Everything You Should Expect at North By Northeast (NXNE)

Just as Luminato Festival wraps up, another jam-packed arts festival takes over Toronto. 

North by Northeast (NXNE) offers yet another reason to love this city in the summertime. Beginning tomorrow (Friday, June 13th) to Sunday June 22nd, NXNE will feature over 1,000 bands (see: an influx of sexy musicians) as well as a huge range of comedy, art, film, and interactive events.

There’s something for every type of art lover throughout the 10-day festival. Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, NXNE is broken into five streams– NXNE Music, NXNE Film, NXNE Interactive, NXNE Comedy, and NXNE Art.

The thing is, even if you tried (and trust us, we’ve thought about it), it’d be impossible to do it all.

For that very reason, it’s pretty difficult to choose a ‘best of’ list, but here are some notable things you definitely need to know about NXNE.


NXNE 2014 will offer more than 1000 international, national, and local musical acts at 46 official festival venues throughout the city.

That’s a lot of music.

While the festival always features long established artists, it’s also a way to discover new, up-and-coming talent.

This is where we’ll be:

The Budweiser Music House at The Horseshoe Tavern
Four nights of sets from LOW, Perfect Pussy, Joel Plaskett Emergency, and The Felice Brothers, as well as shared bills with Canadian favourites like Whitehorse and Jim Cuddy among many others. The Budweiser beer garden doesn’t hurt either.

Free Shows at Yonge-Dundas Square
Always a big draw, free shows at YDS even manage to catch some city wanderers by surprise. Not us, we’ll be there to catch St. Vincent, Danny Brown, and several others doing their thing.

Popular Venues
Over the next ten days we’ll be in and out Adelaide Hall, Tattoo, The Mod Club, The Drake Underground, The Hideout, Rivoli, Supermarket, and Bovine Sex Club, among others.

Find the full music guide here. And try to find us everywhere.


For film lovers, NXNE Film will screen 17 music-themed features, documentaries, shorts, and experimental films from around the world, many of which are world or Canadian premieres. In a partnership with Hot Docs, NXNE films will screen at The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema.

Our choices include:

– The Canadian premiere of Richard Linklater’s newest film Boyhood starring Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette (it only took 12 years to make…)
– The documentary At the Corner of Queen and Bathurst that explores the life and death of the iconic Big Bop
– The sure to be musician favourite, Born To Ruin, a documentary that offers a candid look on life in the music studio
– The North American premiere of modern day silent film La Voz De Los Silenciados The getting-the-band-back-together tale in the documentary Well Now You’re Here, There’s No Way Back – The Quiet Riot Movie.

You can find the full film guide here.


NXNE Comedy brings over 100 standup, sketch, and improvisatory comics to a variety of venues – get your endorphins here. 

What we’re most excited about: 
– Scott Thompson (The Kids in the Hall, the 2014 Winter Olympics for The Colbert Report)
– Mark Little (Simon Hunt on CBC’s Mr. D)
– Steve Patrick Adams (Canadian Comedy Award winner)
– Matt O’Brien (Best Stand Up at the LA Comedy Festival)
– Eddie Della Siepe (Much Music’s Video on Trial regular)
– Dave Weasel (he’s famous on this thing called the internet)

You can find the full comedy guide here.


It wouldn’t be much of an arts festival without, you know, art. NXNE Art brings exhibits, projections, and installations at a dozen different locations around the city that showcase the purpose of art in transforming the public realm.

Our picks:
– An Instagram picture-worthy place to stop is Graffiti Alley. The vibrant and much-photographed alley between Niagara and Tecumseth will be transformed when 19 regularized murals are painted on both sides of the alley between June 16–22. You can meet the artists yourself while you check out their live painting on Saturday, June 21 from 3:00 – 5:00 pm.
– Bring your bike for a ride that’s a cycling exhibit on two wheels. Now in its third year, Life Cycles celebrates bicycles and art on a community art ride through the streets of Toronto lead by Steve Carty on Saturday, June 21 at 2pm.
– Live like the artists do for a day and ditch the office and the desk for Play Hooky, An Afternoon of Arts and Bands on Thursday, June 19th a 2pm. The all-day multi-art event features creative talents in music, film, photography, visual art, food, drink, and more.
– The Art Lounge (363 King St W) stays open late on June 20th (beginning at 9pm) for a public party to celebrate the city with NXNE Art artists, drinks, and Dreamhouse music.

You can find the full art guide here.


NXNE Interactive (NXNEi) is a four-day digital interactive media conference that explores the latest and greatest about the intersection between creativity and the interactive world. Here you’ll find some of the most influential right brain oriented content-creating artists, tech entrepreneurs, digital marketing gurus, web business experts, and social media experts.

When we say influential faces, we mean names behind some of the biggest brands and artists out there.

Case in point:
– VICE Co-Founder Suroosh Alvi will be interviewed by Reggie Watts talking about VICE’s transformation and growth from a small Montreal magazine to a global media powerhouse. Taking place on Friday, June 20th at 2pm at the Hyatt Regency (370 King St W), this will be worth leaving work early for.

– If you’ve been to Drake’s OVO Festival, then you know it’s kind of a big deal. OVO founder and co-manager of Canadian music sensation Drake will offer a glimpse into developing the now massive OVO brand and his efforts to grow Toronto’s image and influence globally.

You can find the full interactive guide here.

With so much happening, you really need to have a plan. For points on how to navigate the festival, check out how we suggested handling Canadian Music Week last month. There’s also an NXNE app to make your life easier and a schedule-building feature on the site.

North By Northeast only comes once a year – whatever you do, don’t waste it. 

Cover and band photos by: Sarah Rix