Here's what to see tonight, tomorrow and Sunday. (Although honestly, Sunday is kind of a half-day at best.)
Not sure where to go for CMW? Don’t worry. We have you covered.
Edmonton’s Cadence Weapon may be Canada’s best live hip-hop performer. He manages to combine fast, tight rhyming with a manic, punk-rock-type energy. If you haven’t seen him, you’re not only missing out, you’re living an incomplete life. Go check him out tonight or regret it forever.
Go if: There is literally no valid reason for you not to go.
At 20 years old, Toronto’s own Lowell has already worked with producer Martin Terefe and members of Coldplay, Mew, and A-ha. She has toured with The Raveonettes, and played to a crowd of 600,000 in Denmark (her first professional performance, no less) in a lineup beside Bon Iver, Jack White, and Björk. While she owes much of her current success to her contacts in the U.K., Lowell is finally starting to break on her home turf with her debut album, featuring the single “Shake Him Off.” Luckily, there are a few chances to catch “Canada’s next great pop export” at CMW: on Friday night at Lee’s Palace, she opens for The Besnard Lakes. Saturday afternoon, at 12:30 p.m., she performs as part of CBC Music’s Nooners. That night, she opens for Austra at The Danforth Music Hall.
Go if: You want to say “I saw her before she was super famous.”
The king of moody, dark rap, Toronto’s D-Sisive decided to hang up his spurs late last year when he dropped his final project under the D-Sisive moniker: Jonestown 3: The Dream is Over. That said, he’s still playing live for a while, and you should go see him while you can. A live D-Sisive show is sort of like seeing a very good rap show and a very good, very bleak stand-up comedy show all at the same time.
Go if: You haven’t seen D-Sisive before. This may be your last chance.
The biggest buzz at CMW so far hasn’t been about a band—it’s been about an anonymous (until recently) Tumblr account with the tag line “death to the Canadian Music Industry.” The most popular post so far has been one savaging nearly every one of the 30 acts BlogTO picked as “must-sees”—with Legato Vipers as a notable exception. Why? They’re “fresh”, and they put on a “killer show” with “surprises.” Fresh seems like an odd adjective for a band steeped in a throwback surf-punk sound, but we definitely agree that they have great live chops. Their members are culled from the rosters of other quality local outfits. And who doesn’t like surprises?
Go if: You want to see something different at the end of the night.
Georgia-based mathcore band The Chariot has a reputation for being strange in a genre that is already defined by complexities and complications. The group is known for its raw and energetic live performances, where it does so much more than advanced musical arithmetic on stage. The Chariot’s latest record, One Wing, was definitely its finest, combining the ferociousness of the band’s live sets with moments of scientifically precise epiphany. Chariot is unafraid to let a song break apart entirely if the results of the destruction will be productive, making it the most interesting and innovative band on this bill.
Go if: You prefer your song structures destabilized and your melodies fractured.
It’s not “After Runnymead,” to jump on an error very glaringly obvious in Canadian Music Week’s Gig Guide. It’s “After Runnymede,” and that’s a very appropriate, meaningful name. At last year’s CMW, Christien Paul—the singer-songwriter behind After Runnymede—and Eliza Niemi (cello) performed a laid-back set at the Central, then took a moment to chat with us afterwards. Runnymede, Paul pointed out, is the arterial demarcating line at the westernmost point of The Junction, the boundary after which Toronto stops being Toronto, per se. Quietly intense and deeply, exhaustively literate, Paul’s music rings with the sparse feel of an urban hinterland. There are big ideas in this small, intimate musical package. The neighbourhood that After Runnymede seems to celebrate could be described in the same way.
So get it right, CMW. It’s “After Runnymede.”
Go if: You like your music like you like your books.
Back in 2011, we declared Blood Ceremony to be Toronto’s most original band, and we’re sticking to it. The group’s fusion of occult rock and doom metal, performed with absolute commitment to a spooky, smokey aesthetic, has earned it places on tours with bands like Electric Wizard and Ghost B.C. (formerly known as Ghost). Alia O’Brien is a spellbinding frontwoman, with the ability to switch from soaring vocalizations, to organ breaks, to dazzling flute solos. Blood Ceremony are opening for Austra, and we have a sneaking suspicion they might just steal the show.
Go if: You’re in the mood to burn some sage and step between the worlds.
