Toronto's North By Northeast Festival has spent the past 20 years curating a festival that not only celebrates the 1500 or so musical acts it invites every year but the city itself, creating countless opportunities for people to get involved in ten days of music, film, comedy and art.
With two decades of experience under its belt now, NXNE has made some serious strides in expanding the festival to reach new places and new audiences. But if the options are starting to overwhelm you, here's a breakdown of the best bets at this year’s NXNE.
Best BBQ: 159 Manning (June 13, 20)
Returning for the sixth year in a row is the backyard BBQ at 159 Manning. This year, the party has stretched into a full-day event going from noon to 10 p.m. when '90s post-rock band KC Accidental (Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew and Charles Spearin) take the stage. Other acts that will perform either in the backyard, living room or basement include Beliefs, Twist, Light Fires, Xiu Xiu and Canailles. Entry is free (but first come first serve) for those with badges and wristbands; advance tickets are also available at Soundscapes and Rotate This for $20.
Best Show Away From the City: House Of Vans at Vice Island (June 19)
Much like 2012’s Bonfire Sessions featuring the Smith Westerns, Vice has returned to NXNE this year to take music fans away from the bustling city and onto Toronto Island for a unique concert experience. With a private ferry that takes you to Artscape Gibraltar Point, the day will include performances by some of the festival’s most anticipated acts such as Le1f, Omar Souleyman, Future Islands and Pusha T. To attend, you must RSVP to the Facebook event and pick up a House of Vans at VICE Island wristband from Pier 31. Both are required to gain entry to the concert grounds.
Best Day Show: Live In Bellwoods’ Great Heart Festival (June 19 -22)
Although the festival hosts a number of in-stores and BBQs throughout the week, one of the best afternoon bets is always Trinity Bellwoods’ free, all-ages park shows. Whether you’re casually strolling by or bringing a blanket and drinks to set a good spot for the day, Live In Bellwoods’ fifth annual Great Heart Festival is always a relaxing alternative for daytime fun. Line up is yet to be announced.
Best Film: "Boyhood" (June 14)
Director Richard Linklater, who helmed the Before Sunrise film series, will have the Canadian premiere of his latest film Boyhood at NXNE this year. Filmed from 2002 to 2013, Boyhood tracks the life of a growing and changing family starring Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater.
Best Panel: 10 Years Of Last Gang Records (June 20)
Toronto’s Last Gang Records, home of Death From Above 1979, Crystal Castles and Ryan Hemsworth, celebrated its 10 year anniversary recently with a big bash at Guvernment, but this panel is an opportunity to dig deeper into the label’s history and success. Founder Chris Taylor will sit down and discuss his experience in the music industry with reporter/columnist Robert Thompson.
Best one-of-a-kind experience: MiO Squirtcar (June 18-21)
For the first time this year, sponsor MiO has teamed up with the TTC to bring us a moving streetcar venue. So hop aboard and catch artists at different stops of the Queen West streetcar including The Pizza Underground, Frankie Cosmos, Army Girls, Small Black, AraabMuzik, Reggie Watts and more.
Best Venue: Massey Hall
Toronto’s iconic theatre has joined the festival as a participating venue this year and will feature three nights of incredible performances from headliners tUnE-yArDs, Rhye and Spiritualized.
Best Showcase To Catch New Acts: A Secret Songs Showcase (June 20)
Canadian DJ/producer Ryan Hemsworth has put together his own showcase this year at the relatively new Adelaide Hall. The line-up is packed with up-and-coming electronic artists like Vancouver-based duo Evy Jane and Montreal artist Mas Ysa as well as a set by Hemsworth himself. Hemsworth took to Twitter to announce this showcase, promising fans that “it’s going to be ideal for slow-dancing and kissing.”
Best Comedy Act: Reggie Watts (June 20)
Comedy Bang! Bang! star Reggie Watts is one of this year’s big headlining comedic acts and you can catch his entertaining musical comedy at The Great Hall or the MiO Squirtcar.