By Chris Alexander and Carrie Gemmell

Once again, I hit the dirty streets of the T-Dot for . Once again, I wanted to see stuff I hadn’t seen before, searching, often in vain for the kind of sonic thrills that evaded me last year.

Did I find that crown jewel, that mind bending band that would quiken me, redefine my indie rock sensibilities? Hit or miss, baby… but that in itself is a microcosm of life, isn’t it? The bad with the good.

This year, things were either aces or craps, barely a band in the middle. Made for a few fun nights out though. Especially since I dragged my fellow scribe, the lovely and amazing Carrie Gemmell along to share spaces and suffer nobly or spiral into rapture with me.

Here are the highlights of our nocturnal wanderings…

FRIDAY

PARKAS (Rancho Relaxo, 9pm)
These guys won the “I’m Lovin’ It!” Mc Donalds award! I have no idea what that means or why a hard Rockin’ CRTC approved bar band received it, but such is the nature of NXNE; Corporations slither in and out of the event like worms in a post rain sandbox. Weird fast tie-ins aside, The Parkas, fresh off a cross tour are a good time homegrown band, consummate musicians and major crowd pleasers. Unpretentious, fast, fun, audience friendly and tight, their set was a no frills garage rock treat; while nothing particularily special structurally, the lads still did what they came to do, and took no prisoners in the process. Standout track “My Life of Crime” could very well be a can-rock classic in the making. Keep your eyes peeled for their first disc, Now This is Fighting due out form Endearing records this . -CA

PANTYCHRIST (Sneaky Dees, 10pm)
Punk Moms from Hamilton belting out furious two minute odes to cunnilingus and barfighting! Cool! Lead singer Patty Christ has the tonsils of a shrieking banshee, in fact I’ve never heard such a ferocious punk rawk shrieker in my 30 years of living. Pity her poor kids if they forget to take out the trash… I liked Panty Christ aesthetically, their performance was energetic and the girls are scruffy and cute – but admittedly, for me, this kind of old school punk wears out its welcome quickly. Left as a 20 minute set, a PANTYCHRIST show would be an exercise in ear bleeding bliss, but stretched over 40 minutes…ummm, no. Still, fans of this kind of thing will no doubt diggit. -CA

EROCKTICA (1am, Bovine Sex Club)
Noooooooo! Talk about the Great Rock and Roll Swindle! I saw these triple x clowns last year except they were called Porn Rock. I never thought semi lesbian naked women fused to hunky chunky old school metal would be almost a total turn off…but god damn it is. Same tired band, same implanted porn star frontwoman (Pink Snow, in case you care), same lame tunes, same shaved beaver dragged across Bovine bar shtick. Same headache. This band is a one trick pony. I don’t like em but someone must…they keep coming back and packing the house. If I want strippers I’ll see strippers, if I want cheese metal I’ll pop up a HIM disc. Thing is, I’ll probably see them again next year, when they sneak past my radar under a different moniker. Something like “Utterly Forced, faux sexy Garbage” would be apropos methinks. -CA

SATURDAY

STIRLING (Saturday, The Drake Hotel 8pm)
Stirling have emerged from the depths of Canada’s largely mundane music scene, gathering a steady cult following and delivering a sucker-punch of bonafide brilliance. Doubling up on their NXNE spotlight with a CD launch, the sleek four-piece took to the Drake stage at 8pm – kind of early, but the crowd was solid. Frontman, Matt Booi, alternated between keys and guitar while effortlessly belting lyrics in his sweetly distinct lullaby croon, slightly reminiscent of Ben Gautrey (The Cooper Temple Clause). Michael Bradley, pounded intensely on drums blending beautifully with the melodies of Josh Dallmann’s guitar and Jeremy Gontier’s weeping bass. Moving on an almost epic scale to a backdrop of images projected on stage, their sound swept the rapt audience, myself included. Deliciously mesmerizing. Northern Light is the name of their debut disc – get a copy yesterday at www.stirlingmusic.com -CG

LEI (Kathedral 11pm)
Rising from the ashes of yesteryear electro act ACID TEST comes this new half assed heavy duty act, LEI. I thought Acid Test was pretty rank (remember their track Mr. Skin form Bruce McDonald’s Highway 61? Ugh!) but LEI is far worse. Trailer park hard rock posturing coupled with muscle headed, incomprehnsible tunes leave the impression of wanton heavy metal hackery and abstract desperation. Utterly forgettable and totally dreary. Hope they kept their day jobs. The FUCK Y’ALL’s (Kathedral 11:30pm) -CA

THE FUCK Y’ALLS (Kathedral, 11:30pm)
We almost missed these little blasts of sonic beauty, as they weren’t on the official NXNE schedule and seemed penciled in to fill the 1/2 hour gap between the abject pain of LEI and the demented brilliance of THE CURTAIN. Sort of an all girl White Stripes fronted by Sticky Rice singer and GOLDIROCKS director Paula Tiberius, THE FUCK YA’LLS are kitschy, cute as all hell and fucking all around awesome. I’m hooked. -CA

THE CURTAIN (Kathedral, 12am)
One third Primus, a third early Genises and the rest spastic lunatic, THE CURTAIN are perhaps Sweden’s best kept musical secret. The band came a long way to strut their stuff, and my heart broke to see such audaciousness wasted on a 1/4 full room, only half of which were receptive. Oh well, I dug them. Frontman Stefan Juhlin twitches and stomps like a Dog soldier on speed and the band sports TWO drummers. The prog rock equivalent to an IKEA commercial. Check them out at http://www.woorecords.se/curtain/ -CA

KIRSTY THIRSK (The Drake Hotel, 1am)
Ouch, that hurt. I was so pumped for Kirsty Thirsk’s show for NXNE on Saturday night at the Drake Hotel; built her up like some reining ethereal diva – based on her work with the Delerium project I was expecting something Divine..what I got was De-crap. And that’s why it was so painful when my eager anticipation was crushed beneath her honking black Payless boots as she stomped across the stage like a frenzied chicken on crack. Her lame-o Mix 99 approved girlie rock was like nails on a chalk board. I WANTED to like her; she was nervous and she really was trying…maybe in time, she’ll clean up her act. But those songs! That mis-use of her vocal chords! Those freekin’ boots! Ugh! I went home and cried. -CG

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