Canadian Music Week 2004 March 3 to 6, Toronto ON

Canadian Music Week 2004 March 3 to 6, Toronto ON
By Andrew Steenberg, Cam Lindsay, Chuck Molgat, Del F. Cowie, Jill Wilson, Joshua Ostroff, Neil Haverty, Noel Dix, Star DT and Stuart Green The Barmitzvah Brothers Guelph, ON's the Barmitzvah Brothers, not Jewish and not related, are the trio of Jenny Mitchell, Geordie Gordon and John Jemeson Merrit backed by music-wielding sisters the Lethargians, as well as a few other friends. Showcasing their acclaimed "indie polka folk rock circus," their guise was as charming and offbeat as the Danielson Famile's, whom they obviously love. The humble musings of Mitchell were adorable and the powerhouse drumming of Gordon (who suffered an injury from his poundings) saw him repeatedly bouncing off of his stool. CL Blue Skies At War London's answer to Boysetsfire weren't about to let a less than packed house dampen their spirits. The quintet's high-energy melodic screamo metal charge was in fine form. SG The Candidates The Candidates dodged CMW's milieu of cologne and cowboy-hat sportin' Albertans. Pity, since both parties generally like their music loud and familiar. The band's completely inoffensive brand of rock and/or roll seemed an admirable homage to the power chord and the animated camera-hamming guitar solo. Not quite the Beatles, the boys should ditch the three-lead approach and decide who the real singer is, but, all in all, one of the more pleasant surprises of the least surprising CMW in years. AS Death From Above Toronto hellions Jesse F. Keeler and Sebastien Grainger are loud, hirsute and startlingly fun for a band that writes songs about "cum shelves" and having the resolve to grow a moustache. Vocalist/drummer Grainger felt a shirt redundant and didn't mind swapping sweat with the crowd while seriously threatening everyone's auditory future, proving once and for all that bass, drums and the occasional vocoder is more than enough to both frighten and move a crowd. AS Detective Kalita In a hushed, attentive room, DK's expanded line-up helped the usual two-piece band convey their wispy blend of folk, country and pop. Casual between-song discussions and musical chairs with the multi-instrumentalists made for some interesting moments, yet it was the songs of Andy Swan and Shayne Cox that shone brightest. CL Elliot Brood Although their Saturday set would have been better-suited for a backwoods bush party, the duo made due, treating the audience to rousing stomps and old-fashioned bluegrass barnburners. The suit-clad vocalist informed the audience that he had been sick lately but the added rasp couldn't have come off more effectively. NH Embassy Kitchener, ON's Embassy crew roll deep and had plenty of MCs on hand to grab the mic at a moment's notice, keeping the energy levels high while they delivered their rhymes sprinkled with gritty intellect. It's a shame that the muddy sound on their set prevented them from coming off as well as they could have. DFC Eye 2 Eye This Montreal trio brought what they called a "theatrical brand of hip-hop" to their performance, replete with between-song diaper commercial endorsements. While the humorous elements sometimes sidetracked the momentum, the interplay between the two MCs and the intricate lyricism also ensured that the group was not merely a novelty act. DFC The Front A live hip-hop band with two skilled poets on the mic and a tight rhythm section makes for a deadly combination. Whether laying down breakneck funk or smoothed-out jazz, the animated crew tore through breaks with great intensity, twisting adjectives with ease. Keep an eye on these cats. ND Hostile Takeover Making their live debut, Hostile Takeover's tight-knit post-punk packed a mighty punch similar Mission Of Burma and Drive Like Jehu. Led by ample guitar riffs complemented by a steady rhythm section, there was a surprisingly high level of melody in the vocals that showed anger can be sweet. For a first gig, it was a triumph. CL Metric I haven't been so blown away by a live set from a chick-fronted band since I caught an early No Doubt set back in the day. So succexxxy vocalist Emily Haines and company breathed new life into their apocalyptic "no wave Pixies meets Martha and the Muffins" dance party sound, delivering the kind of performance that should make them bona fide rock stars. SG Moneen Despite notoriously riotous live sets that fuse mayhem with musical precision, these guys continue to improve. With all the flailing dreadlocks and killer kung-fu moves, it's a wonder no one was seriously injured. Their parents, tucked safely at the back of the room, must have been proud. SG Syreeta Neal Showcasing a breadth to her soulful sound that incorporated healthy elements of the blues and a surprisingly funky reading of Coldplay's "Yellow," Neal impressed with her versatile voice and stage presence, which had those in attendance forsaking small talk to concentrate on her performance. DFC No Luck Club The Chan brothers served up a mesmerising set of hip-hop and funk, as one dropped laptop beats for the other to pulverise with astounding turntable skills. The siblings managed to ride an incredible wave of stunning instrumental production from start to finish, even managing to squeeze in the Who's "Teenage Wasteland" to top off their hip-hop-based set. These Vancouver beat-makers are easily one of Canada's greatest musical treasures. ND Novillero Winnipeg's Novillero played to a packed venue and their exuberant retro-pop never sounded more vital. Trumpeter Rusty Matyas was aided by the addition