “What Have We Here” Several Futures kicked it into high gear, featuring Toronto’s Johnny, Evan and Matt with their infectious 80s punk rocky feel. Check out  “Before You Forget”  & visit https://severalfutures.bandcamp.com

Followed by The Effens from Toronto with their trendy new wave creations, with lots of hair flipping heavy glam rock guitar, resembling at times, U2.  Check out CD 

“Burn Blush” www.theeffens.com

Topping the night off was EAGULLS from Leeds U.K. www.eagulls.co.uk  They brought us hits from their 3rd album “Ullages“. These polite lads collaborated beautifully leaving a euphoric sense if you closed your eyes, you were at a Cure concert.  Creative and unique, yet, a very comforting and familiar sound.  Brought me back in time creating a distraction from my daily stressors. Mark Goldsworthy on guitar, George Mitchell on lead vocals and Henry Ruddell on drums with Tom Kelly on bass and Liam Matters on guitar site brought “My Life In Rewind” I can see how they got to perform live on David Letterman and how they impressed Bill Murray too. I loved their psychedelic loud bass and retro feel.  Their career is destined for infinite success with “Never Endings”.  All in all this 1st night oozed trendy distinctive mystical dream pop goth-punk with hint of the blues! www.eagulls.co.uk

June 14th was Day 2 brought me to 1 of the few remaining traces of Toronto’s early days of rock n roll rythmn and blues which has been musically active 58 years, now covering all genres. I once worked as a coat check gal here at The Silver Dollar Room and being back here seeing 80% still looked the same, blew my mind.  Feeling at home as the alluring 70-80’s came flooding back as Toronto’s The Dead Projectionists crossed over between 70’s rock meets The Smith’s, with a bluesy synth pop feel.  All This Time I was missing out on NXNE and it’s Indie soon to be giants in the world of music.  Alex Goyetche on vocals/guitar brought passion mixed with Al Purcell’s heavy guitar riffs and narley drum beats thanks to Scott Walsh, having Stefhan Iwaskow rock it loud and proud breaking his bass string and adding color was Kirby Schiemann on keys/synths. www.thedeadprojectionists.com

Future Peers took the stage by storm with their Ska meets reggae meets The Clash intensity. Fans swarmed the crowded  dance floor as Luke Correia-Damude on guitar/vocals, Mike Lobel on synths/percussion, David Stein-bass, Frank Cox O’Connor on drums nailed it!   “Ex-Teens” was genius go visit  www.futurepeers.com

They led the pathway to LA’s dance punk disco act Moving Units.Neurotic Exotic” was a great name for an album and a fantastic description of their sound.  They filled the Silver Dollar Room with a deep and heavy bass with a twang disco dance punk sense as Blake Miller and Moving Units read the room and delivered what we were starving for, high energy.  “Between Us And Them” our hunger was satisfied www.movingunits.net

June 15th was Day 3 brought me to Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers campus for NXNE Interactive Conference. Was a perfect day from the delicious breakfast and lunch, helpful staff and friendly organizers and front row reserved seating in the huge auditorium that was filled with eager music and gamers alike.  Intro’s seen the Dean of Ryerson University Charles Falzon from Faculty of Communications and Design, followed by Michael Hollett co-founder and President of NXNE who is passionate about music, culture and politics.  Michael Hollett came from a journalistic family and he is also with Now Magazine, Alternative News Foundation and co-founding member & Board of Director for Music Canada.  Intro’s continued with Steve Gans of AMD and the incredibly up lifting humour filled, educational ICON session with American Engineer, entrepreneur Nolan Bushnell, the Father of Modern gaming took center stage.  Nolan is most famous for ATARI and Chuck E. Cheese pizza theatres, and he walked us though his careers and how he created ETAK the 1st digital maps of the world as part if automotive navigation which is the back bone of Google or Map Quest, sharing he was Steve Jobs’ only boss!  Nolan shared his recipient of The Video Game Hall of Fame; Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame and Outstanding Contributor to Video Game Industry BAFTA award. Nolan was involved with Catalyst Technologies the 1st tech incubator of the 1st digital navigation system by video; the 1st online ordering system and UWINK the 1st touch screen menu ordering and entertainment system. He has a movie on ATARI coming out staring Leonardo Dicaprio and has a PONG The Musical coming out as well. Photo of Nolan Bushnell.

