For the first time in almost 5 years, NXNE felt like the way it should’ve always felt: exciting. Sponsored by Aurora cannabis, the festival took place over the course of ten days, weaving out of showcases, tech, gaming and a mini conference. Maybe it was the financial support of Aurora that made it possible, but the headlining shows were put back to their rightful home of Yonge-Dundas Square, rather than the dreaded and destitute Port Lands. With that being said, despite being an incredible space for photographers, the emergency-vehicle lane that was placed in front of the main stage created a distance between audience and performer that really blowed. Regardless, here are the best 5 things that made NXNE great in 2018.
Partnering with local curators, as well as artists and DJs, the Clubland Series gave new life to their showcases. Whether it was DJ Jayemkayem’s event at So So Food, Stay Out Late presenting at the Hideout or TOBi shutting down the Garrison, the series was invigorating, and even outside of those events, there were tons of others that really showcases Canadian (and some international) music. 2. House Of Aurora
It’s been a few years since NXNE has had their conference, but with the help of Aurora, they were able to set up shop at the Great Hall and create an activation point for discovering new artists, fanning over Benny Bing’s mini art show and creating a conference. Maybe I’m bias, as I did speak on a panel, but what I learned from the panels I hadn’t been on (i.e. Cannabis Culture and where it’s going in Canada) added a new dynamic to the festival.
To be honest, NXNE’s Gameland is something I’ve never really explored… or understood, for that matter. Was more could be taken from dozens of young adults playing video games for the weekend? But this year, NXNE took over The Masonic Temple, an especially spooky but amazing building in the city, to host the event. They also partnered with Puma to launch the ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ celebratory shoe collection. And although the flyer mislead people to believe that there was free beer and wings, Wing Night — the Hip-Hop/R&B cover band — killed their set.
It seems like it’s been a minute since Jazz Cartier performed at an outdoor venue in Toronto, but as the headlining act for Friday night, he definitely brought the good vibes to the square. Though the stage set up, again, wasn’t conductive to how he performs, Cuzzi hopped the barriers, dived into the crowd and made the best with what he had — which also happened to be a whole lot of new music from his forthcoming album, Fleurever.
On the final day of NXNE at YDS things got a little rough. OG Bounce Queen and NOLA veteran Big Freeida was scheduled to be on stage at 8PM, but after facing some trouble at the border, her set moved to 10PM. Here’s where it got tricky — there was an hour with no performer leading up to Tinashe’s set. Here’s where it got solved — Tinashae killed her set. She convinced the unknowing crowd to remember her name, and when Big Freeida came on, her own dancer got up on stage to participate in a booty bounce competition. While many people had no idea whether or not Big Freeida’s set was a part of a pre-Pride event or not, our girl just needed to play Drake’s “Nice For What” and it all made sense.
Good job NXNE — please keep this same energy next year.
Photography: Tse Daniel
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