Since NXNE decided to do some cool free shows at Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Sqaure we thought we’d go check out the most metal of the ones that happened. Actually, they weren’t very metal at all, but here are reviews of the three bands that any open-minded metal head would definitely enjoy…
Mudhoney @ Yonge-Dundas Square, Toronto ON, June 17 2010
Blarg, my head.
It’s been a hell of a weekend for those who enjoy sweetly torturing their eardrums. NXNE visited Toronto, and it has been one hell of a raucous houseguest.
I kicked off NXNE in style on Thursday night, walking directly from work to Dundas Square to see Mudhoney with Hellbound Overlord Sean Palmerston. Their set was straightforward and intensely satisfying, in terms of song choice; I expected to hear “Touch Me I’m Sick,” and indeed I did. Mudhoney, for their astronomical popularity, are a difficult band to pin down. Being a seminal band in the Seattle grunge explosion, and a major influence on more than one genre, their sound has always struck me as nebulous. They’ve accreted characteristics of grunge and blues, punk and funk, plaiting these sounds together to create a whole infinitely stronger than the apparent sum of its parts. The crowd that gathered at Dundas Square echoed this eclecticism. Patch-covered punks and hipsters with babes in arms mingled seamlessly in front of the stage, strange and casual. In being so much all at once, Mudhoney attracts a large and extremely varied fanbase. Their name a perfect match for their sound: dirty and sweet, thick and light, gold and brown, full-throated and rich while never taking itself too seriously. Their welcoming strangeness, broad appeal, and complex-yet-fun sound provided an ideal beginning to a weekend full of music and debauchery.
X @ Yonge-Dundas Square, Toronto ON, June 17 2010
Somewhat unbelievably, last Thursday’s Toronto performance by X was their first time back in these parts for more than two decades. Absence makes the heart grow fonder they say and that was definitely the case for those that stuck around after Mudhoney’s great set for some classic old school west coast punk rock. Or rockabilly. Or cow punk. Whatever you want to categorize them as, the quartet was definitely on and had the crowd right where they wanted them: mesmerized. The duo vocal tandem of Exene and John Doe sang great together, guitarist Billy Zoom was whipping off his licks with a huge shit-eating grin, and drummer DJ Bonebrake could teach a lot of drummers half his age how to pound the kit with power and precision. During their hour-plus set X played every classic song they have – “Los Angeles”, “TheHungry Wolf”, “Johnny Hit and Run Pauline” – and even did a cool-ass cover of the Doors’ “Soul Kitchen” for their encore. In a word, awesome. Best band I saw all weekend – inside and outside of NXNE.
Iggy & The Stooges @ Yonge-Dundas Square, Toronto ON, June 19, 2010
Ever since former Doughboys singer John Kastner took over as the musical director of NXNE a few years back, it seems like it has been his (and NXNE owner Michael Hollett`s)objective to put every cool punk-related legend onto the stage at Yonge-Dundas Square for the free shows of NXNE. The bands they’ve managed to snag have been fantastic – Teenage Head (their last downtown Toronto performance before the death of Frankie Venom – RIP), the Sonics, Youth Brigade, X, Mudhoney, etc.. etc. – but they really managed a major coup this year by getting Iggy & The Stooges to headline the stage on Saturday night. The band, which has been doing shows on and off for the past five years or so, have finally become the in-demand marquee act they never had the chance to be first time around in the early seventies. Their influence on today`s punk, metal and hardcore scenes is absolutely undeniable. It`s actually really nice to see them actually get their due.
The Stooges had been advertised as the main headliner of the entire NXNE festival, but even knowing that going into it I have to say I was blown away at how many people came out to see them. There were thousands and thousands of people that came out for this free show, ranging from curious teens to music fans in their sixties. It was one of the widest age ranges I have seen outside of an Iron Maiden concert. The Square was completely packed with people, so much so that Yonge Street had to be barricaded off by the police in order to deal with it all, apparently the first time that was ever done for any kind of musical concert.
Speaking of, you are probably wondering just how the concert was, yes? Well, I can tell you this – it sounded amazing! I can’t actually tell you how it looked, because I couldn’t see a fucking thing. Getting there just ten minutes before they hit the stage, I managed to make my way up about half way through the crowd, but even at nearly six feet tall I still couldn’t see a thing. You would have had to be within the first fifty feet to see anything at all, unless you had a camera with a wicked lens (not me). Despite that however I am glad to report that the band put on a hell of a show. With Raw Power era guitarist James Williamson now back in the band after the unfortunate death of Ron Asheton, Iggy was quick to quip that the band was “the remains of the remains of the Stooges” before settling down to kick our ass. The band, which also featured Scott Asheton on drums, Mike Watt on bass and saxophonist Steve Mackay, tore their way through the best songs on Raw Power, a good chunk of Funhouse and a few older nuggets like “I Wanna Be Your Dog”. I couldn’t see them, but I sure could feel them and I liked what I felt. They did good, real good and, if I had to go and hear them again without seeing a thing, I’d do it all over in a heartbeat.