2015 marks the 21st year of the NXNE music festival in Toronto, and boy, what a year it is. With over 50 bands descending upon the city for this 5 day extravaganza, it can be hard to decide which shows to attend. One thing that is for certain is that those who decided to check out the Blonde Redhead concert at The Opera House on Wednesday night definitely got their money’s worth.
Opening the night was Talk in Tongues, hailing from Los Angeles. I was not familiar with them prior to their set, but they quickly won me over with their glistening brand of psychedelic rock that gave Tame Impala a run for their money.
Toronto’s very own ANAMAI were up next, and slowed things down a bit after the energetic performance by Talk in Tongues with their more atmospheric, droney set. Lead singer Anna Mayberry is probably best known to Toronto audiences as a member of local noise punk band HSY, but by stripping away all the noise for Wednesday night’s ANAMAI performance she definitely proved what a talented and diverse musician she truly is.
Blonde Redhead finally took the stage just shortly after 10pm to uproarious applause from the now-packed venue. This was my first time seeing them perform live, despite being a fan for several years and they did not disappoint. Their set was the perfect blend of guitar-based shoegaze and electronic textures, and combined with the ethereal vocal talents of Kazu Makino and Amedeo Pace, it made for a truly breathtaking experience. Most of the songs they played were from their 2014 album Barragán, which has a softer and more ambient sound than anything they have released previously but the songs definitely translated well live, and they threw in some old favourites every now and then to mix things up. My only complaint was that they did not play more songs from their 2007 album 23 (my personal favourite) but an extended and very psychedelic encore performance of “Spring and by Summer Fall” definitely made up for it.
Once the song concluded and her bandmates had left the stage, Makino stayed out a bit longer to blow kisses to the audience and shake hands with the people standing at the front of the stage. A notorious introvert, her shyness during this time was evident, but you could tell that she genuinely appreciated each and every person who took the time out of their busy schedules to come out and support her band. And the feeling was definitely mutual.