Canadian Music Week March 28 to 31 - Toronto, Ontario

Canadian Music Week March 28 to 31 - Toronto, Ontario

By Cam Lindsay, Del F. Cowie, Michael Johnston, Patrick Lejtenyi, Rob Ferraz, Roman Sokal, Scott Ingram

Bishop

This MC cemented his rep by delivering ridiculously dope freestyles via the phone on CKLN's now defunct "Power Move" show in Toronto. A well-thought out and executed set, which featured a cell phone call from an irate girlfriend was capped by "Kipling 2 Kennedy," his clever ode to the TTC's Bloor-Danforth train line. -DFC

Black Halos

Straight from a Hastings Street East gutter are the Black Halos, Vancouver's answer to the New York Dolls. Nothing chic about this particularly ugly, highly offensive and altogether degenerate group. Their glam punk music, all-black look and explosive on-stage act made for a good show though. A direct line can be traced from the Dolls through Television and down to the Halos, given their avowed love and respect for junkie superstar Johnny Thunders, the singer's obsessive twisting of the mic chord around his bicep and a song called "Tracks." –PL

Brassy

This half-male/half-female quartet were reminiscent of a high school cheerleading squad. Lanky and confident singer/guitarist Muffin Spenser did her best to hype the crowd up throughout their English pop-coated songs that are a hybrid of big brother Jon's Blues Explosion and offshoot Boss Hog. They take the pop genre one step further by chewing up radio-friendly ideals, processing them and spitting them back out. –RS

Jim Bryson

Playing a mix of songs from his impressive debut and new material, Ottawa songsmith Bryson appeared relaxed during his showcase. Despite his self-deprecating and informal stage banter, Bryson's band was tight and rocking. His new song about seeing the Montreal Expos in spring training as a child held the reserved audience's attention, and a New Order cover closed his set with a genuine spark. –MJ

California Guitar Trio

The multi-cultured and scholastically skilled trio mesmerised with some unworldly intricate acoustic guitar playing. The exchanges were like a finely choreographed and humorous fencing match and when in unison, the harmonies produced through their originals and covers (a highlight being Beethoven's 9th) indeed created an ode to joy. By the end, the instrumental trio had had everyone at the packed venue singing loudly to the finale, Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody." -RS

Chixdiggit

Calgary's hoser punk heroes ripped it up but good before a packed house of adoring fans. This is a band that truly knows how to work a crowd, especially when most of them know the words to all their songs. Chances are if you weren't a fan on the way in, you were on the way out. -RF


Constantines

They lived up to their hype, enough for eight lifetimes worth. Their Fugazi-like rock-out extravaganza is outright dangerous, jagged and it sweats profusely. They're like prison lifers who have nothing to lose. It is quite possible that they are well on their way to being the saviours of rock. -RS

Dan-E-O

After battling an uncooperative sound system that rendered his tracks barely audible throughout his set, Monolith member Dan-e-o overcame the setback and won the support of the crowd by creatively venting his frustration at the proceedings through an impromptu freestyle to, ahem, discuss his dissatisfaction with the situation. -DFC

Dinner Is Ruined

This particular night's instalment of auditory explorations involved the spillage of some heavy mantras on top of improvised musique concrète pieces. Their hypnotic set can is described as a voodoo version of a Public Service Announcement that warned of evil music industry practices. Their roving escapades caused grins throughout. -RS

Julie Doiron

Gone acoustic since her bass playing days in Eric's Trip, current Montrealer Julie Doiron still plays with raw emotion. It is through seeing her braving the stage that you really can tell the thoughtful and deeply personal her lyrics are. Her sincerity really makes her a charming presence to watch up on stage — one of the genuine good people in the music scene. -SI

Dressy Bessy

My favourite show of the week. Their brand of indie-pop rock was a great mix of hooky guitars, female vocals, and foot-tapping drumming. While they play using the standard four-piece set up, their music comes out sounding a lot more textured than most bands — and catchier too. -SI

Duotang

Winnipeg's bare bones mod two-member band closed their set and the night with a faithful and accomplished version of the Who's mini-opera "A Quick One, While He's Away," with some help from bassist Rod Slaughter's Novillero band-mate Rusty Matyas on guitar. Otherwise, Slaughter and drummer Sean Allum were on their own. Amazing things can de done if you get rid of some of the frillier elements of rock music, like guitars. –PL

Elevator

Their psychedelia is as hard as concrete yet naturally and mystically rural sounding. "Commander Space Echo" Rick White set the audience on stun with some rather intense creepy-crawly guitar groping while bassist Tara White's near sub-harmonic pulses and hyper space backing vocals beamed in from some fucking giant satellite. Drummer Marc Gaudet dilated ear drums with his Keith Moon-meets-Max Roach rhythms that would open up a portal to the brain where frenzy was sent to play. Together, they pressed the button: the big red one marked "Heavy." -RS

Equinox 199

Abstract lyricism demanded close attention to this MC who kicks rhymes oozing with intelligence over equally unorthodox yet compelling beats. He was later joined on stage by rising MC Kamau, to preview interesting tracks from a forthcoming collaborative venture titled the Pangea Project. –DFC

Fly Pan Am

While not much of a rock spectacle to behold, with a lot of sitting going on, everybody seemed pretty transfixed while listening to their groove-oriented instrumental moodscapes. For a band like this, you don't measure success in terms of the pairs of panties thrown onstage anyway — it's all in the amount of nodding heads, which Montreal's Fly Pan Am definitely had going on. -SI

