NXNE 2024 Music Fest Guide: 30 must-see bands

NXNE brings 275 emerging bands to 23 of Toronto’s best live music venues

Northby by Northeast (NXNE) is back for its 29th year taking over 23 of the city’s best clubs to present 275 emerging acts from around the world. Each venue has five acts with 40-minute sets starting on the hour, first set at 8 pm with a few exceptions.

The best way to experience festival is with a $29 pass that gets you into all venues throughout the festival’s five days, June 12 through 16. Most genres are represented, including hard rock, avant-garde jazz, hip hop, country, indie pop, R&B, punk and more.

The festival groups its venues from C’est What and Bar Cathedral, downtown east, a Kensington market cluster, a strip on Queen West from Spadina to Bathurst and more, all designed to encourage club-hopping.

New elements this year include the Garage Band NXNE People’s Choice audience award, voted on by fans from now until the end of the festival. The grand prize winner and two runners-up will receive prize packages at an awards night, Sun., June 16, at the Rec Room.

While the festival’s focus remains on presenting emerging acts in the cubs, a free outdoor show is back — the NXNE Queen West Day Party, just off Queen at Dennison in the Green P — this time deep in the club area, with headliner Alex Porat, six other acts, a beer garden, food trucks, vendors and more.

Comedy creeps back into the festival at Smith House, which features two floors of talent with comics on the main floor and hip hop and R&B upstairs.

Check out our editors’ picks and start building your own personal NXNE schedule.

teté

teté

Wed., June 12, 10 pm

Where: Tapestry, 224 Augusta Ave.
From: Toronto
Genre: R&B
If you like: Lianne La Havas
Why you should go: Just sit back and relax as Brazilian-born artist teté takes you to another realm with her stunning vocals and subtle instrumentals with a Latin twist.

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Noah Malcolm

Noah Malcolm

Wed., June 12, 10 pm

Where: Cameron House, 408 Queen St. W
From: Prince Edward County
Genre: Country
If you like: Jason Mraz
Why you should go: The Canadian artist has a diverse musical background — from acoustics to classical training — and this can be seen during his live performances as he takes influences from what he has learned and delivers an engaging show with smooth vocals and charming showmanship.

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Jess Reiss

Jess Reiss

Wed., June 12, 10 pm

Where: Jean Darlene, 1203 Dundas St. W.
From: Australia
Genre: R&B / Soul
If you like: Yebba
Why you should go: The Sydney-born artist was heavily inspired by music from the ’70s and that’s evident when listening to her smooth and ethereal love songs that hook the listener with catchy grooves.

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Mak Ro

Mak Ro

Thurs., June 13, 11 pm

Where: Drake Underground, 1150 Queen St. W.
From: Tennessee
Genre: R&B/Pop
If you like: Jahkoy / 11:11
Why you should go: The Filipino American duo have a unique and soulful sound that takes influences from a range of genres like pop and R&B. They’re “obsessed with sound” and continuously experiment with new arrangements as they look to evolve to the next sonic level.

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Talia Schlanger

Talia Schlanger

Thurs., June 13, midnight

Where: Horseshoe, 370 Queen St. W.
From: Toronto
Genre: Indie, folk, roots
If you like: Caroline Policheck
Why you should go: Former full-time now occasional CBC radio host, Schlanger recently packed Massey Hall’s TD Music Centre for a dreamy set that featured her personal songwriting and willowy musical imagery. Her recent album is produced by Cowboy Junkies’ Mike Timmins, and her shows are legend for cool special guests.

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Aiko Tomi

Aiko Tomi

Thurs., June 13, 10 pm

Where: Bar Cathedral, 54 The Esplanade
From: Toronto
Genre: Dark pop
If you like: Peaches, Nina Hagen, Mitski
Why you should go: We saw Aiko Tomi in Taipei, Taiwan, in April at Jadefest and she was riveting — and fun. Her show is energy and audacity — with beats. When Tomi spotted someone with a massive snake in the crowd before her show — no, an actual snake — she convinced the owner to let her use it in her set. When she used the beast in her Madonna-inspired track, Animals Awake, it was so natural it seemed like it must have been planned well in advance. She doesn’t always pull a snake from out of the crowd, but Tomi does feed on the energy of her audience, daring it to follow her on a dance-powered journey rich in reflecting her Asian heritage.

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Saint Clarence

Saint Clarence

Thurs., June 13, 10 pm

Where: Smith House, 171 College St.
From: Belgium
Genre: Hip hop
If you like: Mike Dimes
Why you should go: The rapper originally hails from Nivelles, Belgium, but is now based in Toronto. He’s quickly gaining a reputation as a huge talent in the city with trap beats, melodic vocals and clever wordplay.

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DBMK

DBMK

Thurs., June 13, midnight

Where: Bar Cathedral, 54 The Esplanade
From: New York
Genre: Pop
If you like: COIN
Why you should go: If you’re thinking about going to see DBMK, just listen to their new track MAYBE and you’ll be instantly convinced. The pop track is full of energy and good vibes that will get any party started in seconds.

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Brekky Boy

Brekky Boy

Thurs., June 13, 10 pm

Where: The Garrison, 1197 Dundas St. W.
From: Australia
Genre: Edgy instrumental Jazz
If you like: BadBadNotGood
Why you should go: Edgy, aggressive and highly skilled instrumental jazz from Australia. Transcendental tracks will take you to the edge of the Outback and other, otherworldly places. Join them from an unforgettable musical walkabout.