Next was The Art of Sound and MUSIC in Gaming Panel by FACTOR.  Steve Ehrlick, Associate Professor of RTA School of Media at Ryerson University/director of the Music Den, led an insightful panel of computer designers, musicians and gaming experts.  1st up was Richie Nieto of Ubisoft Toronto’s third largest independent game publishers boasting billions in revenue.  Next, Maggie McLean Toronto’s independent Video Game & Music Composer, Rich Vreeland or Disaster Peace as he is also known as, who is an American composer and musician and film score composer.  Also included was Graeme Cornies who shared his award winning talents as a composer and about his video gaming experience. 

Next was the INDIE SHOWCASE featuring Tanya Van Luven marketing and communications manager at Loud on Planet X with Alex Jansen of Pop Sandbox, an award winning Studio based in T.O who with film makers, musicians, composers, game developers, artists ect created Loud on Planet X, which you choose the act from Lights, Metric, July Talk, Cadence Weapon ect. and you fight off aliens in the audience with weapons like strobe lights, amps, speakers, fog machine, bouncers before aliens reach the artists on stage. Next up Cadence Weapon a rapper, producer, writer and Nominee for Polaris Music Prize followed by Augusto Quijano of Drink Box Studios in Toronto, an independent Video Game programmer. Next team leader Monica Szentezsky and program consultant Kim Gibson of OMDC – Ontario Media Development Corporation who explained the lengthy process regarding grants for book publishers, TV, interactive digital media, magazine publishing and music industry. 

Last session of the conference for me was VR is the New Frontier Future of Gaming.  Virtual Reality Sasa Marinkovic 28 year veteran who patented Power X press found in many notebooks.  He is a global and regional HEAD of VR Software marketing at Radeon Tech at AMD which is a 47 year old company called Advanced Micro Devices, that develops computer processors for business consumer markets with mother board chip sets and microprocessors.  They are the 2nd largest supplier and only significant rival is INTEL. Along with Sasa was Henry Faber from Gamma Space a collaborative studio in T.O showcasing power of VR and future of gaming, where designers come together at the non profit arts org. To work and play. Henry enlightened us on the future of VR in music and video games. Ryerson University Associate Professor Richard Lachnan a director of Transmission Zone commentated…a very funny man.  65th Mayor of T.O the honorable John Tory made a visit discussing the importance of music in Toronto and how he wishes to bring music back, to make it a hub and  reviving scene once again. 

June 15th was DAY 3 and musically it brought me to a very popular concert venue, Virgin Mobility MOD CLUB for 2 fantastic acts.  Openers were a huge surprise and from Toronto.  FERRARO a band of brothers and 1 cousin, that carry a vast amount of knowledge and talent & are linked to famous Toronto icon, Cosmo Ferraro from The Cameron House (establishment known as a music hub).  Gianni Ferraro – Drums/Vocals, Tally Ferraro – Bass/Vocals, Cosmo Ferraro – Rhythm Guitar/Vocals and Tom Ferraro – Lead Guitar/Vocals, blazed the stage and impressed the full house Mod Club with their originals resembling the 50s 60s Beatles era. Their meat and potato musical staples left us charged and  “Losing Sleep” now as we were raring to go all night.  FERRARO     www.ferraromusic.com

They opened for Welsh alternative rock band veterans “The Joy Formidable” who were a raw & energetic trio totally invested & full of excitement, at this their “HITCH” CD release event.  Genuine intensity flowed freely thru this 21st century emotional performance.  Fans rushed the stage as these stars filled the room with loud addictive guitar and hard heavy with flashing strobes and lazers and smoke including the Gibraltar Gong.  Truly impressed by Rydian Dafydd on bass & Rhiannan Ritzy Bryan on lead vocals and guitar and master of all things percussion Matt Thomas.  Soaring to great heights with their music on soundtrack for TWILIGHT Breaking Dawn leaving us memorized and Influenced with “The Last Thing On My Mind” was for them to keep to Rock n Rolling all night long. 