Burning Love is Chris Colohan’s latest project. (He’s best known for lending his pipes to seminal metallic hardcore band Cursed, who remain deeply influential today.) This band is more tightly wound and sharp-edged than his previous projects. Burning Love’s music is at once more harsh and abrasive, but also somehow less intense emotionally. It channels a hardcore punk surliness. The group’s latest LP, Rotten Thing To Say, released by Southern Lord in 2012, is a spit-soaked, broken-jawed bit of virulence that just comes across as mean. As a bonus, Burning Love is playing as part the latest Long Winter event, a multi-arts extravaganze hosted and organized by fellow (though much more good-natured, musically) hardcore punks Fucked Up.
Go if: You like your heart served raw and your eardrums bleeding.
Victoria, B.C.’s Aidan Knight still has an adorable babyfaced innocence (and probably always will). The light, romantic tone of his debut album, Versicolour, only played up this image back in 2010. But his latest release, Small Reveal, capitalizes on his talented four-piece band to surround his silky vocals with a mature, full, well-rounded sound. We can only imagine what that will mean for his live show.
Go if: Experimental folk music sounds like something you’d be into.
One of the heroes of the witch-house movement that sprung up a couple years ago, San Francisco’s oOoOO—pronounced “Oh”—makes dark, fascinating, ambient electronic music that borrows at least as heavily from Southern rap legend DJ Screw as it does from Delerium.
(In case you were wondering, the witch-house community has a fixation with having band names be hard to Google. It gives you witch-house street cred.)
Go if: You’ve always wanted to start your own witch-house band, and name it *&^%.
Earlier this month, Montreal psychedelic rock band Suuns released its second full-length album, Images du futur, a follow up to 2010′s praised Zeroes QC. Recorded in two weeks during Montreal’s student riots last summer, Images du futur has an undeniable anger in it, yet Liam O’Neill, Joseph Yarmush, Ben Shemie, and Max Henry deliver a sound that’s still perfect for zoning out. As always, Suuns should deliver a rocking live show that will leave audiences stumbling home in the early morning.
Go if: You’ve got some illegal substances in your pocket.
Edmonton indie dance-punkers Shout Out Out Out Out had an insane 2006. That summer, Not Saying/Just Saying, the group’s inaugural EP, got tons of college-radio airplay. In turn, that airplay got the group a nod at the 2007 Junos for Alternative Album of the Year. By the time Shout played at Harbourfront that very chilly Canada Day, tracks like “Self Loathing Rulz” and “Dude You Feel Electrical” had already become iconic among an increasingly—and enthusiastically—devoted local following. At the Horseshoe Tavern on Saturday night (or, if you like, Sunday morning), you’ll probably see a large, shirtless gaggle of these fans crowded around the stage, chanting, “Shout! Out Out! Out Out!” up to half an hour before the band takes the stage. Going five years strong now, it tends to happen a lot with these guys.
Go if: You not only don’t mind sweat, it defines your concertgoing experience.
Highly danceable Brooklyn-based darkwave act Light Asylum combines the anger of industrial and the catchiness of synth-pop, claiming influences that range from Nitzer Ebb to New Order. Frontman Shannon Funchess has drawn praise for his ability to move from a guttural growl to a strong, almost classical tenor.
Go if: You want to end your festival on a high note.
From San Jose, Costa Rica, The Great Wilderness may be almost too perfect for rounding out your stimulant-heavy, likely hangover-plagued Canadian Music Week. Before playing at last year’s SXSW, the trio—Paola Rogue on vocals and guitar, Jimena Torres on guitars, and Monserrat Vargas on bass and vocals—was described as the dreamy, esoteric musical offspring of British post-punk, inspired by everyone from The Big Pink to Joy Division. The group’s first 2010 EP, Afterimages of Glowing Visions, is, frankly, downright creepy in its ghostly post-apocalyptic imagery. In the case of that five-song EP, of course, such imagery serves to illustrate much more intense inner psychological wanderings. The record explores a range of themes centering on what an “apocalypse” is truly all about. (In this case, the lifting of a veil.) Revelation. Perhaps just what’s needed to mentally sort out what can be a pretty overwhelming week.
Go if: You like where Sigur Rós is going, but wish they went somewhere more Godspeed-y.
Mississauga thrash-metal band Razorwire is using the CMW closing party at the Bovine Sex Club as an opportunity to stage its return after a hiatus. The group shares its lead guitarist, Eytan Gordon, with local party-thrash outfit Fatality, so this is sure to be a show that doesn’t exactly encourage sedate behaviour and sobriety. While Sunday is generally the last gasp of Canadian Music Week, with most show-goers preferring to brunch late and nurse their hangovers, Razorwire is here to make sure the week closes with a bang.
Go if: You think heavy metal should be all about beer, sex, headbanging, and drunken shenanigans.