NXNE

I have the bad habit of missing major events in Toronto like TIFF or NXNE. This year I did slightly better by taking a short walk down to Yonge and Dundas Square Thursday where Danny Brown played a free concert. A large crowd emitting herbaceous vapours packed the square. I had to miss part of his set, and truthfully broad daylight and no booze aren’t the most favorable conditions, but he was delivering nicely.

Danny Brown – Monopoly (Official Video) WARNING: EXTREMELY EXPLICIT LYRICS

Swans drew a good crowd Friday, blasting out continual noise through most of the downtown core. They fired up the crowd nicely, and when St. Vincent went on shortly after, the sun dropped and she did her thing very well.

St. Vincent – Digital Witness

But the highlight for me was Spiritualized at Massey Hall, who packed their hour-long set with a blend of loud and quiet, electric and tender, new and old material. It was great. My only regret is missing Spoon at the Horseshoe later that night.

Spiritualized at Massey Hall

Spiritualized – Come Together

Some Antics

 

Malign Sign

This road sign confuses me. Granted, I don’t speak French. But why is that Lego-haired Ukrainian gymnast lying there like that? My friend thought it was Janeane Garofolo in Spanx. It’s nice when a sign or symbol is unmistakeable from the idea it represents. But no symbol can ever be the thing it signifies. And our whole culture is semantic. Even language is symbolism – each word finds a resonance in the mental filing cabinets of the audience.

But our whole catalog of symbolic knowledge pertains only to what we experience (be it physically, mentally, emotionally, etc.). Language that pertains to what is outside of our experience sounds like noise to us. Try to imagine a modern banker explaining a mortgage to an ancient Native American.

“Bull market out there Little Feather.”

“Bull?”

Many things that seem fundamental to us are contained to our little sphere. North, South, East and West lose all meaning once you’re off the planet. So do the words “up” and “down”. Immanuel Kant thought even space and time were an a priori condition of our consciousness – meaning without a human mind, space and time don’t even exist.

Aliens would probably act in a way that seems like noise to us. They could be doing things right in front of us without our being able to see them, let alone talk to or be abducted and probed by them. Fortunately if that was the case, we might just seem like static electricity to them.

It’s very loud out there in the world. In the cacophony of news, street signs, iPhones, OnStar, TV, and our own ongoing inner monologues, it’s a good idea once in a while to detach from all maps and symbols. That way the programs running through our heads don’t condition our perceptions of reality. (There’s a reason they call them television programs.) Sometimes to get back to tabula rasa you’ve got to blow your mind.

 

That’s why the band Spiritualized exists. And as a symbol, the name says it all. Click the “Huh?” to read about their new album and hear the track “Hey Jane”. I was fortunate to see them play the Phoenix Concert Hall in Toronto this weekend and the show was golden. I brought home the new double LP (on silky white vinyl) and I’ve enjoyed it at neighbour-scaring volumes a couple times so far.

It’s nice to look up from the map to see the beautiful countryside.