Meet Exclaim!'s Class of 2023: Bonnie Trash, Dilettante, Jaguar Sun

It's all about Toronto this week, with post-punk exploration at the Monarch Tavern and inventive pop at Lee's Palace

Photos (clockwise from top left): Dilettante by Alex Earl Gray, Bonnie Trash by Nicolette Hoang, J3M by Hilary Steinberg, Jaguar Sun

BY Megan LaPierrePublished Jan 11, 2023

Have you heard? There's a new U2 album on the way, which hopefully will not violate our phones without consent. In the same breath as Bono's name, the streets are abuzz with excitement for another big two: the second week of Exclaim!'s Class of 2023 concert series, proudly supported by Mary Brown's Chicken.

This week is all about Toronto, with some of the hottest local (and local-adjacent) emerging acts in the city taking the stage at the Monarch Tavern on Friday, January 13 (spooky!) and Lee's Palace on Saturday, January 14. Read on to find out a little bit more about the performers.

January 13: The Monarch Tavern


We all know music has the power to transport, but CINDER's sound will take you to a very specific moment of intersection between emotions that refuse to be easily classified. "It's like sitting on a curb during a still night thinking about your past, sad and angry and happy all at once in a big nostalgic wave," says Robyn Bond of the self-stylized "sweatiest band in the GTA." They'll be sweating it out in 2023 with the release of new album, Something Strange and Cloudy Across a Clouded Room, this spring, and are likewise looking forward to moistening the Monarch with a flood of unadulterated indie rock feeling.

Bonnie Trash

In our latest weekly round of sharing the cool goth gospel, it's Bonnie Trash — the Guelph, ON-based project led by twin sisters Emmalia and Sarafina Bortolon-Vettor — and their conjuring of post-apocalyptic doom by way of droning shades of shoegaze and supernatural family folklore. Although they're fresh off the release of last fall's Malocchio, the sisters are already in what they call "ideation mode," currently "trying to achieve the sound of scraping tectonic plates." 2023 will also see Bonnie Trash make their US debut at New Colossus Festival, so it's safe to say their haunting sounds won't be among our best-kept secrets for much longer.

not a band

Toronto's not a band are ready and willing to argue with rowdy Class Of attendees about how they are, in fact, not a band. They may look, feel, sound and smell like a band (somebody has to put the "F" in fart rock, after all), but they're not, okay? However, they will bring what they describe as "kazoo-based psychedelic funk post-hardcore adult contemporary neo-noise skronk" to the Monarch regardless. For them, the new year means "adding more kazoos to our backline, shooting a video and finding ways to tastefully integrate metal zone pedals into our sound," as per the non-band's Danny Alexander.


After successfully living up to their name by driving to Hamilton in rush hour to see Sham Family rip during last week's Class of 2023 affairs, Calgary expats Motorists are honking their way back into town to let you realize a compelling hypothetical: what if Sloan were just three guys? The jangle-pop trio have a bunch of new material to follow their 2021 debut Surrounded tucked away in their trunks for this year, which will also see them perform in Europe for the first time — "to make more money than we do anywhere in North America (we assume)," according to bassist Matt Learoyd. Honk if you love euros!

January 14: Lee's Palace

Jaguar Sun

While it's unclear where the jaguar bit comes from, there's certainly a sense of sun-soaked warmth to Chris Minielly's dreamy, psych-tinged folk-pop. Jaguar Sun's sophomore album, All We've Ever Known, arrived last June, and the Ontarian multi-instrumentalist is eager to bring it to the iconic Lee's Palace stage for the first time. "I've seen some of my favourite shows there long before I started Jaguar Sun so it's pretty surreal getting to play it," says Minielly. Much like his layered and chill music, there are also many strata to the singer-songwriter, whose hottest take about Canadian music is not having a hot take about Canadian music.


Reformed from Class of 2020 grads For Jane, Dilettante are anything but amateurs. Helmed by co-lead vocalists Natalie Panacci and Julia Wittmann, the quintet far more than dabble in the art of the bittersweet throwback bop. They keep things dramatic with soaring synth leads and thick low end on their 2022 self-titled debut, which they're excited to play for you, in addition to catching a mesmerizing set from good pal Theo Vandenhoff all in the same night. You can also probably find Panacci and Wittmann doing their civic duty by trying to convince Dan Burke to run for mayor.

Theo Vandenhoff

"A dirty suit in the corner of a hotel room, a dead dove in its pocket." That's how Theo Vandenhoff describes his sound. While it may seem like an abstract word painting, one quick listen to his baritenor drawl and jagged, '70s- and '80s-inspired synthpop melodramatics and you'll understand immediately. He's gearing up to release a new, "exceedingly romantic and sexy" EP in the spring, the follow-up to 2021's Heartache Is an Empty Room, and there are whisperings that he'll be supporting a cult artist on tour this summer. You'll get to say you knew him when.


Serendipitously, we've circled back to the sweaty note we started on — this is exactly the type of dance party J3M is hoping to facilitate in the hallowed halls of Lee's Palace. He's been seeing shows there for over 10 years, but Class of 2023 will mark the Ottawa-born singer-songwriter's first time performing at the iconic venue as a solo act. J3M's out-of-this-world disco-soul R&B-pop is something he characterizes as the sonic equivalent to "Toni Braxton, Donna Summer, Dua Lipa and John Legend all climb[ing] into bed together while Kylie Minogue films." Hot!

For more information on the Class of 2023 concert series, presented in partnership with the City of Toronto's music office, check out the Facebook event pages and purchase tickets for the shows at both the Monarch and the Horseshoe via Showclix. Advance ticketholders will be randomly selected to win a special on-site prize pack at the shows, including a $50 Mary Brown's Chicken gift card, plus merch from the bands and Exclaim!

Next up:
01/20 Louie Short / Kai Samuels / Eliza Niemi / Alyson McNamara - Monarch Tavern
01/20 Steel Saddle / the Wesleys / Mitch Davis / Bule - L'Escogriffe Bar
01/21 MAX feat. Dave Monks / Nyssa / MBG / Lenny Bull - Horseshoe Tavern

Latest Coverage