2010 NXNE Music Festival Toronto

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.

Mill Street in Toronto

The Distillery District just east of downtown Toronto is filled with unique artwork and beautiful renovated pieces of history.  Included in the maze of buildings is the Mill Street Brewery.  A lively atmosphere awaits against the backdrop of gleaming brew tanks.  We sampled nearly all the brews which is saying a lot with over 14 on tap at the time we were there.  Our favorites were the Organic Ale and the Coffee Porter with a special nod to the Lemon Tea beer for being one of the most innovative I’ve tasted.  The food was good with the Thai mussels being delicious although the onion rings were disappointing.  All in all it was a great experience in a wonderful spot with fantastic bartenders and wait staff.  It wouldn’t be our first taste of Mill Street as they seem to be the most popular beer in the city and showed up at nearly every venue we attended during the NXNE music festival.

SXSW Badgeless Wednesday

Unlike last year, this year we hit South By Southwest badge-less to see what we could find.  For something different we made the short jaunt from San Antonio to Austin via Amtrak.  The usual 90 mile trek took 3 hours but it was a fun ride other than trying to find parking when we left San Antonio.
First up we hit Emo’s which greeted us with the hilarious site of a young man trying to get in carrying a fishing pole.  Once inside we saw Les Shelleys –  a duo from L.A that had a distinct 80s sound.  Free Magic Hat #9 topped off the good atmosphere.
From there we headed to Whole Foods for lunch and to swing by Waterloo Records concerts.  The sound was great but a little heavy for our taste.
The Belmont proved to be an awesome venue.  There we saw 70s-ish Dirty Sweet rock the stage.  Giveaways were great including Vitamin Water and T-Shirts from Mikes Hard Lemonaid. Our only
After a quick power nap (we did wake up at 5:30 to get to the station on time!) we headed back to the Belmont to see The Black and White Years.  We saw these guys at a private SXSW party last year and they are outstanding.  The sound was even more refined and distinct.  You can’t help but love these guys especially if you’re a fan of 80s music like The Cars and Talking Heads.
After The Black and White Years there were several good bands up at the Belmont.  Then we headed to Gingerman but the line was too long to get in.  In classic SXSW style we heard a fantastic sound coming from a restaurant and headed that way.  The result was the great Hawaiin/Ragaee sound of The Green.
To end the night we cruised down 6th street taking in the sights and sounds of street performers and random people.  All in all we missed the movies and some private parties but even if you can’t get a badge don’t miss SXSW!

Greenbuild ’09

Opening day of Greenbuild ’09 was full of excitement and anticipation. Crowd control was good as the more than 25,000 attendees processed through registration. I reminded myself several times that everyone working Greenbuild is a volunteer so all minor misunderstandings could be overlooked. The trade show was packed Wednesday morning and the four people in our booth were rarely without someone to talk to. My afternoon was highlighted by meeting “notre dame killer” Anthony Johnson.
We scurried out of the booth to head to Chase Field for the opening session. All the way there were trying to find somewhere to grab a quick bite but can’t seem to. To out surprise Chase Field had been turned into a giant gourmet diner complete with any local organic good we could want. All of the proceedings were great but Sheryl Crow was the best.
Today we’re all set for another session of meeting people and sharing ideas on the green revolution!

Movie / Series Review “Caprica”

SyFy premiered the pilot for their new Battlestar Galactica series Caprica this weekend at the Austin Film Festival.  It has a distinct movie feel and played very well to the story loving AFF crowd.  The series is set prior to the popular remake BSG on SyFy that recently finished its run.  For those of us who remember growing up with the original BSG its much easier to connect with this series because we see the sylons in their metallic form.  The storytelling was fantastic and the cinematography is very artsy.  Also impressive are the lead roles played by vetern actors Eric Stoltz and Esai Morales are played exceptional as if each actor had been in the role for some time.  No expense is spared in the outstanding sets and digital effects.  All in all I expect it to be and outstanding success.