Ok so this review is a month or so late but I’ve travelled about 500o miles this month so cut me a break! North By Northeast was an experiement for us of sorts. We wanted to check out Toronto and seeing some great films and bands seemed like the way to get it done. There were so many other events going on in Toronto it was crazy and the G20 was starting the next week. Most locals had never heard of or didn’t know the festival was even going on which was surprising considering how SXSW absolutely takes over Austin.
We arrived too late to pick up our badges Friday night which was pretty disappointing (they closed at 8) Instead we picked them up Saturday after a truly enjoyable time at Mill Street Brewery for lunch. After going all the way to the Hyatt for the badges we had to make our way completely across town to Young-Dungas Square to catch the afternoon shows. It took about 20 minutes via bus and subway. The crowd was tame but the music good. We were curtained off into a seperate area for beer drinkers in which we could not see the stage at all (strike 1 Toronto!!) But I really enjoyed The Soft Pack who brought a nice indie vibe and later DD/MM/YYYY who dazzled with their insane riffs and instrument switches.
From there we headed to the eclectic cool vibe of the Kensington Market district. Eating at a very cool Hungarian Restaurant I savored more local beer and made the bad decision to turn on my iphone internet browser considering it said it would only be $25 for 5 MB. Long story and $800 of browsing later it made finding our way around the city much easier. The shows at Bread and Circus started at 8. We made it at 9 to see Hexes and Ohs whose catchy pop sound was a great way to start off the evening. The atmosphere was good although a bit odd with a smaller crowd than I expected.
From there we crossed the street to an even smaller crown at The Supermarket an incredibly hip restaurant serving lots of great beer and having a nice stage in the back. By this time Ziggy was about to come on stage at Younge-Dungas Square and it was obvious the 20,000 attendees were all there! But they all missed a smashing performance by our very favorite performers of the entire trip – Quinzy. These guys were so into their music even though there was a non existant crowd it was truly impressive. Every song had a catchy melody and every one of the 4 can sing their heart out. If these guys aren’t famous in 3 years I’ll be shocked. They’re the only band we saw that I downloaded the album from itunes as soon as I got back home.
Back to Bread and Circus from there to see a few decent bands but nothing to write home about. Fighting a bit of a cold we headed back to the hotel and called it a night just after midnight. Sunday morning it was off to Younge-Dungas Square to catch a few R&B acts. I wish we could have stayed for DeLaSoul but our Monday flight left at 8 am and we had to head back to the airport. And we worked in a quick trip to Toronto Island which was a bit of a disappointment. Pushing little kids out of the way to cram into an overfilled barge just isn’t my idea of fun!
Chancing public transport we took the subway to the airport shuttle and it was extremely easy to navigate. It took about 45 minutes and cost $2 compared to the $20 each we paid for the 30 minute shuttle ride on arrival. Overall it was a great time. The badges were only $100 well worth it. And Toronto is truly a unique and fun city. Will we be back next year? It depends on scheduling but I’d say its a greater than 50% chance.