of some of the 'Peg's best horn players, on loan from ska concerns the Afterbeat and JFK and the Conspirators, who gave a brassy edge to the band's swingin' '60s vibe and Rod Slaughter's yelped vocals. JW Point Blank Rugged and uncompromising, veteran Toronto crew Point Blank delivered their street soliloquies with intensity and piercing precision in an unvarnished set, playing to an enthusiastic crowd who got especially live for the single "Thin Line." DFC The Postage Stamps This dapper and quirky Toronto outfit brings three guitarists to the stage and puts them all to good use. An odd hybrid of post punk agit-pop and old school non-symphonic prog rock, their contradictory sound is both complex and effectively hooky. SG The Reason Practitioners of an all-too common brand of melodic screamo, but unlike so many of their peers, they've obviously spent time developing new approaches. Theirs is a sound that's more melodic and interesting than 90 percent of what bands that are content to just rip off Thursday and Grade are doing. SG The Sadies & Randy Bachman Legendary guitarist Randy Bachman hauled his axe onstage at the Sadies' behest for three tunes, including a rendition of the Guess Who's wild, hard-rocking 1967 B-side "It's My Pride." Apparently performing it for the first time in over three decades, consummate professional Bachman didn't miss a note, although the tempo was more relaxed than the Nuggets-worthy original. The room greeted the obscure gem with the same familiar enthusiasm afforded "Runnin' Back to Saskatoon" and the set-ending lunch pail anthem "Taking Care of Business." CM Shankhini & Ndidi Cascade These two Vancouver-based MCs brought differing yet complementary styles to the stage during their set. Performing songs alternately and ending with a collaborative track, Shankhini's energetic stage presence was accentuated by the positive vibes in her singing and MCing, while Ndidi Cascade's ridiculously quicksilver and seemingly effortless rhyme flow ensured she made a very impressive showing. DFC Singing Saw Shadow Show Sheltered by a giant white sheet, the musician's silhouettes danced with shadows of various sizes and shapes, all to the tune of the band's Godspeed-esque tool-based compositions, featuring multiple saws crying in unison alongside a euphonium and the occasional rhythmic backbone. They showed a level of professionalism that isn't often seen in a rag-tag group of independent musicians. NH Tef & Don For what it is, this duo viciously ripped mics over hardcore production. There's definitely skill to be found in this outfit, but if you're not feeling their thugged-out hardships and commercial-driven tempos, their talent is quickly lost in a mess of grunts and Footlocker-sponsored attire. ND Test Tone Channel Matlock Records alums Test Tone Channel filled the diamond in the rough role for this year's festival. Although only a few people saw it, the quartet-turned-trio played beautifully, boasting a sound akin to bands like the Wooden Stars or the Sea and Cake. If the syncopated drumming and brainy guitar lines weren't enough, a bass player that plays keyboard parts with his feet should impress anyone. NH The Trews With a genuine radio hit under their belts, the alt-retro riff-rockers were quite ready to give a spirited performance. Extensive touring in support of their debut disc has given them a stage presence that was previously missing. Their mock star posing and unbridled energy were reminiscent of fellow transplanted east coasters Sloan. SG Tricky Woo The return of the Woo incited a constant barrage of catcalls and fanfare. Tricky Woo played a host of new songs and some old favourites, thankfully bypassing the wank-rock tendencies of 1999's Les Sables Magiques in favour of the full-blown rock style of their classic Sometimes I Cry. Upon initial inspection, the new songs seem equally potent as that masterpiece's, proving that our old friends Tricky Woo are back and out for blood. NH The VaGiants As always, Winnipeg rockers the VaGiants grabbed the audience by its collective throat and turned the dial to "throttle." No shrinking violets, they forced themselves on a crowd crammed up to the stage and made them listen. It took guitarist Craig Bjerring and bassist Brendon Ehinger just a couple of songs before they launched themselves into the crowd's welcoming arms. Singer Joanne Rodriguez was suffering from a slight cold, so her voice wasn't the force of nature it usually is, but the pint-sized powerhouse is a magnetic stage presence, especially when she's twirling her black satin pasties. JW Waking Eyes Though the room felt right for Waking Eyes' set, industry bigwigs seemed more interested in networking than applauding — or paying attention. Unfortunately, the Winnipeg-based band's set further confirmed that it has strayed from its former Beatles-esque beauty and ventured into vaguely generic rock territory. That said, the band's undeniable energy and unquenchable thirst for melody might just set them apart from the hordes. JW Warsawpack With lead woodwind Simon Oczkowski crouched at his effects rig, Warsawpack kicked off their CMW set with a stunning new track, one drenched in digitally-manipulated sax and wrapped up in a tight, crawling groove. Moving through material from both of their G7 releases, the rock-oriented crowd seemed surprisingly fond of the band's biting take on politically-inclined hip-hop. Vocalist Lee Raback was especially animated for this show, most notably during the "Two-prong! R-C-A! Stereophonic! Cable cock!" battle cry of "TV Eyes." NH