2014 Toronto NXNE Festival Guide to Tunes, Laughs & All Things Art

NXNE Festival hits its 20th consecutive year in existence, so you know they’ve got to be doing something right.

Seen by many as one of the most hotly anticipated festival events of the summer, North by Northeast (NXNE) in Toronto is marking its 20th year in 2014 and is expanding to cover 10 days, from June 13th – 22nd.  Originally just a music festival, the event has grown to include other endeavours such as film, interactive, comedy and art.

NXNE 2014 Dates (10 days)

  • June 13th – 22nd 

NXNE is hosted by the city of Toronto and takes over the city for its entire run, incorporating downtown venues, open stages, parks, waterfronts, alleys, airports and anywhere (which is everywhere) that art can flourish.

Before you dive into the madness, check out our info guide to understand what’s what and make sure you have your head on straight.  NXNE is a festival with many categories, hidden events and parties you don’t want to miss out on.  Let’s get started.


Music is the cornerstone of NXNE and has been for 20 years.  Originally an avenue for lesser known bands to build hype and break out, the festival has evolved to host some huge names in music.  Acts that have graced the stages and venues throughout the years of NXNE include The Flaming Lips, The Descendants, Social Distortion, Broken Social Scene, Metric, Feist, GZA, Bad Religion, Iggy Pop, The National, Ghostface Killah and K-os.

2014 NXNE Music Artist Lineup:

Joel Plaskett, here playing TURF 2013, is a NXNE 2014 feature artist.

Scheduling is different every year, but music is the undisputed highlight of NXNE and runs every single day of the festival.

With 1000+ music performers flocking to the festival, from inside of Canada as well as internationally, there’s a perfect blend of genres, headliners and up-and-comers that descends on the city.

Pair this with the wide range of venues, setting up in bars, clubs, halls, even parks and waterfronts and you’ve got yourself a music extravaganza for 10 days straight.

A highlight of the music events are the free shows held at Yonge-Dundas Square.  Yes, that's correct.  F-R-E-E.  All ages as well.  So it’s wholesome, ear-blasting, free-of-charge tunes for the whole family.  Just make sure you arrive early to stake out a spot near the stage.  They don’t close the streets around here for nothing: it gets busy.

Goodness, gracious, great ball of...Wayne Coyne. Photo from the YDS 2012 free show by the Flaming Lips.


Sophistication meets old-timey at Bloor Cinema.

Not quite as old as the festival itself, the Film portion of NXNE isn’t far behind.  Introduced in 2001 and screened from the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, the films shown at NXNE aren’t just music-related (though those are the focus) but include lots of debuts from filmmakers all over the globe. 

Previous film-directors who have had films screen during NXNE include Stewart Copeland of The Police fame, Guy Maddin and Rob Heydon.


Sort of like NXNE’s very own micro-TED conference, the Interactive portion of the festival, known as NXNEi, involves bright minds and bright ideas.  Every speaker and every session inspires creativity in the audience no matter what subject is breached.

Talks involve: music big wigs speaking on their craft and what they've accomplished in the industry, chats take place on inspiration and switching things up in your career, as well as discussions on society and culture at large.

A home for screens and speakers.

Past knowledge gurus have included Damian Abraham from Fucked Up, Michael Geist and Mark Campbell.

If you’re looking to get some business advice, follow a burgeoning innovation or hobnob and network, NXNEi is a great avenue for people looking for motivation.


Toronto is home to numerous comedy clubs, among those are the famous Yuk Yuks and perhaps the even more famous Second City improv.  With plenty of avenues for hysterics to build up and boil over, why let all that talent go to waste? 

NXNE Comedy incorporates some of the best up-and-comers from Toronto’s laugh districts and rounds it off with headliners from around the country as well as far and wide.

2014 NXNE Comedy Acts:

Matt O’Brien & Dylan Gott, both feature comics at NXNE 2014.


Music is art and film is art, but (without getting too philosophical on you) you must remember there are many variations associated with the term.

NXNE Art piece.

NXNE Art combines creators and viewers in such a way that the urban sprawl becomes more intimate and participatory.  Urban takeovers involve descriptive installations and exhibits being featured in subways, alleys and any pedestrian space that can bring forth public engagement.  Music integration is part of the Art side of NXNE, creating musically artistic experiences so that the two sides aren’t mutually exclusive.

Music and art, they’re partners in crime, right?  Drum beatings and cave paintings go way back, so it’s only right that we celebrate them together at the same festival.

Also, don’t forget the After Parties held at select venues and the NXNE Art Lounge.  Rockstars aren’t the only ones who party hard until the early morning hours.


Prices vary, of course, depending on why you’re attending NXNE.  There’s a wide variety of costs associated with different levels of badges and wristbands whether you’re looking for any of the festival categories separately or packages including the whole nine yards.

Only want to see Music?  There’s a wristband for that.  Only want Comedy?  There’s a wristband for that.  Want to hear/see/do/be involved in everything?  Grab the Platinum badge.

This joyous NXNE-er probably opted for the Platinum Badge.

Venue line-ups will have three different sections: Badge, Wristband and Walk-Up.  Preference is given to the Platinum rollers and wristband wearers.  If it’s a popular show or venue, walk-ups should arrive early and hope for the best.  Demand is understandably high for the feature events so it's essential to plan your schedule accordingly for the shows you want to see the most.

Check out NXNE’s schedule page to keep up to date on prices for badges, wristbands and events and then visit the tickets page to get set up.


Sleeping is never at the top of anyone’s to-do list when you’re high on festival life, but it’s one of those unavoidable factors that need to be considered.

The Hyatt is just a small step up from camping in the desert like certain other festivals.

The Hyatt Regency is in the heart of downtown Toronto and considered the unofficial hub (and actual headquarters) of all things NXNE.  The hotel is located within the thick of it, which means exhibits, interactive sessions and many festival venues are all conveniently within your grasp.

Other sleeping venues close to all the action include the Best Western at Carlton & Jarvis, Strathcona at York & University and Bond Place at Dundas & Yonge.  Check out the NXNE accommodation page here for a more detailed list.

If you're looking for a festival that's been around the block, check out NXNE.  For over two decades they've been doing it right and it only keeps getting bigger.  Toronto is the cultural mecca of Canada and makes it the perfect stage for all things Music, Film, Comedy, Art and Interactive. Check out the official NXNE website for additional details on this year's festival.


Brent Gladney
Brent Gladney

Brent Gladney is a writer and content grunt for Beforelastcall.ca.
He spends his spare time writing unfinished novels, listening to the devil's music and creating Would-You-Rather questions.