Almost 40 venues were rockin’ last night, and we here at Torontoist were definitely coming a-knockin’ to check out as many bands as possible.
When Canadian Music Week is in town, it provides a great mouthpiece to indie music that you just can’t get anywhere else. With events scattered all over the city, it is a tough process to figure out who to see while still giving a chance to bands that may not be getting as much buzz as they deserve.
Missed out on the festivities? Wish you were there? Well Torontoist was there, and we’ll tell you all about it after the jump.
Thursday night started off at Rancho Relaxo when United Steel Workers Of Montreal took the stage. This six-piece ensemble crowded the stage with instruments ranging from an accordion, mandolins, guitars, a double bass, and a banjo. The Steel Workers somehow managed to throw these instruments together to create a unified melody that was further accentuated by the gruff vocals of Gern F. and raspy redhead Felicity Hamer. Their sound is unique, and best described as citygrass: urban alternative country with a touch of punk rock. We weren’t at all surprised when Gern told stories about an old friend with whom he would drive around in a pickup truck, and then sang a song about “drinking beer and not listening to your mother.” When the audience members shush one another to listen to Gern tell a story, it’s no wonder that the Toronto Star named them one of the top six bands to watch at CMW. They are also playing at The Silver Dollar Room at midnight on Friday, or with the Pipettes on Saturday at The Rivoli.
Next up at Rancho Relaxo came Two Dollar Bash. Comprised of three guys from Glasgow and one from Paris who are all currently living in Berlin, it was a bit intriguing that their sound is self-described as folky americana. With harmonicas, guitars, and mandolins at hand, their songs were of an ever-changing style. First they had a classic country western sound, and then they morphed to old time rock and roll sung in French, before settling on a sound that seemed strangely like that of Holly McNarland. Despite the spontanaety, or perhaps because of it, this entertaining set invoked images of eating in a rusty spoon diner while on a road trip to nowhere.
From here we went to Neutral for a bit less country and a bit more punk rock. Unfortunately what we met was the lovechild of Billy Talent and Green Day throwing a temper tantrum. The Million Dollar Marxists are a group of boys from Ottawa who have names like Luke Nuclear and Steve Fantastique. The mic-twirling, beer-spitting, amp-kicking antics of the group got tiring as their set wore on, and they got cut short with 3 songs left to go on their setlist. To give them credit, Timmy Two Times did play a mean set of drums and when he wasn’t leaving the stage in the middle of a song, David Q’s keyboarding gave a nice touch. But their music is better saved for someone’s basement, where no one cares if Nuclear jumps on one of the few audience members present and has to be dragged back on stage. It’s been done, boys, and it isn’t entertaining anymore.
Up next came The Vulcan Dub Squad. These boys slowly appeared on the stage, dressed like Weezer in the video for their song Buddy Holly. Once the music started, it was obvious that the similarities ended there. Part punk, part pop, without the sugary sweet annoyancies of the pop punk movement, The Vulcan Dub Squad were an entertaining delight. Sounding at times like The Flaming Lips, the melodic guitars sounded poetic and dreamy at times, and then switched quickly to 70’s style punk. Frontman Ranbir Gundu was charismatic and engaging, and spoke with the small audience between songs about whatever entered his head at the time. When he got tired, he would sit on an antique chair and pretend to talk on a rotary phone while smoking a pipe, and then pick up his guitar and play with the rest of the band. When Gundu thanked the audience for coming to see them instead of seeing the buzz bands, you thanked him for justifying the decision.
The night would not have been complete without seeing Les Breastfeeders at The Silver Dollar Room. This punk rock group from Montreal are fun, funky, and French, which is always a great combination. The best part by far would be tambourinist Johnny Maldoror, who took the stage wearing a faux-fur vest and plenty of black eyeliner, and drunkenly leapt around like he owned the place. His rhythmic tambourine fit in nicely with the tight guitars and fast drumming to create an amazing, intricate sound that takes talent not normally seen in today’s music industry. The stunning vocals from Luc and Suzie McLelove work so well you don’t even mind that the lyrics are French. The most important thing is that the audience at this show had a blast, some of whom were moshing in the front, others laughing at Maldoror swinging from the ceiling, and at least one guy doing the Twist up by the front of the stage. Magnifique!
Photos of Les Breastfeeders and Million Dollar Marxists by Amanda Buckiewicz