Canadian Music Week Toronto ON — March 2 to 5, 2005

Canadian Music Week Toronto ON — March 2 to 5, 2005
By Chris Whibbs, Jill Mikkelson, Rob Nay, Sam Sutherland, Stuart Green and Susana Ferreira A Northern Chorus Taking epic and slow songs from the studio to the live stage is tricky at the best of times, but these very capable Hamilton residents get points for pulling it off handily, even though some of the majesty of their new album, Bitter Hands Resign, was lost in the ether. The quiet moments were handled with care and the vocals rang clear, but when they were required to let it rip, it seemed they were more secure languidly floating through people's minds than going for their hearts. That said, in a more intimate setting magical things should be assured. CW Anagram As has become all too common, Matt Mason, lead singer for Toronto's answer to Gang of Four meets the Stooges, wasted no time getting the adoring fans of his band's sharp, energetic no wave antics into the show by performing about 90 percent of the set amongst them. His grunting and yelping immediately recalled the Jesus Lizard's David Yow and Iggy Pop, while the band's angular and oh so sax-y sound provided the perfect backdrop. SG Arkata A shrieking, spastic, female-fronted math-core band with no bass player? Yup, that's Arkata. Their blistering, progressive tech metal was able to stand up to the lack of thundering bottom end just fine and proved that a measure of a band's strength is in how they perform in the face of adversity. SG The Awesome Team Notwithstanding their, um, frankly awful name, TAT could be one band to seriously watch. Their catchy emo-inspired moody pop rock brings to mind Jimmy Eat World and latter-day Get Up Kids in its infectiousness. While their live presentation is still a work in progress, their sound has already caught the attention of some industry folks who know a good hook when they hear one. SG Jay Bennet Despite the way his set seemed to outright offend one patron who arrived (early) at the venue to see Supergarage, this former Wilco member offered a set of strong pop songs that, while unable to hold a candle to any of his material from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, made for a fairly good performance. Opening with a song only written the day prior, Bennet set a tone of relaxed sloppiness, which shifted only slightly when he was joined on stage by Staggered Crossing for a few full-band numbers. SS Bombs Over Providence A member of the ultra-cool Underground Operations family of bands, which also includes Closet Monster and Refused-worshipping tech-core spazz-out masters Protest the Hero, BOP may be one of the best melodic punk bands to come out of Southern Ontario in some time. The quartet fuses a snarling "fuck you!" attitude with some killer chops and catchy as hell songs, making them a force to be reckoned with. Kind of like Dillinger Four and Jawbreaker with a modern edge. SG The Camaromance Possibly the cutest indie couple to take the stage since Mates of State, Montreal's the Camaromance's spare guitar and glockenspiel music hides beneath it a heart of sweet melody. Full of cute song names and high fives, attention was given because of their striking looks and simple curiosity. Some edge was found in their new songs and little tiffs but when you put the name "romance" in your moniker, you better give your audience the emotional goods and, luckily, they did so in spades. In the end, they were both utterly charming and disarming. CW Canned Hamm It's hard to explain the spectacle that is Canned Hamm: two costume changes, leather neon cowboy suits, bad cornrows, running through the audience, wonderfully shaky choreography and some of the catchiest old disco beats around. Add it together and it easily surpasses anything else in terms of entertainment and hilarity. Just try and not laugh when, in "Erotic Thriller," Big Hamm sings of "bullet holes in the hot tubs!" Easily the most fulfilling act of CMW. CW Christa Couture Of course, the small amount of people may have been the cause, but Christa Couture's set was a lesson in rapt attentiveness, as her storytelling and natural disarming friendliness lent a neat little edge to the otherwise vanilla "quarter-life crisis" nature of her songs. She's apparently just recorded her debut album with a band and it would have been interesting to see what kind of musical ideas are floating around her head, as her competent but hardly revolutionary guitar work gives just the slightest hint. Give her a chance; she just may hook you in with her shared confessionals. CW The Creeping Nobodies The Creeping Nobodies performed