NXNE returns to Toronto with big promises, what can we really expect?


North by North East (NXNE) music and gaming festival is returning to Toronto June 7th through 16th and is promising a “bigger than ever” event.

It is no news that the festival has changed over the years. Due to some organizational restructuring, what use to be a full cultural experience (music, film, art, comedy) with a single company organizing the entire week has turned into a smaller event with a handful of organizations hosting showcases across a handful of venues. NXNE used to be fun, it was a highlight of many music lovers’ summer but has dwindled into an occasional weeknight show and flocks of teenagers flooding Younge and Dundas square (Y&D) for free concerts, leaving trash and empty beer cans behind for all of us to enjoy on our way to work the next day. Needless to say, there was criticism: overall, about artist selection, and that epic fail radius clause (a concept that the artists cannot play shows in the city within a certain amount of time prior to their NXNE set). The effect was big, and not just here at home.

A couple years ago, while covering FME, a handful of European journalist started to ask me questions about the state of NXNE and if it was ever going to return (a month after NXNE took place). I was stumped. I didn’t want to trash talk the festival but there wasn’t much to pride on, I felt slightly embarrassed that the event they use to fly to attend, an event that made our city an exciting music destination, was hardly heard about outside of downtown limits.

This new NXNE, that not many people know about, over past few years offered a small number of club shows, some free shows at Y&D, and festival-style days at Portlands –  a sun-exposed, giant concrete parking lot which they have not been able to fill. The later outdoor event has been replaced in full by Y&D last year due to overwhelmingly negative feedback. It’s been a few years since the restructuring and NXNE is yet to make impressive waves but they are promising “bigger than ever” year which would be nice to see, but will it actually happen? Will this bigger be better?

For 2019 a few plans have been revealed early this week, here’s what we know so far:

Festival Village, Younge & Dundas Square
June 14-16, 2019

A celebration of the NXNE 25-year anniversary, sponsored by Steam Whistle brewery will offer three days of music, gaming, and “everything in between.” Line up to be announced.

Club Land, various venues TBA
June 7-16, 2019 at $29 for a wristband

The list of performers announced so far is: American Football, CupcakKe, Royal Tusk [cover image], Haviah Mighty, Ellis, Owen Justus Proffit, Walrus, Just John x Dom Dias, Nick Schofield, Bad Waitress, Texas King, Russell Louder, Most People, Radian Baby, Shotty Horror, Lemongrab, Paupiere, Persons, Nobro, Syngja, and Dish Pit.

NXNE Talks, location TBA
June 12, 2019

A gathering of cultural and community leaders on the topics “essential” to Canada’s music and gaming industries. Personally, I’m also having a hard time building a strong bridge between music and gaming audiences but perhaps that’s just me, a music fanatic with a full-time job who hasn’t turned on her X-Box in a few years.

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