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NXNE 2013 Best Bets: From Blue Hawaii, Kashka And Villagers To Calexico, Ludacris And The National

Joshua Ostroff/Huffington Post

Now in its 19th year, NXNE returns with yet another year of music, film, comedy and art. The six-day North By Northeast festival has seen its fair share of big-named acts come through over the years -- from The Flaming Lips and Iggy & The Stooges to Raekwon and Ghostface Killah.

This year promises a similarly packed line-up with over 1000 bands performing in over 50 different venues all over Toronto. To help you sift through the massive program, here are some of our best bets for the NXNE fest.

Wednesday, June 12:

Calexico @ Mod Club

Americana indie rock outfit Calexico is one of the highlights of NXNE's opening night. Having been around for over a decade now, the Arizona rockers have developed a solid live show that will surely showcase their full discography, especially their latest release, 2012's "Algiers."

Mozart's Sister @ Rivoli

Mozart's Sister frontwoman Caila Thompson-Hannant takes off from where Grimes left off. Also hailing from Montreal, and familiar from past work with Think About Life and Shapes and Sizes, Thompson-Hannant takes subjects like anxiety and turns them into confident electro-pop anthems ready for the dark dance floors.

GROUNDERS @ Horseshoe Tavern

This Toronto band is still relatively new, but their debut EP "Wreck of a Smile," which came out in March, is already showing glimmers of prospect. The five-piece's jangly indie pop borrow the most infectious parts of Grizzly Bear and Beach House and make it their own melodic confection. The band has landed an opening slot touring with The Besnard Lakes, but will return to their hometown for a show at the Horseshoe Tavern.

Thursday, June 13:

Braids, Blue Hawaii, Sean Nicholas Savage, Paula @ Comfort Zone

Arbutus Records has become one of Montreal's biggest exports of talent in the past couple of years (Grimes being the label's most notable star), so their showcase at NXNE will be the place to go and scout out what the label has in store for us. With a new record on its way this summer, Braids will most likely preview new material here, and lead singer Raphaelle Standon-Preston will be pulling double duty that night with her other more electronic/DJ-based project, Blue Hawaii.

Beliefs @ Handlebar

Toronto shoegaze rockers Beliefs have been gradually making a name for themselves locally and internationally for a few years now. Having nabbed opening slots for the likes of A Place to Bury Strangers, Porcelain Raft, The Men and Beach Fossils, Beliefs have been winning over audiences with their hooky dream-pop glazed with distorted, reverb-laden guitars.

Mikal Cronin @ Silver Dollar

Best known for his work with the prolific Ty Segall (both collaborating with and playing for), Mikal Cronin has gained quite the recognition with his two solo albums as well. His latest release, "MCII," has been called "his most fully realized, beautifully arranged, and well-crafter work to date," by Pitchfork, garnering a Best New Music badge and he is easily catching up with Segall with a steadily growing catalog of ace material. Cronin will be headlining not one, but three nights at the Silver Dollar (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) last year so plenty of opportunities for showgoers to work him into your busy schedule.

Dan Deacon, DIANA, Merchandise, Moon King, Nu Sensae @ Horseshoe

There is a little something for everyone at the Horseshoe Tavern's Thursday night line up – experimental dance parties by Dan Deacon, synth art-pop by DIANA, an amalgamation of both by Moon King and straight-up punk by Merchandise and Nu Sensae. A show that will undoubtedly be an attack on senses and leave showgoers tired and satisfied.

KASHKA @ Wrongbar

Forest City Lovers frontwoman Kat Burns has been hard at work ever since the band split up last year. Now incorporating electronics into her songwriting, her folk spirit is still very much intact, but she now morphs the two together into a brand Burns has named "folkpoptronica," which is even catchier and more successful than the word suggests.

Friday, June 14:

The National @ Yonge-Dundas

Marked as one of the marquee events of the festival, The National is set to perform at Yonge-Dundas Square for free this year, promoting their latest release, "Trouble Will Find Me." Lead singer Matt Berninger is known for his live antics, which often involve the singer hopping into the audience, so it will definitely be interesting to see how he will pull that off in this type of venue. If Wayne Coyne could crowd surf in a bubble last year, we have faith that Berninger will figure something out.