I Am Spoonbender

San Francisco-based I Am Spoonbender came to put on a show. They dimmed the lights, fired up the smoke machine, and let go the beats and light show. Varying their mostly instrumental songs from heavy stop/start styles to lighter, more conventional beats, kept everything interesting, as did drummer/keyboardist Dustin Donaldson's energy and playful dancing. The music more than stands on its own, but the lighting and other affects (like using old telephones as microphones) really rounded out the performance. -SI

Idlewild

Making their live Canadian debut, Edinburgh's Idlewild performed a tight set of their intellectual brand of post-angst punk rock. Full of confidence, they played a mix of songs from both of their albums, and gave an audience with high expectations exactly what they wanted. -CL

Maestro

I really wanted to like the Maestro, especially since it was his birthday. Unfortunately, it's no longer '89 y'all. Playing with a band (two keyboardists, drummer, bassist, DJ and two backup singers) in front of a packed crowd, the lyrics just didn't pack any oomph combined with that music. Apart from "Conductin' Thangs," which had a fun looesy-goosey vibe to it, and maybe "Stick To Your Vision," which is largely rock-based anyway ("These Eyes"), I just wasn't feeling the arrangements. I did find him to be very personable, and his musings about the old days with black black black tuxedos and the like were very entertaining. –SI

Mathematik

Having kept a low profile since releasing the acclaimed Ecology album, Mathematik issued his message-laden rhymes and melodic beats to a previously unresponsive gathering. Most notably, the rousing proposed single "Uprising" seemed to generate the most animated movements of the night from the venue's resident wayward drunk. -DFC

Maximum RNB

The focal point of Maximum RNB is singer/screamer/stomper Max Brand, an almost unholy cross between Yaphet Kotto and Darby Crash. The band got a hand midway through their set by two Ruben-esque go-go dancers clad in skimpy black dresses and fishnet stockings. They drunkenly stumbled around the stage, banging into members and equipment and got ogled by Brand for their efforts. The spectacle created by this band is not to missed. –RF

Mayor McCA

Invited to entertain the audience let down by Dweezil Zappa's cancellation (apparently festival planners failed to notify him he was playing) was none other than Mayor McCA , the hard-working one-man band from Hamilton. His duty was to fill Zappa's spot with tap shoes and serenade everyone with honest, campy humour and fun-time songs. This was the Mayor's second show in one night, and he managed to once again flawlessly execute the ordeal with his radiant charm. -RS

Mountain Mama

Yet another budget glam band except they're old and they look like they could be the endorsees of KFC, that is, whenever KFC decides to make a go at being "hip." -RS

Oh No the Modulator

The "Go Science!" cry broke up the huddle and the nerdliness began. ONTM is one man and his Macintosh computer — kind of a BJ & the Bear for the science set. To add excitement to watching him select files and press enter, ONTM doubles as a keyboardist, but not in the traditional sense. For each song he grabbed a fresh computer keyboard, and proceeded to frantically flail around on the dance floor to his short and spastic tunes, banging along to the song on the keys. By song's end, the keyboards ended up smashed to pieces and his nerd posse would rush out to pick up the scattered remains. -SI

1-Speed Bike

A one-man textural dub tour de force courtesy of the drummer of Godspeed You Black Emperor! and Exhaust, the very stern-looking Aidan Girt. Unlike his somewhat equivalent Pan American, Girt's sources are ultra-organic and are digitally manipulated with renegade fervour. At one point Girt stopped the music to clinically remind us of the illnesses of government oppression and the homeless situation. Then the music continued. Too bad that the majority of the audience were too busy talking to themselves to pay attention. Fuckers. –RS

Russian Futurists

Comprised of some guys sitting on chairs playing their yard sale Casio keyboards, the Russian Futurists can melt anybody's heart in a live setting with their catchy electro pop songs. With the vocals getting more attention live than on disc, the band's sound somehow make watching four guys sitting down pushing buttons seem much more enjoyable than it should. –CL

Sadies

No one plays bluegrass country punk rock and roll like the Sadies, a slow cooker set that began like a donkey ride that gained momentum. The set list consisted of heaping handfuls of no-bullshit high-gear tractor-paced twang numbers that were short and straight to the point. Even dirty ol' Andre Williams came by to provide vocal lubrication, as did Blue Rodeo's Greg Keelor. -RS

The Sexereenos

Teen-beat garage snots the Sexereenos brought more than their snappy, high-energy brand of ‘60s pop punk to town — they also brought their Montrealer's disdain for the notoriously un-fun Toronto crowds. The Sexereenos put on a fine performance, punching up their simple, straightforward songs with hand claps, lacerating guitars and a sharp stage presence. –PL

Sianspheric

Appearing live only in sparse doses, the revamped space rock-cum-futuristic ambient ballroom quartet showcased brand new material — smooth bass-navigated compositions augmented by feathered wispy guitars and low heart rate-riding beats. Their sound appears to be more personal; they've extracted their pop essence and have now burrowed deep within themselves to create these IMAX-scope soundscapes. The Pink Floyd influence is still somewhat there at times, now more Piper At The Gates of Dawn than Dark Side of the Moon. -RS

Andre Williams and the Strap

It's all about the pussy for Andre Williams. Dressed in the devil's red, Williams got straight to the point when he said that anyone who didn't get laid that night should be shot. He did deliver a memorable show, dedicated entirely to himself as the God of Sex, with kudos to his Toronto-based backing band the Strap. Wearing matching blue sequinned shirts, the Strap offered a potent and driving engine that Andre rode onstage while being so very Andre. -PL