Canadian Music Week Toronto ON - March 1 to 4, 2006

Canadian Music Week Toronto ON - March 1 to 4, 2006
By Cam Lindsay, Chuck Molgat, Kevin Hainey, Ryan Patrick, Sam Sutherland, Stuart Green and Thomas Quinlan Aberdeen City This quartet of Radiohead-worshipping Bostonians delivered a set rich in Britpop by way of Beantown. Drawing largely form their lush new The Freezing Atlantic disc, they came across as an American band trying to revive the shoegazer movement. Their ebb and flow sonic delivery recalled My Bloody Valentine and Muse, at times, with flourishes of the Dinosaur Jr./Lemonheads-like college rock sound Boston is famous for. But they present their music with such sincerity and so technically well it’s hard not to love it. SG Aesop Rock, Mr. Lif & El-P While Aesop Rock and Mr. Lif should be an odd couple on stage, Lif’s energetic party vibe is actually a great complement to Aesop Rock’s dense and cerebral raps, which were surprisingly audible live. Both MCs dug into their respective back catalogues to create a well-rounded set of past and present favourites, including a few new songs performed for the first time. They were later joined on stage by El-P, who reached all the way back to Company Flow for his set list; and when he dropped his sci-fi classic, "Stepfather Factory,” the crowd went wild. Finally, at nearly three a.m., Aesop Rock ended the night with "Daylight.” TQ The Barmitzvah Brothers With a set that can only be described as appalling twee and horrifically unprofessional, this one-time buzz band showed a largely indifferent crowd that any hype they ever had was woefully misdirected. Sure, it’s cool to be cute and untalented when you’re not even old enough to get into the venue you’re playing, but once you’re legal, taking five minutes to tune your banjo then failing to actually tune it is just shitty. SS Laura Barrett On her self-released EP, Earth Sciences, local buzz artist Laura Barrett accompanies her arrestingly strong and beautiful voice with just the kalimba (an African thumb piano) and still manages to fill all available space with enthralling emotion. At her CMW appearance, she cracked awkward jokes to break the ice and had a double bassist accompanying her. Her arrangements are assured, yet suitably frail. Expect bigger things to come from her. KH Bella Vancouver’s unisexual indie popsters breezed and smiled their way through a lovely and encouraging set of keyboard- and guitar-driven ass-shaking fun for the whole family. Switching between New Order-style synth pop tracks and more straight ahead indie rockers, Bella were a joy to see live, as they switched instruments and brought people on stage to dance, and just generally had fun. Bella are a group of cheerful innocents worth embracing. KH Braille It was difficult figuring out what was more cringe-worthy about Portland, OR-based rapper Bryan "Braille" Winchester: the sparse crowd, the way he kept mispronouncing the name of the venue or his starchy stiff break dancing. Dude’s got some aiight beats — his latest work, Shades of Grey, is passable — and semi-capable mic skills, but surely Braille can see that he sorely needs to work on his stage presence. Considering he’s worked with Kno of CunninLynguists and 9th Wonder of Little Brother, perhaps there’s hope for him yet. RP Cadence Weapon Very much aware of the incessant hype surrounding his return to Toronto, Edmonton’s hip-hop prodigy delivered the goods to a crowd of eager-looking indie rock types, alternatively speaking and screaming his guts out into the mic. The highlight of the set may have been the highly sexual dancing of a middle-aged couple right at the front of the stage, proving the universal appeal of genuinely great music whatever the genre. SS Cage & Camu Tao Cage hyped the crowd with an impressive set comprised primarily of tracks from Hell’s Winter and other newer material, with "The Death of Chris Palko” serving as a segue for hype man Camu Tao, who delivered his verse on the song much better live. The rest of Camu Tao’s short set of screechy speed metal raps from his upcoming album got annoying real fast. Thankfully, Cage got the crowd moving again when he finished with "Agent Orange.” TQ Cities in Dust One of the latest Paperbag signings, Hamilton’s Cities in Dust blazed through their post-hardcore spazz-rocking mayhem as though they were in the middle of a nuclear meltdown. Singer Zach Frank got the packed crowd into freak mode by flailing about uncontrollably, going so far as to overturn a large table at the end of their fairly stunning set. Not quite hardcore’s next saviours, but a lively bunch of upstarts nonetheless. KH The Diableros Toronto’s newest pop darlings found an early Saturday night slot jammed with eagerly anticipating bodies. Performing the bulk of their recently released debut album, their swooning romantic noise pop delivered in full. The sweet combination of Farfisa organ, choppy, shimmering guitars and singer Pete Carmichael’s beautifully callow voice presented a grand