Absolutely Free @ Drake

Fans of Toronto punk rockers DD/MM/YYYY didn't have much time to mourn the band when they broke up in 2011. Instead, four of the five members quickly rebounded with a new band called Absolutely Free, who packs just as much of a punch on record and onstage as their previous project.

AroarA @ Silver Dollar

Andrew Whiteman is arguably one of Broken Social Scene's brightest, and possibly underrated, stars. Since the band's hiatus, Whiteman has yet to revive his band Apostle of Hustle, but he has teamed up with his wife Ariel Engle to create AroarA, a literary folk project that proves to be just as intriguing as any of Whiteman's previous works.

The Luyas, Sean Nicholas Savage, Brazos @ Sneaky Dee's

Montreal's eclectic music makers are best represented by long-running art rockers, The Luyas. Still riding the success of their perfectly artful 2012 release, "Animator," the band will be joined by Arbutus Records' Sean Nicholas Savage and Dead Oceans labelmates, Brazos at Sneaky Dee's on Friday.

Saturday, June 15:

Dusted @ The Garrison, St. James Gazebo

When he's not busy working on various projects, including an upcoming new album with Holy Fuck, Brian Borcherdt has been riding the success of his other project, Dusted, and his 2012 release, "Total Dust." Decidedly different from the electronic structures of his work with Holy Fuck, Dusted is a quieter affair, with Borcherdt often performing with one or two other members, but that doesn't make his shows any less compelling. Borcherdt's simplistic setup leaves room for the spotlight to show off his impeccable songwriting skills and infectious riffs, something that should be seen and heard on record and live.

Fucked Up, Iceage, White Lung, CATL, Soupcans, Single Mothers, The Archives @ Horseshoe Tavern

If you've got some pent up aggression in you, then Saturday night's lineup at the Horseshoe Tavern is the place to be. A great taste of punk music, both locally and internationally, headliners Fucked Up (Toronto), Iceage (Denmark) and White Lung (Vancouver) are spectacular showmen (and women) who know how to get a room riled up and sweaty with heavy music that's celebratory, cathartic, angry and just pure entertainment.

Majical Cloudz, Ryan Hemsworth, Eight and a Half, Chad Valley, _8IO Feat. Byron Wong/Dave Hamelin @ BLK BOX

If guitars aren't your thing, BLK BOX's big names, Montreal 's Majical Cloudz and local DJ Ryan Hemsworth, will surely fill your electronic needs. Hot off the release of his Merge Records debut release, "Impersonator," Majical Cloudz delivers a compelling live show that's more dynamic than his recorded material and is something that can win over both fans and newcomers to Devon Welsh's music.

Villagers @ Great Hall, Sidedoor at The Soho House

Irish singer-songwriter, Conor O'Brien a.k.a. Villagers, released a new album earlier this year entitled {Awayland} and has since fully embraced the idea of a full band as opposed to being a solo artist. For those who have only seen this O'Brien solo, or just for those who have never seen Villagers live, the full-band treatment will be something worth seeing.

Sunday, June 16:

Ludacris, Smif N' Wessun, Mikey Avalon, Joey Bada$$, Fat Tony, Deniro Farrar @ Yonge-Dundas Square

For several years now, NXNE has ended their festival with a final free concert at Yonge-Dundas Square featuring some of hip hop's biggest names. In the past, we've seen Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Killer Mike and Action Bronson take the stage and this year promises to be equally as star-studded as Ludacris is joined by up-and-comers Joey Bada$$ and Mikey Avalon.

MuchMusic Video Awards

Though not a NXNE-affiliated event, the MuchMusic Video Awards always coincide with the music festival and draws equally as many music fans, if only more concentrated in one specific place. Located at the MuchMusic headquarters at Queen Street West and John Street , the annual event is guaranteed to shut down streets as fans swarm the outdoor stages for a number of performances. So far, this year's show will include performance by Ed Sheeran, Avril Lavigne, Classified, Serena Ryder and Demi Lovato as well as Korean entertainer Psy, who is also co-hosting.

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