Our Canadian sojourn continues...

North By Northeast is the slightly cooler (in every way) Canadian equivalent of Texas' South By Southwest. Here's part two of our report from the event's opening night!

Then I headed back over to the Boat… for Regina, Saskatchewan's Rah Rah.

The Boat was filled with people now all sipping drinks and mingling. Rah Rah have stirred up quite a bit of buzz in Saskatchewan but this was actually their first time in Ontario. At first I didn't get it. They seemed like cliché pop akin to Tokyo Police Club but as the set progressed I seemed to understand what they were trying to do more and more. They looked really young or maybe just fresh faced and the front man had a deadpan way of singing and his lyrics were rather blunt and boring –at first. Then I soon realized he resembled a younger Jon Rae and his lyrical perversions must be inspired by Canadian greats like the Weakerthans and The Constantines! From then on it all made sense! They rotated instruments at one point and the extremely talented female drummer came up front to sing. Her deep powerful drawl was captivating. By the end of the set I was a believer! Their awkward presence turned into their charm and I could see myself developing quite a liking for their Canadian songs, -which were mainly about being out of love.


Then I headed back to Sneaky Dees to see more of the Myspace Showcase and let me tell you, something crazy was happening there. I just caught the end of AMIT's set. AMIT is a young pop musician who has a really unorthodox way of composing and performing. He was standing behind an old school piano or organ (the room was packed with dancing people so I couldn't see well) that was draped in orange velour, and he was wearing a Sergeant Peppers-like outfit. He must have been boiling. He had a drummer and a trumpeter on stage with him who were sporting matching outfits, and for the last song he called a bunch of girls up on stage who jumped and sang! It was adorable! I couldn't see the drummer buried in the stage and everyone was singing along to the catchy delicious sixties pop fun! I wish I had been there earlier to see his whole set! Gah!

Young Rival were following AMIT, which is a hard job to do but they pulled it off with ease. Hailing from Hamilton, it's beyond me why they aren't signed yet. They play a rootsy kind of pop. Lead by the hugely John Lennon sounding vocalist Aron D'Alesio, the rest of the band played along energetically. It was a super tight performance with group sing-a-longs I wish I knew the words to. Their performance was rather ordinary though, considering what they just followed –or maybe it was that I was just getting tired and opted to sit at the back of the venue and have a beer.

The last band of the evening for me were The Darcys. I've seen them play so many times and each time is different. This time though was unquestionably their best performance. All dressed in classy suits (Mike the guitarist/trumpeter/keys even got a new hair cut) they took to the stage and plunged into a new song, "Obvious Ones" -which is really a great way to start off a set with its huge chords ringing out of the guitars and bouncing off the walls. Let the dancing begin! Their post-rock swirled and swelled into sonic explosions. Lead singer Kirby Best was on top of every note, while newest addition to the band Michael le Riche and founding member Jason Couse backed him up with a copious serving of lush harmonies. The suit jackets soon ended up on the floor beside the pedal boards and the ground vibrated to their poppy guitar-driven chaos. The crowd sang along to favourites off their debut album, *Endless Water*, and were pleased with the new material, which promised the next album will be a whole new beast. When they ended their set the crowd begged for one more song… so they busted out their messy but always great cover of Final Fantasy's "The CN Tower Belongs to the Dead" where they transform the violin riffs into guitar lines and turn the romantic song into a rock monster anthem for every Toronto dweller. Everyone in the room screamed the chorus. Amazing. Best way to end the night.

Now, you're probably wondering how every band I saw yesterday was great. Well, you see… I did see one band; Mardeen from Halifax. And they were rather mediocre. Not bad, not good... just really energetic pop rock. So I really don't have much to say about them. So there.

Read our report from the second night of NXNE here!

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