result, piercing many ears and hearts as the fusion came stridently through the speakers. CL Femme Generation The four friendly dudes of Femme Generation took the stage for all it was worth, energetically dashing their way through the urgent and challenging rock songs that fill their fantastic Permafrost debut, Brothers and Sisters, Alone We Explode. Definitely one of Toronto’s brightest hopes, Femme Generation possess a rare gift: they can write impossibly catchy, even danceable rock songs that also contest pop conventions, distancing them so much from mediocre rock music. KH Five Blank Pages Taking the punk-inspired musical aggression of some of their Brampton, ON-based peers and combining it with soft, sincere vocals, the band sometimes sounds like an amped-up, less suicidal Elliott Smith. Their new material showed an even greater sonic growth, taking full advantage of their recently added full-time bassist and the vocal talents of all three original members. SS The Fjord Rowboat Even though they were playing to a tiny audience, Toronto locals the Fjord Rowboat proved one of the nicest surprises of CMW this year, swooning believers with their tight and focused shoegaze-tinged dream pop. Shadows of Echo and the Bunnymen and the Cure cover Fjord, but their emotionally viable tunes never approach retread territory. This is definitely a group worth keeping your downcast gaze upon. KH The Frontier Index Another Toronto music biz event, another superb live outing by complex roots rock purveyors the Frontier Index. In the short time this Hamilton area unit have been around, they’ve not only become a CMW and NXNE staple, but have also developed the kind of chemistry and confidence most bands require a decade to cultivate. Add great songwriting and one of the strongest, most distinct vocalists around in Corey Hernden, and it’s a wonder why this band hasn’t blown up and made folks forget about Blue Rodeo already. CM Jesse Dangerously Jesse Dangerously fought the good fight, but problems plagued him from the outset: an early finish by media-darling Shad created a mass exodus from the venue; and just when Jesse started to build the momentum again, a high-pitched fire alarm almost chased out the remaining few. It also cut into Jesse’s performance time, preventing him from finishing with his hypest track. TQ Knorkator Hailing from Berlin, this weird German art-rock ensemble did Mike Myers’ Dieter character proud. The diminutive, heavily tattooed singer wore a thong leotard, the keyboard player bashed on cardboard synthesisers with toilet brushes and for the piece de resistance, they engaged the audience in a bread fight. Now that’s entertainment. None of it took away from their music, which was a hybrid of industrial goth metal and prog rock with a vice-balled Klaus Nomi sound alike on vocals. It was equal parts disturbing, interesting and hysterically funny, which I’m pretty sure was the point. SG Magnet Magnet man Even Johansen promised a quiet set after a wild previous night that had him perform as part of CMW’s fundamentally awkward Indie Awards. And a quiet, subdued performance is exactly what the gifted Norwegian delivered. Far from some sleepy, solo singer/songwriter routine, though, the show saw Johansen accompany himself with rhythm tracks tapped out on the strings and body of his guitar, then looped to form foundations for his ethereal lead playing and emotive vocals. The result was a stellar set that engaged the crowd, save for a cluster of yakking delegates at stage right whom Johansen charmingly chastised into taking their networking to the back of the room. CM The Marble Index Despite an odd choice in venue, Hamilton, ON’s musical saviours rocked a usual top 40 hangout with their customary energetic pop punch, regardless of the fact they had arrived back from a UK tour that day. Showcasing tracks from their forthcoming album, as well as their beer-commercial-approved debut, singer Brad Germain stepped offstage to perform the majority of the set in true fashion — on ground level with his admiring fans. CL Men, Women And Children On an evening where this NYC disco punk outfit were sharing the stage with showstoppers Holy Fuck, these guys managed to hold their own. They were a cross between Electric Six, Hot Hot Heat and the Tubes. They played jittery, dance-y garage rock with a full-fledged freak-out stage show making it a complete package. SG Mothra Playing the guitar-free game with greater live ease than most bands going the bass and drums route these days, BC’s Mothra also draw on the ample sonic possibilities provided by weird-ass keyboard sounds and jarring boy/girl vocal trade-offs. With heavy, catchy riffs sharing song space with intricate jazz breakdowns and complex math rock bridges, this is a band that forces people to pay attention, nod their head and then get confused as shit. SS Pimp Tea Novelty act or hip-hop, East coast style? As the self-proclaimed "super-dude” of Fredericton, NB, MC Pimp Tea keeps it real, small town