Normally, the NXNE lineup announcement is highly anticipated for local music fans because it determines who will be filling basically all of Toronto's music clubs for a week. This year it was anticipated for... different reasons. After all the speculation about where all their staff disappeared to, why they were taking so long to book artists, and why it's shape-shifted to a ticketed festival with a focus on one outdoor venue, this year's question was more existential: "What even is NXNE now?"
Today, following the previously announced wave of Clubland artists, NXNE has unveiled the lineup for the new festival focal point, the two-day ticketed event at the Port Lands:
There are still more acts to be announced, but so far the lineup doesn't feel like the landmark new addition to Toronto's festival scene that NXNE President Michael Hollett has been hyping, or even a huge identity shift for NXNE itself.
Day 1 headliner Ghostface Killah has played the festival multiple times in the past, while Father John Misty has been no stranger to Toronto stages of late (he also filled a daytime slot at last year's Field Trip festival). The rest of the Day 2 lineup is filled with CanCon, which is decidedly the niche of CBC Music Festival.
More glaring, though, is the lack of Toronto hip-hop, something that Hollett has been saying is "not being represented, despite all the great festivals." Day 1 is presumably the hip-hop day, but features only one local act in Daniel Caesar, a rising psychedelic soul singer who few would classify as "hip-hop." So after all the talk of "this incredible moment in time for Toronto hip-hop," there is no Toronto hip-hop. 0%.
That said I, like many other fans, am still leaving room for some optimism. At the very least, I'm curious to check it out. All NXNE Club Land tickets, and NXNE Port Lands single day, weekend and VIP passes will be on sale on Friday, April 29 at 10am EST through TicketFly at www.nxne.com/tickets.
Since our last update, NXNE has also announced a few more Clubland acts, including the second reunion show by '90s Canadian cartoon band Prozzak. But, ironically, the competition-dodging shift in focus from NXNE away from its club-hopping origins has left room in the Toronto summer music landscape for more competition. And, today, at the same time as the NXNE Port Lands announce, another new Toronto festival has announced its new arrival for the exact same dates.
The inaugural NO FEST, co-presented by Noisey and Toronto label Buzz Records, bills itself as "the non-festival that aims to keep the DIY spirit alive." The event has unveiled its first three bands for the two-day showcase at The Garrison, while promising a mix of local talent and up-and-coming touring acts.
"Our concept for NO FEST is to provide an alternative to a festival landscape that we feel is largely extrinsic to the music scene in Toronto," says Buzz Records' Denholm Whale. "We want to bring in bigger acts and make this an event but our goal is to avoid imposing a top down approach to how a festival can work or what it can be, and instead build something that is informed by and reflective of the scene that we are consistently so excited to be a part of."
In addition to these two shows, there will also be an off-venue afterparty in Buzz Records co-founder Ian Chai's apartment.
No matter which you choose, June 17 and 18 will be an interesting weekend for Toronto music fans.