NXNE Wrap-Up: Impressions, Recommendations, and Lessons Learned

I have survived NXNE 2012!

Oh sure, I aggravated an old injury while standing endless hours and can barely walk, have barely slept in a week and am pretty sure my fingers are about to break from all the frantic blogging.  But really, for someone who breathes music, what better week could there be?

In saying goodbye (for now – wink, wink), I’d like to take a moment to share a few thoughts, tips for those who attend next year and a few suggestions for the NXNE crew.

The tally:  During the course of the week, I saw 30 bands, 8 films, 1 lounge event and 1 interactive panel.  I consider this a pretty awesome haul.  I did change up a few of my initial picks along the way but ultimately, I saw all of my must-sees.  This was the first time I truly attended NXNE (as in, did more than free shows) and it definitely won’t be my last.

Tips and Advice

  • Accept that you simply cannot do everything you hope to.  This is even more true if, like me, you plan to blog the events.  It’s just not possible to survive.  I ran on five hours’ sleep at best each night and finally accepted that I would have to sacrifice panels and films to save my health and find enough hours in a day – and still, I only finished blogging tonight.
  • Hydration!  This is the key to survival and I don’t mean booze.  I nearly collapsed Saturday because I spent four hours with a bottle of Gatorade at Yonge Dundas solo, waiting for my damn friends to show so I could get fuel.  I came back to them with three drinks.  Lesson learned.  Most venues don’t care if you have a backpack or large bag, so tote around an emergency drink supply like I did.  It truly helps.
  • Eat properly.  You cannot live on poutine and candy, no matter how bad-ass that sounds.  Get one decent meal a day.
  • Have a really good game plan.  When I first won my pass, I spent several hours on the Schedulizer.  My strategy:  1)  I listened to every single band sample and starred everything that sounded great; 2)  I then made a short-list of must-see bands; 3)  I then started examining my selections sorted by day and time, looking for conflicts and impossible distances between venues to refine my game plan; 4)  last, I then went day by day sorting by venue and filled in gaps with bands at the places I was already going to/venues very close by.  It worked out very well – I minimized venue changes and transit and saw a lot of music.
  • Be prepared to ditch the game plan.  I hear the WTF out there.  Trust me on this.  You may hear of a secret show that blows your mind.  You may decide that you no longer want to switch venues because you’re digging a bar.  If you’re not rocking a priority pass, you may not get into a set.  I came prepared each night with a couple of contingency plans. Zulu Winter was not on my original list but I decided based on Twitter to haul ass and see them.  I’m so glad I did.
  • See films.  People, the festival is more than music.  I saw incredible films this week and some of the showings were only half full.  I consider this your loss.
  • Know your TTC.  Shit happens and streetcars break down.  Know multiple ways to a venue.  Know the times for last buses and subways.  Trust me.
  • Buy CDs.  Most of the bands playing the festival are trying to get their career launched.  They need your support to do that.  Buy a CD.  Buy many.  If you have no cash, at least take the time to thank the band for the set in one way or another.  I have received so much gratitude from those I’ve reviewed.
  • Have fun!  This is a given, but it bears saying.

And last, I have a few suggestions for NXNE itself, as well as praise:

  • The film curation was amazing!  Each collection I saw made sense and had cohesion.
  • For the most part, the line-ups at each venue were also well chosen, with bands scheduled with bands that would appeal to a similar crowd.  It made my “avoid venue switches” strategy very easy to run with.
  • The above said, the scheduling of films often made for difficult choices between bands and movies.  I don’t know how precisely to combat this, but I feel the film portion suffers.  The films also aren’t promoted and pushed enough during the festival.
  • Several venues had incorrect maps for their locations, the iPhone app frequently glitched, there wasn’t a Blackberry app at all (grr), and band names were misspelled.  Please take greater care in proofing.
  • Why are there no bathrooms outside of the beer tent areas at Yonge Dundas?  It’s hard enough squeezing out and into the throng of people waiting for a headliner.  Running away for fifteen minutes to pee is ludicrous.
  • Additional screens would be nice to aid those not right upfront at Yonge Dundas Square.
  • Last, and this is a major concern of mine, the festival does nothing to address accessibility.  I am a woman with an invisible physical disability.  During the week, many venues were not accessible to those in wheelchairs or with other mobility issues.  A woman required medical care at Yonge Dundas Square because she was crammed within a crowd of people who didn’t give a damn that she was blind and couldn’t see them coming at her with their sudden slam pit.  Nowhere on the NXNE website will you find information on venue accessibility.  It’s very unfair to expect people to Google every single venue up to plan for attendance.  If Now Magazine can include this information in pub and restaurant reviews, NXNE can do so as well.  I am fortunate that I am able to “tough it out” but someday, I will need assistance to walk.  We’re music fans too, and as a major festival, NXNE can do better.

Overall, I had a wonderful time and would recommend the festival to anyone.  Thank you for your hard work, NXNE.  See you next year!

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