style. Pimp ran down a few of his greatest hits, including "SuperDude,” "Pimp Tea’s Theme” and "Shake Ya Caboose.” The irreverence continued when Pimp Tea’s "hype man” sauntered onstage in a mechanic’s jumpsuit with a sandwich and a vicious head nod. Super-dude indeed. RP Politic Live Affectionately labelled Politic Awesome by one enthusiastic female fan, Politic Live packed a lot of energy into their seasoned, professional performance. However, it would have been nice to experience what they could have accomplished with an equally energetic crowd they could feed off of rather than one confined to comfy couches. TQ Jon-Rae and the River Arguably the best show of the entire week, Jon-Rae Fletcher and his choir-less River put on a spirited rock show that shook the house and turned everyone into believers. With shy confidence, the spectacled front-man conducted his band with a freeform approach that led to awe-inspiring vocals by cohort Anne Rust D’eye and Jonathan Adjemian’s wildly determined solo on his heavy analog synth. A miraculous performance. CL Republic of Safety This edgy, female-fronted art-punk unit kicked off their set by inviting a Wavelength colleague up on stage to read a refreshingly irreverent poem about CMW that managed to rubbish every Can-rock icon of the past three decades. What followed was a powerful set of catchy, rhythmic and kinetic tunes with enough rough edges to stay well clear of the too-slick, trendy dance punk realm. CM The Robocop Kraus One of the biggest buzz bands of the week lived up to the hype surrounding their first North American visit. Sadly, only a handful of people came out to see what all the fussing over this German no wave band was about and it’s their loss. Showcasing their Epitaph Records debut, They Think They Are..., the band came across like a fatter and slightly less fashionable version of the (International) Noise Conspiracy with a similar brand of ass-shaking post-punk garage rock, only a little more complex. SG Sailboats Are White This Hamilton, ON foursome are really benefiting from the rise of noise rock, but as they prove live, they can throw down one hell of a dance party if they want to. Bringing the Big Black-isms in full, the band were subjected to Kevin Douglas’s erratic front-man mischief, as he abused the P.A., choked himself with his mic chord and of course, half-seriously duked it out with his bass player until a playful football pile-up ensued. CL Shout Out Out Out Out Maybe it was just an off night, but the Edmonton-based synthesisers and drums and basses dance rock collective appeared to be a little off their game. Their live shows are famous for being utterly and completely over the top good. But for whatever reason, they just didn’t seem to be clicking this night. Having said that, however, Shout Out Out Out Out on an off night are still ten times better than most other bands on their best night. SG Sylvie Still fighting to prove themselves as "more than that ex-Despistado band,” these Regina locals are, without a doubt, good enough to exist on their own without the "former members of” tag to sell their melodic, math-y post-punk. Drawing on material spanning their longer-than-everyone-realises career, the band offered a surprisingly lengthy set of tight, compelling songs. SS Tokyo Police Club Who knew that Newmarket, ON had a stake in the fluctuating dance punk scene? Paperbag’s newest act proved that awkward 19-year-olds aren’t so bored in suburbia after all, giving the festival one of its brightest moments with a youthful enthusiasm that remained fresh and doe-eyed over the course of their set. Complete with a flag-waving stranger and fancy signs, TPC got the untried crowd dancing and assisting in their call and response anthems without any requests to do so. CL Vailhalen Perhaps inspired by the absurdity of hauling seven musicians (including two drummers) 3,700 kms to perform a short, one-off showcase, Calgary scene veteran Chris Vail led his talented minions through a brilliantly tight set of melodic, alternately sparse and full-bodied tunes that hit the reference chart squarely between Interpol and XTC. If, in fact, it was Alberta oil money that helped facilitate this weekend highlight, then by all means bring on the gushers. CM Wintersleep Playing to an absolutely packed Horseshoe Tavern, Halifax’s next big/already big thing played a somewhat disappointing set of middle-of-the-road Canrock, ignoring their more intricate and dynamic Hayden-inspired debut full length in favour of songs that jocks will probably love. Sounding more like Pearl Jam than ever, the band had a few great songs mixed in with a bunch of boring ones. SS Wordburglar While the oft-discussed striped burglar outfit was not in effect, Wordburglar still paced back and forth on stage like a caged rhyme animal fed a steady diet of hyper pills. His comedic punch line raps and between song banter continually elicited laughs from the second biggest crowd of the showcase. Who else craved Donair afterwards? TQ