Meet the new North by Northeast festival, same as the old North by Northeast festival.
Sort of. NXNE’s organizers were big enough at the end of 2017 to concede that their two-year experiment in turning what was once a crosstown club crawl modelled on Austin’s beloved South by Southwest festival — which remains a silent American partner in NXNE — into a ticketed event localized in the Toronto Port Lands had widely been judged a failure by the local concertgoing public. So it’s back to a more familiar, if still slightly modified model this year.
“Give the people what they want,” conciliatory founder and former NOW magazine publisher Michael Hollett messaged me at the time. And that’s exactly what he’s done, bringing North by Northeast back from the boonies to its former hub in Yonge-Dundas Square — which played host to memorable outdoor NXNE gigs by the Stooges, the National, St. Vincent and the Flaming Lips back in the day — for three nights’ worth of free shows from June 15-17 in a newly expanded “festival village” that now encompasses not just the square itself, but a sizable chunk of nearby Yonge Street, too, while also proffering a week’s worth of curated, small-venue “Club Land” showcases in various nightspots about town from June 9-16 for those who prefer their NXNE experience somewhat old-school.