All throughout this week, Color contributor Aidan Johnston will be blogging daily from the NXNE Festival in Toronto. Make sure to check back everyday for great photos, stories and reviews from around the festival!
The city's buskers and breakdancers had a hard go of it this weekend when their home turf of Yonge & Dundas square was invaded for a run of free shows by some of the biggest names at NXNE. Out of respect for the old guy who plays the bucket drums and the infamous Jesus screamer, I opted not to attend. So while people divided their Saturday evening between losing their children in the sea of people at the Flaming Lips concert and finding washrooms that weren’t for customers only, I sought out a mellower scene. To be more exact I was in the market for backyard>beers> BBQ and if it wasn’t too much to ask, a set by Montreal indie rock popsters TOPS.
[ o ] Brent Goldsmith
Milk Glass Co., the latest gallery edition that’s transforming this strip of Dundas from little Portugal to little Berlin, answered the call of my classified ad and provided all of the above. Low slung fairy lights lit the block of concrete behind the gallery, with TOPS occupying a stage towards the back just before the space leaked out onto an alleyway. Hailing from Montreal, TOPS boasts four members, 1 album, and loads of fuzzy feelings. You can picture a Record label exec pitching them; “They’ve got the surf rock of Best Coast, the warmth of Beach House and the grunge of Bleached.” But comparisons like these don’t justify what TOPS have accomplished with their own original sound. The attractive pepsi generation group makes music with a youthful reverb, harkening me back to when my voice first cracked, though this could also be attributed to finding myself instantly besotted with the lead singer. It’s melancholic rock, narrating relationships, nights out and introspective dreaming.
Music is at its best when it sparks the desire to share, and TOPS did exactly that, making me want find someone to turn these songs into ‘our songs’ with. And with the amount of babes in that backyard, I now had one more thing in common with them.
Top TOPS tracks- ‘Turn Your Love Around’, ‘Rings of Saturn’, ‘Evening’
Purchase the digital album for less than a club sandwich on their site
This marked the end of my NXNE tour and after living on a diet comprised mainly of dipping sauce and inhabiting a body whose bloodstream was now technically property of Labatt 50, I’d reached my own personal venue capacity. I pull off my festival pass, the stench it leaves behind resembling that of removing a plastered cast. I’m burnt physically and mentally and the thought of coming up with another word to describe a guitar riff triggers an internal self-destruct button. Whatever—in two days I’ll be screaming encore. I’ve been exposed to a plethora of great music, and the next few days will be spent overhauling my iTunes as the next generation of ’25 most played’ prepares to take over. There's a saying I want to finish with, but I don’t think I could ever take myself seriously when quoting Plato, so I’m going to quote my friend Geoff who told me the quote instead.
“We don’t make music, we find it”- Geoff
And for the music ‘greek’ in all of us, there’s no better place for discovery than NXNE.
- Aidan Johnston