a hectic set that threatened to spill off the stage at any moment. The band's spastic tunes recalled the Ex and its penchant for frantic rhythms, while throwing in some resounding melodies for good measure. Guitarist/vocalist Derek Westerholm twitched like David Byrne on methamphetamines as the entire band performed with determined force and dexterity. From the show's opening notes to its closing chords, the Creeping Nobodies showed their skill at adding stirring energy to art rock. RN Cuff The Duke Dedicating their first song to everyone who has worked a shitty job, Cuff The Duke started into an inspired performance. The band spliced together genres with ease and their varied brand of alt-country veered from sedate to rousing. Tunes from Life Stories for Minimum Wage were greeted with heavy applause. During the show, singer/guitarist Wayne Petti pulled out some arena rock moves, leaning over the front of the stage and swinging his guitar above audience members' heads. With its dexterous presentation, Cuff The Duke impressed both the rock'n'roll fans and the alt-country kids. RN Damon & Naomi Despite the arty coffee shop pretensions that led to them scorning the hip-hop beats from upstairs, all first impressions were forgiven after their first luscious harmonies. Eschewing musical complexity, this is deceivingly simple music made and performed with the care of masters. By the end, the room was near-empty and the beats had long left, but Damon & Naomi were performing the coup de grace, as their powerful encore made for the single most transcendent moment of this beast of a festival. CW Downbelows Showing off their Social Distortion and Dead Boys influences, the Downbelows presented attitude-driven punk rock. The band played with solid confidence but seemed irritated by the setting, conveying annoyance over the lack of crowd enthusiasm close to the stage. Chastising the audience for their lack of response, the band declared there were only 12 rock'n'roll fans in the room, which at that point held close to 500. RN Elliott Brood From the "crisp white shirt and tie" lead singer and his brown string guitar strap to the suitcase as bass drum, it's the little things that push Elliott Brood and their amped-up, chaotic bluegrass sound into the memorable. As the lead guitarist spastically rolled around in his seat and the singer's raspy voice echoed throughout the venue, one has to wonder why fans of Andre Ethier and his ilk have not latched heartily onto this band? This Southern gothic band will indeed have their time in the sun someday. CW The Field Register Somehow mixing emo and shoegazer with wonderful results, this Montreal act based most of their compositions around their staggering musical abilities and gentle-to-extremely harsh soundscapes, with sombre lyrics entering the picture whenever necessary to complete the already impressive power of each song. While many of their quieter moments were lost in the din of the club, these valleys of melancholy only made for all the more impressive peaks when they finally arrived. SS For The Mathematics This virtual United Nations of a band was channelling the ghost of At the Drive-In past for their high-octane showcase. The Ottawa-based quintet fused hair, wicked dance skills and jagged post-punk art-core freak-outs into one whirling dervish of a set. SG Gentleman Reg Dragging out the full band, Reg's lovely ditties may have stood out among the other heavy rock acts, but it was the good kind of attention — when he pumps out those sweet pop beats and falsetto vocals, hearts will swoon. Reg gave his all, but, unfortunately, it seemed the only ones swayed were those near the stage, even after a slight admonishment to the crowd for their loud chatter. Hasn't anyone listened to Darby & Joan? For God's sake, people, give this man and his captivating melodies their due in a more appropriate venue or showcase. CW The Ghost Is Dancing After spending an entire night vigorously dancing through the sets of every other band who were part of their showcase, these Toronto natives took the stage in a triumphant and confident fashion, which set the tone for their boisterous, beautiful set. Similar in musical scope to Broken Social Scene and the Arcade Fire, the group's seven members each brought their own distinct talents to the set, whether it was guitar, violin, accordion, or simply throwing around confetti and running through the crowd. Their finale saw sparklers, streamers and a group sing-along take over the club. It was glorious. SS Guitar Wolf With the sound of motorcycles revving in the background, Tokyo's Guitar Wolf walked on stage and lit up some