The North By Northeast Music, Film and Interactive Festival lit up Toronto this past week with great music, beer, packed venues, acoustic park concerts, more beer, rooftop parties… All-in-all a highly entertaining festival!

More importantly though, the week made it strikingly clear that music is alive and well in our city. We saw a number of outstanding artists, which in turn has made narrowing them down to a simple “Best Of” post somewhat of a challenge.

Here are my highlights from NXNE 2012:

Who: Yukon Blonde (Vancouver)

When & Where: Saturday, 10pm at The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern

The first chance I’ve had to see one of Canada’s most buzzing bands, and the Polaris Prize nominees didn’t disappoint. Tearing up the Horseshoe with some good ‘ol Canadian Rock n’ Roll, Yukon Blonde had the Saturday night capacity audience in a frenzy. A special appearance from The Wooden Sky solidified this set as the highlight of my weekend.

Extra High-Fives: For drawing a lineup of 300+ outside the Horseshoe!


Who: The Lumineers (Denver)

When & Where: Saturday, 11pm at The Legendary Horsehoe Tavern

A double-whammy at the ‘Shoe on Saturday. I’d barely caught my breath from Yukon Blonde before The Lumineers took over with a dynamite folk-rock set. Catchy hooks and easy-flowing melodies coupled with an impressive number of people who knew all the words, made for some fun sing-alongs. A few tunes in and it was easy to see why the Colorado quintet has been such a hit on the festival circuit.

Extra High-Fives: Amongst the rigid NXNE schedules, The Lumineers were the only band I saw allowed an encore… though I’m not sure the crowd would have given them much choice…


Who: The Treasures (Toronto)

When & Where: Friday, 11pm at the Drake Underground

With Eagles-esque four-part harmonies, the Toronto-based country group laid down a superbly smooth set at the Drake. Five incredibly talented musicians, the band boasted one of the tightest sets I saw all weekend. Galen Pelley nails the singing-drumming combo and The Treasures had the room grooving in no time.

Extra High-Fives: The harmonies. My goodness, the harmonies…


Who: Dwayne Gretzky (Toronto)

When & Where: Friday, 2am at the El Mocambo

A Toronto super-group featuring a rotating cast of local artists, Dwayne Gretzky capped off a raucous night at the El Mocambo with an outstanding set of cover tunes. The high-octane group threw out everything from The Beatles to The Boss, affirming that if the Elmo is going to bring in bands that make you dance that hard, they’ve got to do something about that AC.

Extra High-Fives: Young Lions Music Club who continuously set up the best parties on the block.


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