Still thinking about what it might be like to play the 21st annual NXNE Music Festival this coming June? With submissions closing this Saturday, January 31, we've compiled the ultimate guide to navigating NXNE with insider tips on what new performers and attendees need to know to make the most of their time in Toronto!
We spoke with the NXNE staff, along with Idgy Dean and Only Child, two bands who have played the festival in previous years, and they answered all of our burning questions about what makes this gathering of music, culture, and tech so special.
1. The NXNE experience is anything but basic
"NXNE is, hands down, one of my favorite festivals to play," says one-woman psychedelic rock band Idgy Dean, aka Lindsey Sanwald of Brooklyn, NY. "Everything is so well-organized, accessible, and publicized. Toronto is a super hip and welcoming city," she adds, a significant benefit for a festival attracting over 360,000 fans and showcasing over 600 music artists from around the world.
With numbers like that, you might question what type of care and attention an independent artist new to NXNE might receive. Jenna Rogers of Only Child recalls "...all kinds of support, from great volunteers, to knowledgeable venue coordinators.... The programming in each space is always really well thought out."
Wondering what a typical day at NXNE might look like for a band? "Eat a dope breakfast, probably in the Kensington Market area, attend daytime panels and shows, rehearse, perform, interview, record shop, clothing shop, visit the square, make friends, shows, shows, shows, dance, end with a late-night poutine," says Idgy Dean.
2. Bands have time for work and play
If you land a showcase at the NXNE Music Festival, you'll want to manage your performance commitments, network with industry contacts, and enjoy all of the incredible shows, parties, and panels throughout the five days. "NXNE made this balance totally possible," Sanwald explains. "The scheduling isn't so saturated that you feel you can't see anyone, or have a little downtime. Still, opportunities were everywhere and abundant, and the particulars of the performances were totally seamless thanks to very competent production staff."
One of the most rewarding aspects of the NXNE experience is all the knowledge you can gain from the industry panels. "Make some time to see the panels that interest you," says Rogers. "Build on the dialogue that is happening at the festival from an industry standpoint…you will learn as you go!"
3. The crowds rock and the vibe is amazing
More great news? Rogers describes the festival vibe as "...dedicated, passionate. Everyone is looking to cram as much NXNE into their days as they can.” Sanwald adds that the city "has big energy, but navigates like a small, communal neighborhood…. [Everyone is] excited, happy, dance-a-holics... never 'too cool' or 'too wasted.' Instead, [there are] legit music fans excited to hear/see what you have to offer. So friendly and helpful, too."
4. With a little prep, the logistics are easy
Travel prep and other logistics are easy to plan ahead of time with the help of some great NXNE resources, including their preferred downtown Toronto accommodations and their thorough FAQ page. (Seriously, they cover everything!)
When it comes to getting around, "a TTC Day pass is probably the best option for someone new to the city (and not lugging gear!)," the NXNE staff explains. "If you're in a van, park it and walk. Toronto is a pedestrian-friendly city."
And once you get to the fest? "Keep in touch with your stage manager," urges the NXNE staff. "Save their cell number and email in your phone as soon as you get it. Clear communication with them (both leading up to your show and day of show) will make sure your show runs smoothly."
5. There's so much to explore in Toronto
Toronto is an amazing city to explore in your free time, and we're pretty psyched to share this can't-miss list of must-see Toronto gems, including local restaurants, bars, record stores, museums, outdoor spaces, and more, hand-picked by the NXNE team!
- Kensington Market (vintage stores, food, coffee, music, etc.), especially the bar patio at Ronnie’s!
- Patios, in general
- Jerk Chicken in the Eglinton/Oakwood area
- Allan Gardens
- So many record shops
- Sam James Coffee (various locations)
- Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art
- The new art gallery district on St. Helens Avenue
- Local beer at Bellwoods Brewery
- CN Tower
- Exploring The Junction neighborhood (cool design and salvage shops, great food, gluten-free bakeries, amazing bars and music venues)
- High Park Petting Zoo
- Ax-throwing at BATL
- Toronto Island
- Swimming at public pools like Gus Ryder Sunnyside or Bathurst
- Ice Cream Tours
- The Brickworks
- The Distillery
- Antique and Retro furniture shopping in Queen East
- Art Gallery of Ontario
- St. Lawrence Market (amazing indoor food market that hosts a great antique market every Sunday)
Looking for ways to stay up-to-date on show announcements, parties, giveaways, and other festival news? These key Twitter accounts will keep you in the know:
- Do 416: @Do416
- Ontario Live Music: @OntLiveMusic
- Just Shows: Toronto: @justshowsTO
- Now Magazine: @nowtoronto
- BlogTO: @blogTO
- ...and it goes without saying, @NXNE!
If you're getting excited about NXNE, we don't blame you. Apply for a spot at NXNE by January 31, 2015!