North by Northeast: Final Day (June 19)

Alright, last night of NXNE 2011!  How’d it go?  To be honest, a little anti-climactically.

I got there just in time to catch the end of D-Sisive’s, which seemed fine.  Not really much else for me to say about that, as I wasn’t there for most of the set.

The group I was really going to see was Digable Planets, a funky alternative hip-hop group from the 90s who have reformed various times throughout the past few years.  You may know them from that Tide commercial that came out a year or two ago; it’s that one that keeps going “I’m cool like ‘dat”.  Anyways, their set was solid, but a tad disappointing.  They had a full band, which was pretty cool, including two guitar players, a drummer, a bass player, and a DJ, and their voices were in good form.  But there were weird little quirks throughout the set that lessened their impact.  The first of which is that Ladybug, their super-skilled female MC, isn’t with the band any longer; this isn’t that big of an issue though, as the replacement they found for her (whose name I unfortunately couldn’t find out) did a very good job covering her verses.  The big problem was that for some reason, one of the members of the group, Butterfly, was totally slack for the entire set, relegated to popping in with backup lyrics occasionally and spitting a grand total of one verse.  I have no idea why Doodlebug took over his verses, but it was rather jarring and diminished from the fun of the set quite a bit.

Following Digable Planets was another hip-hop group from the same era, The Pharcyde.  I’ll admit that I’m not exactly familiar with their material, but their set fared better overall than Digable Planets’, with more energy and some really talented MCs.  I guess the problem for me is simply that neither of the acts held a candle to last year’s hip-hop headliner De La Soul, who put on one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.

Regardless, it was still a fun night, but as the final show of a fantastic festival, it seemed a little bit half-baked, and it was probably the worst of the four nights.  It would have fared better had it not been on the final night; perhaps if it swapped places with the punk-leaning Thursday night?

Either way, overall, this year’s NXNE festival was pretty great.  The headliners perfectly straddled the line between being totally alternative, and still having a big enough following for a nicely-sized audience.  For the record, Devo easily put on the best set of the festival.  I already can’t wait for next year’s lineup to be announced!

By Daniel Korn

Daniel wants to be a rock star when he grows up. He is currently pursuing a career in music by studying at York University, where he hits things loudly with sticks. He is in two gigging bands - New Stems and The Formalists. He writes for MVRemix and Cadence Canada. He also has a weekly podcast called Two Loud Guys. Aside from music, he likes video games, comic books, puppies, and food. You can follow him on twitter @AmateurDan.