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Is The North By Northeast Festival Fun?

We asked some bands and fans at NXNE to find out if it's actually fun, and guess what? It is!

Downtown Toronto during NXNE.

If you don’t know about it, North By Northeast is a week-long music and film festival in Toronto that’s been going on since 1994. This time around, there are over 780 bands, which isn’t bad considering that South By Southwest boasts around 2000. I’ll be here for the next few days trying to see all of them, so if you hear of anything cool, let me know—I can’t be everywhere.


If you live in a city like New York or Austin, you’re used to music festivals rolling into town, setting up shop, and terrorizing the local population. But although I know a lot about the formerly mentioned cities, I don’t know shit about Toronto. So yesterday, when I landed in “The Big Smoke” in the middle of the fest, I just sort of assumed that the bands, fans, and locals would be united in hatred. Guess what? I was wrong! All these Molson-swilling Canadians love it here, and it makes me feel like a big cynical New York jerkface.

The first day you’re involved with anything (jobs, relationships, etc), you’re playing the field, trying to figure out how you feel. For my first night at NXNE, I asked some bands, fans, and Internet stars whether NXNE sucked or not. The answer was a definitive no, NXNE doesn’t suck. I’m glad to get the question out of the way so I can start enjoying the festival.

That's Nicole from Virginia post-punk act Eternal Summers.

NOISEY: Hi Nicole! So I know you're happy to be playing the festival and everything, but what do you think about it? Honestly, I mean.
Nicole Yun: It's really chill, honestly. It's not pretentious, and it's really good for fans. It's just easy to go to. It's way better than South By Southwest, where you can't even get to your show 'cause there's three hours of traffic. The people who run NXNE are really conscientious and really care about music fans.


What about Toronto?
Well, we're here as a band for the first time, so we're still getting to know it. All I can base my opinion on is today, and twenty years ago, when my sister was a raver here.

Ha, awesome. That must have been rad, the people here seem cool.
Yeah, and everyone seems super beautiful. The city is real clean, and Canadians are really friendly.

That's me and Muscles Glasses, Tyler Lemco, and Harley Morenstein from Epic Meal Time. I had to get a photo, you understand.

Noisey: Does NXNE suck?
Harley: Nah. It's like South By Southwest, only way, way bigger.

Josh Korody, from Toronto shoegazers Beliefs.

Noisey: Hey Josh! Is playing North By Northeast fun?
Josh Korody: This is the first time we've ever done it. It's a little intimidating, actually. They just asked us to play, we didn't really try. That's cool I guess.

Doesn't NXNE mess up your city though?
It does get sort of inconvenient with all these people floating around, but it's a lot of fun. I think it's really good. Last year I worked the festival. Also, a lot of it's free

How was it working for the festival?
I did sound, and it's totally stressful. You're pretty much doing every band at the venue, and that's like seven to ten bands in a night. But it was awesome. I got to see so many new bands.

You're making me feel like such a jerk.
It's easy for me to be stoked on it because I'm a musician. Maybe if I was working at a bank downtown I'd be a little more bummed on it.


Is there anything else I should do while I'm here?
Toronto Island!

Nick, Emma, and Eunice, Toronto locals and music fans.

Noisey: Hi! So I'm new in town and I have to ask, is NXNE cool?
Eunice: Yeah, I'd say so. They showcase a lot of different bands, and even thought I'm only seeing bands I like, I'm sure some people can find a shit ton of new bands over here.

But doesn't it fuck up your city?
How so?

You know, out of towners bumbling around being annoying. Like I'm doing right now.
I don't feel that, you seem ok. If you go to the right shows you'll find the good stuff.
Emma: This just started, so we aren't sure how to assess it. The reason this festival rules is because it spotlights really small bands from Canada that can't really play big festivals. It's democratic in that way. But it's sort of manic getting around, because it's all over the city. You need a bike! The TTC sucks.

What's the TTC?
Nick: The Toronto Transit Corporation. It sucks.

But does the festival suck?
Nick: Dude, we paid $60 for a ticket. Of course we like it.