incredible rock'n'roll fireworks. Playing material from Jet Generation and Loverock, the group's charged songs bruised speakers while band members strutted on stage. Midway through, Guitar Wolf's ferocious version of Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues" made the Who and Blue Cheer's renditions sound like tame lullabies. During their 90-minute performance, the group's members showed no signs of losing momentum, as they leapt off ten-foot-tall speaker cabinets and rolled across the stage. RN Holy Fuck Folk-y By Divine Righter and record company mogul Brian Borcherdt traded in his guitar for a table full of electronic gizmos and gadgets. The result was a strangely melodic and pulse pounding free-form fusion of the heavy chug and groove rock of Trans Am and the quirkiness of Beck rolled into one mesmerising viewing and listening experience. SG The Junction In their never-ending quest to impress more and more people every time they play, this set from Brampton's next big thing was well-received by those in attendance, with the possible exception of some of the hardcore fans left over from the previous performer. Able to fuse the energy of the fine punk rock emerging from their scene with an accessibility and funky backbone, the Junction's personality and inspiring talent flowed through their entire performance. SS Knock Knock Ginger With nothing but simple pop songs and an eagerness to rock out as hard as they possibly could, Waterloo's Knock Knock Ginger proved themselves as more than just a capable indie rock band in their first appearance in the city. Similar in style to early Lowest of the Low or the Weakerthans, the band's occasional use of trumpet helped flesh out their already ample sound. At the core of their solid musicianship, however, was a set of well-written pop songs whose perfect setting in the band made for an immensely enjoyable listening experience. SS LAL LAL was in effect as a quartet. Bass, drums, laptop programming and vocal acrobatics filled the space, and while the audience wasn't high in numbers, they definitely generated some heat. LAL live are vastly different from LAL on disc, with layers of improvised sound the key to their electric in-person energy. Beats upon beats were twisted, pulled and set, complemented by vocals that were by turns wailing or velvety. The audience heart-to-heart talk wasn't particularly necessary, but even that can be forgiven; it fit in with the good-for-the-soul vibe and strength of the set. SF Mongoose Perfectly straddling the line between brilliant and terrible in the same way Spinal Tap understood the fine line between stupid and clever, these Vancouverites took what they were given, which in this case was a half-empty room at the end of a singer-songwriter showcase, and rocked the shit out of it. Sporting ironic, but not fashionable, mullets and singing songs with titles like "Let's All Go To The Restaurant" and "I Hate Cigarettes," this four-piece tore apart what little stage area they were given and then proceeded to tear up the floor and couches in front of them. SS NQ Arbuckle Besides recreating the sound of tickling with a guitar better than any band in recent memory, NQ Arbuckle possess the ability to distil the simplest of moments into the prettiest of country songs. With a laidback style that perfectly suited the relaxed, comfortable feeling of front-man Neville Quinlan's open and honest songwriting, the band appeared to be having the time of their lives on stage, with the smile on Quinlan's face lasting until their very last note. SS Raising the Fawn Enough arms' length bullshit, I love Raising the Fawn. The sound and emotion that comes from three simple guys always amazes, but sometimes the potency rests on the shoulders of front-man John Crossingham and luckily, he was in peak form. Every falsetto note was lovingly caressed and eked from that golden throat of his. Leaving the best till last, "Drownded" had them pounding out dirty, fuzzed-out chords till the audience seemed mesmerised by their hypnotic musical mantra. CW The Rest Besides having a massive organ, which clearly helped bring notice, the Rest drew all the attention they needed with their songs and dazzling performance. While most of the band was content to stay static through the set, the group's vocalist was a maniac, channelling the ghosts of screamo's past while crooning over his band's Hot Hot Heat-style instrumental beds. With throbbing, constant bass lines and some fine guitar work, the Rest represented a well-rounded group whose sound showed massive amounts of potential. Plus, they had a huge organ. SS Shikasta Shikasta's