Toronto: A North by Northeast Primer

So if you’re still not hip to North by Northeast, pay attention. From tomorrow till Sunday (June 12 to 15), bars citywide will host a different musical act every hour on the hour. Inspired by the legendary South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, NxNE has been launching careers for over a decade.

Love it or hate it, it’s the largest music festival the city has going and attracts tremendous talent – indie buzz bands, locals trying to build hype, established vets looking for new audiences or overseas acts trying to break into North America. Films and speakers are part of the mix, but for most festival goers it’s all about the music.

Okay, you’re convinced. But how do you navigate an event that involves hundreds of artists and dozens of venues? It’s entirely possible to barhop aimlessly and have a fabulous time, but if you are hoping to catch the next big thing, you’ll need to plan in advance.

Get a wristband and barhop for three nights. You can buy tickets for the individual venues, but much of the fun is wandering the packed streets and feeling the buzz. Pay attention to the festival guides, watch for international acts (who are often fairly established at home) and remember, the hyped showcases fill up fast – lineups at 8:30 are not unheard of. If the ads say “limited wristbands admitted”, don’t bother. Usually only fifty spots are reserved for wristbands, and remember – NxNE is all about seeing the next big thing.

Oh, and the bars serve till 4 am – so don’t forget to pace yourself!

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