Our breakdown of the shows we caught on the third day of Canadian Music Week.
On the front lines of CMW on the first non-weeknight. The following are the reports from our travels.
Pre-Show Hype: Strong if you listen to Proud FM, which presented the show and talked it up several times an hour. Minimal otherwise.
Crowd: A mix of queers, nerds, and fancied-up bar girls. And one of those so-cool, sunglasses-inside, older gents.
Performance: In their bio posted on the CMW website, Dragonette’s Martina Sorbara (yes, the daughter of Ontario’s former finance minister) and Dan Kurtz (also of live drum-and-bass act The New Deal) suggest they have no filler songs. Whether that’s simply not true, or if the venue’s sound system wasn’t able to transmit the details of their perky and precise electro-pop, is unclear. However, the gays in the front row knew all the words, which Sorbara sang with spirit, her candy-coated voice seeming surreal coming out of her skinny-jeaned, thick-banged body.
Best Moment: The first second of “Hello,” Dragonette’s ubiquitous radio-hit collaboration with Martin Solveig—everyone began cheering, dancing, and generally losing their shit.
Miscellaneous: Sorbara refers to the style of music she made pre-Dragonette—lady-with-a-guitar Lilith Fair–style songs—as “tamponics.” And so shall the rest of us from now on.
Pre-Show Hype: As part of the Arts & Crafts CMF Showcase, the line-up was one of the best on the schedule.
Crowd: The start of the weekend, coupled with the calibre of the bill, translated to a room that was nearing capacity.
Performance: Over layers of sequenced bass and echoing loops, the band delivered a solid if not spectacular set, fraught with a few technical issues that appeared to visibly bother the members. Despite these problems, they sounded like what U2 might have developed into if they had journeyed down a path including thick waves of moody synth rather than giant disco balls shaped like lemons. It was a rather subdued and procedural performance, perhaps a side effect of the existential dread lacing their otherwise danceable songs.
Best Moment: The part where they announced that the sound troubles were “all part of the show.” It’s always best to keep a sense of humour about these sorts of things.
Miscellaneous: The group will have their first full-length released on the label this spring.
Pre-Show Hype: Low to non-existent
Performance: All we can say here is: too bad these guys were at 10 p.m. Wrongbar is a dance-party type of place, and if this show had happened a couple hours later, it would have been off the chain. No matter, the dudes of Humans put on a strong show regardless. Mixing funky dance beats with guitar riffs and live vocals in a way so pleasing to the ear and feet, they sounded something like an amped-up take on Postal Service. Also: It’s always a pleasure when electronic musicians act like they really like their music.
Best Moment: Every time the longer-haired Humans dude was flailing to the beat.
Miscellaneous: This show left us yearning for the dance party that could have been. We hope they come back and play at a more appropriate hour.
Pre-Show Hype: Medium.
Crowd: Totally gung-ho.
Performance: Mathambo (real name Nthato Mokgata) took to the stage in a DJ Jazzy Jeff circa 1990–esque getup and commanded the stage with his undefinable melange of Afrobeat and R&B-infused dance pop.
Best Moment:Anytime the artist rapped instead of sung.
Miscellaneous: We spoke with Mathambo after his set. He said he’d just arrived in Toronto from NYC and was probably much more exhausted than his boisterous set let on.
Because Slash was particular to the point of being a prima donna about whom he would allow to capture his supreme essence, our photographer was denied the ultimate privilege of taking any shots. In lieu of this, and in case anyone is wondering who this mysterious Slash fellow is, we provide you with a helpful video that should serve as a reminder.
Pre-Show Hype: Sky-high. He was arguably the biggest name the festival had to offer.
Crowd: It was a veritable wall of people. No one could move an inch. Those that tried quickly apologized for the attempt and resigned themselves to their designated spot in the solid mass of humanity.
Performance: Often it is said that someone will look larger in person. Somehow, Slash’s top hat appeared smaller in person—and we mean that as a compliment. The entire band, including Slash, was gargantuan by comparison and tore through a set of brash and ballsy rock ‘n’ roll noteworthy for the sheer amount of solo opportunities afforded to Slash. People will debate endlessly about the greatest guitar players, but Slash certainly demonstrated that while he can shred with the best, he is an even better showman. Myles Kennedy’s booming voice was almost enough to bury any thoughts of Axl, even if he does share with Rose the type of overblown rock voice that started sounding a little amusing outside of the ’80s.
Best Moment: In the middle of their set, they pulled out the show-stopper. That recognizable guitar riff rang out, the lighters were thrust into the air, and there was no doubt it was the Guns N’ Roses classic, “Civil War.”
Miscellaneous: At 46, Slash would appear to be approaching the retirement age for wearing leather pants.
Pre-Show Hype: Fairly high. Williams is a legend.
Crowd: Energetic and diverse.
Performance: Raucous. As a friend of a friend put it, “Crass should just kill themselves right now.”
Best Moment: Every time Williams violently relaunched into a song after spoken word interludes.
Miscellaneous: Disgustingly talented Williams’ original claim to fame as one of North America’s most highly esteemed slam poets is undeniable in his often powerful and occasionally painful lyrics; a surprising proportion of the crowd seemed to know all of them.
Pre-Show Hype: These boys from Humber College are cover boys as of this week, but their jazz covers have been blowing up on the internet and throughout Toronto for some time now. So, very high.
Crowd: Oh, the crowd. A mix of hip hop fans, hipsters, and jazz nerds (all young) crammed to the front of Wrongbar and when the band came on 35 minutes late, just let loose. Mosh pits, head banging, fist pumping, two-and-a-half crowdsurfers, and a stage dive ensued. To a jazz band.
Performance: Drummer Alex Sowinski, keyboardist Matt Tavares, and bassist Chester Hansen (aged 20, 21, and 19 respectively—barely legal to play their own 19+ show), took the stage with extra swagger, a copy of NOW in Sowinski’s hand, which meant for faster, harder tunes that the audience lapped up. Not only did they prove they had musical chops beyond their years, they were also pretty psyched themselves. “This is so cool, we weren’t even going to be a band,” gushed Sowinski.
Best Moment: Bringing back the previous act, Ango, to sing the lyrics for James Blake’s “Limit to Your Love,” just after announcing that the band will play Coachella this summer.
Miscellaneous: It bears repeating that these guys are 19 to 21 years old.
Verdict: A good 9.75/10
Pre-Show Hype: Huge, once it was announced that Dan Mangan was the secret guest at the Arts & Crafts showcase.
Crowd: At a fever pitch.
Performance: Amazing. Without question one of the best of CMW so far.
Best Moment: Though Mangan crowd surfing comes in a close second, the best moment was at the very end of the night, when Mangan played an encore song standing on a table out in the middle of the crowd at 3 a.m.
Miscellaneous: Dan Mangan’s finely crafted set, with barn-burning foot-stompers (“Sold”) and touching emotional ballads (“Basket”), kept the audience excited into the early morning.