Published on June 18th, 2012 | by Sock Monkey Sound0
NXNE 2012 – The aRTIST oF tHE yEAR
NXNE + Gonzo= aRTIST oF tHE yEAR
-Written by Adam Lucci
A bottle of wine deep I arrived at this bar on the fringe of Toronto’s China town and immediately start ordering drinks in quantities I can’t afford. If I have to stay here well past 2am to see ‘aRTIST oF tHE yEAR’, I’m going to impair my judgment as much as I can so that this actually seems like a good idea. After depleting what little money I had, I headed up stairs to wait for show to begin.
The upstairs venue is narrow room with a full length mirror that spans the entire far wall as to give the impression it’s not an attic. At least there’s a bar at the back of the room opposite the tiny stage, which by now was populated with various instruments and electronic devices. The small number of people present have all migrated to the back of the room in small packs leaving the front of the stage deserted. I decided to grab a good spot about an inch away from the band’s laptop posted at centre stage.
After a short time the majority of whoever was going to show up had, creating a small gathering around the deserted musical equipment. It’s a strange mix of the weirdos who have purposely stayed up to see this band, and the completely lost. I couldn’t tell what the mood of the audience was, there weren’t enough of them for there to even be a mood, or maybe I just drank to many ryes.
Finally ‘aRTIST oF tHE yEAR’ emerges, dressed in what is probably the worst drag I have ever seen. The keyboardist is the least ridiculous looking, wearing what could easily be mistaken for a thobe. The bassist and guitarist are equally disturbing both wearing terrible wigs, sunglasses (shutter shades at that), and thrift store dresses that leave little to the imagination. The drummer is oddly misplaced wearing actual normal clothes, which ultimately makes him look the most out of place in this crowd of strange. I can’t tell if this is some sort of gimmick. Is the dressing in women’s clothes like the Red Hot Chili Peppers sock routine? And for that matter what the fuck is with the name? ‘aRTIST oF tHE yEAR’? Are they narcissists or trying to be ironic?
When the music actually kicks in I realize I couldn’t care less what they’re trying to be. I’m immediately pulled into this grimy electronic music that sound like Daft Punk and Death From Above 1979 had some sort of illegitimate crack baby. It’s a frantic mix of live instruments coupled with loops being played via laptop.
After a few rough first songs, and the guitarist screaming at the mixer to ‘Turn it up I can’t hear it’ in the most fantastic French Canadian accent, the crowd finally seems enticed enough to set off in rhythmic drunken dances. Strangers become best friends. People are jumping, dancing and screaming in an intimate comradery.
Admittedly the crowd has shrunk to a core of those involved in the music, but it actually suits the music and the band. People are able to dance around and jump without care. I find myself involved in my own music induced robotic dance, only making note to not collide with the guitarist and bassist as they engage in musical banter on stage. The stage presence of the band is so hilarious and undeniably funky that I have completely lost any stigmas I had prior to the show. I will even forgive the douchy shutter shades. I’m screaming along to songs I don’t even know, and even at the mixer to turn this shit the fuck up!
After about a 40 minute set my only complaint is that it was over too soon. This surprisingly humble, unique, and fantastically strange band is a refreshing change. Now I get the name, aRTIST oF tHE yEAR.