“Pitch Perfect” co-stars and soon-to-be wed couple, Skylar Astin and Anna Camp joined Courtyard Hotels at the Toronto music festival NXNE. The two made an appearance at Courtyard’s Barcade prior to judging an A Cappella competition on the main stage of the festival where the winning group The Rainbows won a $1,000 Courtyard gift card. The music competition was followed by a screening of “Pitch Perfect”.   

Actress Anna Camp and actor Skylar Astin who starred together in Pitch Perfect played at Courtyard Hotel’s North by Northeast Festival Barcade on Thursday, June 16, 2016, in Toronto, Canada. (Dale Wilcox/AP Images for Courtyard by Marriott). 

Actress Anna Camp and actor Skylar Astin who starred together in Pitch Perfect talk on stage at Courtyard Hotel’s North by Northeast Festival Barcade on Thursday, June 16, 2016, in Toronto, Canada. (Dale Wilcox/AP Images for Courtyard by Marriott

IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR COURTYARD BY MARRIOTT – Actress Anna Camp and actor Skylar Astin who starred together in Pitch Perfect arrive at Courtyard Hotel’s North by Northeast Festival Barcade on Thursday, June 16, 2016, in Toronto, Canada. (Dale Wilcox/AP Images for Courtyard by Marriott)

IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR COURTYARD BY MARRIOTT – Actress Anna Camp and actor Skylar Astin who starred together in Pitch Perfect arrive at Courtyard Hotel’s North by Northeast Festival Barcade on Thursday, June 16, 2016, in Toronto, Canada. (Dale Wilcox/AP Images for Courtyard by Marriott. The music competition and movie screening took place on the main stage of Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square during NXNE, in a competition inspired by the film “Pitch Perfect,” as three Canadian groups compete to be deemed “NXNE A cappella Champions.” Camp and Astin will serve as the competition judges and then will introduce the film to the festival goers..

The experience was all provided by Courtyard, “the Official Hotel Partner of NXNE,” as the hotel brand brings its Courtyard @ mobile experience to NXNE. Throughout the three-day festival, fans enjoyed the brand’s “Barcade” where they can compete for exclusive prizes or relax in “The Bistro Beer Garden”.

NFL star Sammy Watkins (Buffalo) was also on-site on Friday, June 17.

 Thursday 6/16  Courtyard @ Barcade appearance was at 3PM – 4PM A cappella Competition: 7:30PM – 9PM winners The Rainbows.

Movie Screening was 9PM – 11PM and event was free to the public.

June 16th was Day 4 I attended the beautiful RIVOLI for dinner and into the concert room out back to catch shots of Thornhill’s  Midday Swim.  Their refreshing “Summer Eyes” took you on a refreshing pop sound journey to the cottage, without a care in the world.  This 5 piece consisting of David Krygier Baum on vocals and guitar, Stephen Ermel keys and vocals, Sebastian Shine on guitar and vocals with Craig Sultz on bass/vocals and Max Trefler on drums have quickly rose the musical success ladder, finding a comfy spot on board some of Ontario’s largest festivals as their name us being recognized in today’s main stream sound.www.middayswim.com

June 17th was Day 5 
I had the distinct pleasure to capture some behind stage shots while NQ Arbuckle were show casing to a fully jammed and sold out room at Horseshoe Tavern with fans as far away as Montreal.  Feel Free to visit www.nqarbuckle.ca

They rocked their indie distinctive countrified/celtic/rocky/blues sound with traditional foot stomping diddies. Their plain and simple crowd pleasing genius, we got “Back To Earth” with some “Red Wine” with a “Hot Shot” of “I Liked You Right From The Start” however, I was sad they didn’t perform my fave “Song for Deborah”. The festival strove forwarded Saturday June 18th and Sunday June 19th all in all my 5 day Wire and NXNE adventures were an honor and I got to see VIP style, the world’s most influencing leaders, artists, musicians & gaming creators.  I enjoyed every beat of this BACK TO THE FUTURE NXNE 2016.  Cheers to the 23rd festival 2017.

by Contributor Deb Draper