show was all about low end, loosening teeth fillings with a heavy rumble and a relentless approach. Showing their obvious calibre as musicians, the group's members locked into a bulldozer groove and didn't ease up until the last of the cymbals stopped ringing. The band's more recent material is geared towards a quicker pace and the faster tempo suits the group well. Shikasta added some refined force to the evening. RN Sleeper Set Sail Although from their music it might seem like these fellers should be sullen and serious, they are actually quite affable and comfortable on stage. Of course, it's all turned on its head when the sound starts to pummel and they rip their way through their sharp, heavy layered rock, with just enough emo for them to earn their checkered shirts. Points go the lead singer who jumped around despite back pain. CW Snowy Owl Over the course of their brief set, Snowy Owl offered strongly anchored rock'n'roll. The band managed to merge the fortitude of '60s garage bands with a sophistication that set them apart from the usual three-chord stomp. Along with the band's firm musicianship, Snowy Owl's nods toward more complex arrangements added a solid layer to the band's approach and made for a sturdy set. RN SS Cardiacs Sadly playing for a select few who were willing to stick around until what rapidly became the wee hours of the morning, this wonderful indie-pop three-piece played their hearts out through a set that was as sincere as it was fun. Fronted by Jessie Stien, the group's songs took on a delightful playful feel simply through the endearingly childlike nature of Stein's vocals. Although the sound of the venue was not always kind, they managed to overcome this slight disadvantage with their sheer talent and spirit. SS Unsensored Hailing from the 'burbs of Toronto, this band of three barely legal girls and their boy drummer offered up a scrappy set of Runaways meets the Donnas riot grrrl punk. Their sound may need some refining, but they've got the courage of their convictions enough so that they don't look or sound intimidated while on stage. They've got some pretty decent vocal harmonies to boot. Let's see, cute girls who actually play their own instruments and write their own material. Somewhere there's a music industry Svengali salivating over the possibilities. SG We vs. Death Why these Dutch post-rockers decided to have their inaugural tour of Canada in the middle of winter we might never know, but their lovely way with a guitar pluck and trumpet could melt the most frigid of winter blahs. Leaving out the visceral fireworks for the wispier atmospheric instrumentals, the show lacked some much needed bite, but the intensity and musicianship were still mighty impressive. Kudos to the trumpet player's English attempts and the way he left the stage and sat among the crowd when the song seemingly didn't need him. How very Canadian. CW The Weekend The Weekend refined their power pop to shiny new heights, as the group unveiled songs from its latest disc, Beatbox My Heart, along with some older favourites. Front-woman Andrea Wasse's tuneful vocals and upbeat banter were in fine form. Keyboardist Lincoln Cushman's robotic manoeuvres formed an entertaining contrast to the rest of the band's hyperactive moves. The one irritant was that half the group now looks as if they hired Good Charlotte's stylist to coordinate their eyeliner, dyed black hair and rock wardrobe. Apart from that questionable development, the Weekend's set offered taut pop melodies. RN The WPP Trekking all the way out from Vancouver, this highly volatile and energetic four-piece blazed through a too-short set of Fugazi-inspired post-hardcore. Having already impressed the TO hardcore crowd with a stop earlier in the year, this night saw the whole band in attendance (last time out, the bassist couldn't make it). With a completely balls-to-the-wall style of performance that frequently left the audience with the impression that the band could at any given moment explode under their own sheer rock pressure, the WPP offered an inspired, fun set. SS Zoobombs At the second of a three-night stand, the Zoobombs played an epic set that almost tore the club apart with its intensity. The Zoobombs blended funk, blues, psychedelic pop and garage rock into a superb fortress of sound. Some audience members stood on chairs to catch a glimpse of the band in the packed room and the crowd responded to each song with boisterous applause. Working their way through extended jams, the band showed an impeccable level of musicianship as they locked into hypnotic grooves that mesmerised for the entire two-hour show. RN