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Samantha Marie

Samantha Marie

Thurs., June 13, 8 pm

Where: Cafe Pamenar, 307 Augusta Ave.
From: Florida
Genre: Singer-Songwriter
If you like: Sabrina Carpenter
Why you should go: The Florida-born artist possesses an incredible talent for songwriting, with deep and introspective vocals and a refreshing versatility in her music as she flows between gritty guitar jams and dance tracks.

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Ayla Tesler-Mabe

Ayla Tesler-Mabe

Thurs., June 13, 11 pm

Where: The Garrison, 1197 Dundas St. W.
From: Vancouver
Genre: Indie
If you like: Chappell Roan
Why you should go: The young Canadian artist arrived on the scene in 2017 as lead guitar for Calpurnia, Finn Wolfhard’s first band. Following the band’s split, she has gone from strength to strength with incredible vocals and breathtaking guitar skills that make her one to watch.

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Con the Artist

Con the Artist

Thurs., June 13, 11 pm

Where: Painted Lady, 218 Ossington Ave.
From: Toronto
Genre: Indie
If you like: The Kid Laroi / Aidan Bissett
Why you should go: Whether it’s the transient psychedelic guitar, playful lyrics or bouncy drumbeats, Con the Artist creates incredibly engaging music that is exciting and innovative in equal measures.

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Good Boy Nikko

Good Boy Nikko

Fri., June 14, 8 pm

Where: Paddock, 178 Bathurst St.
From: England
Genre: Indie Pop
If you like: Alfie Indra
Why you should go: The Dream Pop duo from Northern England encapsulate everything that’s great about the genre with innovative use of synths and dreamy vocals.

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Tennyson King

Tennyson King

Fri., June 14, midnight

Where: Burdock, 1184 Bloor St. W.
From: Hong Kong/Mississauga
Genre: Indie folk
If you like: Nick Drake
Why you should go: Emotional songwriting beautifully sung as Tennyson King plays both modern and traditional Chinese instruments and creates moving songscapes. Just returning from massive tour of Asia, including Jadefest.

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Wrona

Wrona

Fri., June 14, 10 pm

Where: Tapestry, 224 Augusta Ave.
From: Poland
Genre: Punk
If you like: Kultur Shock
Why you should go: If you’re looking for something unique and different and wanting to immerse yourself in a new world of music, look no further than the four-piece punk band from Warsaw.

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Meteor Airlines

Meteor Airlines

Fri., June 14, 9 pm

Where: Tapestry, 224 Augusta Ave.
From: Morocco
Genre: Rock
If you like: Red Hot Chilli Peppers
Why you should go: The beauty of a festival like NXNE is that it showcases local talent from Canada but also exposes people to a diverse mix of music from across the world. This is certainly the case with this Moroccan band as they produce songs in their mother tongue, Tamazight, and perform Amazigh rock — which has themes related to Amazigh history, values and customs.

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Janes Party

Janes Party

Fri., June 14, midnight

Where: The Garrison, 1197 Dundas St. W.
From: Toronto
Genre: Indie pop rock
If you like: Arkells, Hall and Oates
Why you should go: These upbeat, indie popsters provide a dance-fuelled set that’s filled Lee’s Palace and the ’Shoe. Bring a fresh feel to tracks inspired by Yacht Rock and ’70s pop. Better get here early because NEXT cover stars Pony Girl are also on the bill.

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SYTË

SYTË

Sat., June 15, 8 pm

Where: Painted Lady, 218 Ossington Ave.
From: New York
Genre: Pop
If you like: CHVRCHES
Why you should go: The alt-pop duo, made up of Nita Kaja and Drin Tashi, have created an exciting world of music through their band as they write and produce tracks that are impossible to not dance along to and fall in love with.

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Kings of Queens

Kings of Queens

Fri., June 14, midnight

Where: Horseshoe, 370 Queen St. W.
From: Kingston, ON
Genre: Indie rock
If you like: Arkells
Why you should go: Fun, optimistic indie rock from Kingston. We dare you not to smile with these upbeat tracks that have more hooks than a tackle box, singalong choruses and wailing lead guitars just when they’re needed.

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Jay Glavany

Jay Glavany

Fri., June 14, 10 pm

Where: Drake Underground, 1150 Queen St. W.
From: Toronto
Genre: R&B/Hip hop
If you like: River Tiber
Why you should go: The Cameroonian Canadian is a supremely talented artist who blends his ethereal and dreamy vocals with soft R&B beats whilst rapping about love and loss. He’s another shining light in a city that is a hotbed for R&B talent.

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The Backsteps

The Backsteps

Sat., June 15, 8 pm

Where: Supermarket, 268 Augusta Ave.
From: Kingston, ON
Genre: Rock
If you like: The Buzzcocks
Why you should go: From the moment you start listening to a song by The Backsteps, you’re instantly hooked. The retro vocals combined with the catchy hooks and instrumentals make for an incredible experience that is made to be heard live.

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Blair Lee

Blair Lee

Sat., June 15, 11 pm

Where: Collective Arts Taproom, 777 Dundas St. W.
From: Toronto
Genre: Indie pop
If you like: Gracie Abrahms + Lizzy McAlpine
Why you should go: The Toronto songwriter recently released her sophomore EP, Limbo, which further showcased her ’90s-pop-rock sound that wouldn’t feel out of place in a teen movie from that era. The clever production and instrumental blend the present day and ’90s perfectly as she has created a niche for herself in this liminal space.

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