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NXNE 2015 Day 3: CROSSS, Warpaint, Stella Mozgawa, US Girls

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NXNE 2015 Day 3: CROSSS, Warpaint, Stella Mozgawa, US Girls

Warpaint at Adelaide Hall - Photos: James Dallo

Warpaint at Adelaide Hall – Photos: James Dallo

When: Friday, June 20th, 2015
Where: The Smiling Buddha, Adelaide Hall

Your friends at NXNE are your phone and public transit (except when it’s not). At half past 10 I’ve just arrived at Smiling Buddha to catch CROSSS’ set. The Buddha’s a tight fit and I don’t know anyone so I’m just checking Twitter half-awkwardly until the band sets up.

There are issues with a synth that delays the beginning of the Toronto band’s set but the sizable crowd that’s gathered doesn’t lose interest. CROSSS play a mix of doomy stoner metal and psych-rock they dub “futurist grunge”. Their songs are concise and feature some pretty great guitar riffs; although singer/guitarist Andy March’s distinctive voice is buried by the Buddha’s mushy sound.

The road to Adelaide Hall afterwards is long, made a bit shorter by a well-timed streetcar arrival on Queen. I pray that changeover is taking long, but no luck; my Twitter feed tells me that Warpaint have started on time. All I can hope for now is a short line to enter. The line turns out to literally be two people and I’m inside about twenty minutes into the band’s set.

Warpaint are one of those bands that are big but low-key about it. They have no hit songs but you wouldn’t know it if you’d stepped inside the packed venue, humid with collected body warmth. I’m less than 5’5” so it’s tough to get a good view. I spend a good portion of the set shifting around the room and looking for a vantage point.

Harsh truth incoming: something like half of all modern rock rhythm sections flat-out suck or are just uncreative. This doesn’t apply to the bass and drums in Warpaint. Stella Mozgawa is the MVP here as she lays down head-nodding and danceable drumbeats that keep the energy levels in Adelaide high. A performance of “Disco//very” takes a little while to get to the lyrics because of technical difficulties but it doesn’t matter because Mozgawa’s beastly four-on-the-floor has distracted everyone into grooving hard. There are also plenty of times the band does the Warpaint Thing, wherein the three vocalists merge perfectly and end up sounding like one multi-headed ethereal thing.

Warpaint plays a two-song encore and dips. Now is the unrevealed “special guest” performer. It turns out to be U.S. Girls, the avant-garde project of Meghan Remy. The thing is I think a good portion of the room – me included — hasn’t heard of her before (I’ve seen the cover of her album GEM on Pitchfork but I don’t make the connection). Making matters more confusing is that Remy is dressed in full line-dancing attire: cowboy hat, mom jeans and a tucked-in shirt she claims is from a Republican convention.

US Girls

US Girls

In any case, her warped pop songs make a surprising impact, especially the ones that ride hip-hop and dance grooves. During the last song, Remy kicks an old disco ball she found in Adelaide Hall’s storage room into the crowd and we continue passing it to each other like we’re at soccer practice. I look back at the stage and Remy has vanished, leaving behind scattered glass and bewildered amazement.


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