What you should see on CMW's second day.
What acts should you see on this second night of Canadian Music Week? We’ve got a few ideas.
Lead singer/guitarist Murray Lightburn may be the only remaining member of Montreal indie-pop outfit The Dears’ original lineup, but the revolving-door formula seems to have served the group well in terms of longevity (The Dears formed way back in 1995). It hasn’t hurt the band’s ability to crank out totally listenable, head-bob-worthy soul-pop ditties, either. Though it’s been nearly a decade since British music bible NME deemed The Dears as “Probably the best new band in the world,” the sextet is still at it; their last album, 2011’s Thrones, was even long-listed for last year’s Polaris Music Prize. But really, the best reason to see the band is for their notoriously mind-blowing live performances, which CHARTattack.com once described as “the sonic equivalent of seeing the face of God.” Okay, sold.
Go if: You read that “sonic equivalent of seeing the face of God” bit.
Sometimes, when you’re broke, evening CMW shows just aren’t an option. Luckily, Young Lions Music Club and Humble Empire are brining back Live Near Bellwoods afternoon programming, which is totally free. The first session starts today at 2 p.m., featuring artists like Kalle Mattson, Half Moon Run, Louise Burns, and Teenage Kicks—all of which we’d pay to see anyway. Sessions continue on Friday and Saturday, featuring Army Girls, Rouge, ALX, and Ben Caplan—so for all your friends that cite time or money as barriers to the CMW experience, there is really no excuse.
Go if: You need to get the biggest bang for your non-existent buck.
If it were standard practice to make CMW recommendations based on an artist’s pedigree alone, Montreal-born Martha Wainwright would be a shoo-in for every must-see list the town over. But actually, the singing/songwriting daughter of musicians Loudon Wainwright III and the late (and great) Kate McGarrigle, and sister of Rufus Wainwright, belongs on all those must-see lists anyway, because of her arsenal of perfect folk songs about heartbreak. As the artist behind one of the most expertly named albums possibly ever (2008’s I know You’re Married but I have Feelings Too) graces the El Mocambo downstairs stage for the festival’s ode to La Belle Province, concertgoers keen on crying out their last remaining drops of winter SAD will surely have their chance.
Go if: You’ve had your ticker shredded recently.
Canadian Music Week can be quite a frenzy, jumping from venue to venue, dancing and cheering yourself into a stupor, spending too much on drinks at each show, and so on. Wouldn’t it be nice to take a breather for a bit? Check out Lake Forest, better known as the Wilderness of Manitoba frontman Will Whitwham. His solo album under a new name, Silver Skies, is the result of a personal challenge to write one song per day while on tour with his band last winter. It’s a slow, dreamy, smooth blend of folk and naptime.
Go if: You need a musical tranquilizer.
If you can even come close to imagining what it’s like to take some “fuck” out of a glass bowl and then stack it with some feces, you are the exact type of person who would benefit from a trip to the Danforth Music Hall on Thursday night. Reggie Watts—who invented the idea mentioned in the previous sentence in his daring hit “Fuck Shit Stack”—is basically the funniest thing going on in music, or otherwise is today’s most musically-able comedian. Watts, who stole the show from Conan O’Brien when the latter swung through town on his kicked-off-the-airwaves comedy tour, makes tripped-out music composed live using loops of himself making weird noises. While this show isn’t technically part of Canadian Music Week (it appears instead under the affiliated Canadian International Comedy Festival banner), we wouldn’t want you to miss one of the week’s most promising events on a technicality.
Go if: You can imagine what it’s like to take some “fuck” out of a glass bowl and then stack it with some feces. Or if you enjoying having a good time.
In late 2010, Cristina Taborda, a local musician with a haunting talent as a fado singer, died suddenly. She was a prominent fixture in a cross-section of local communities, which wasn’t too surprising for someone who, among other things, was a member of or affiliated with something like ten bands. Toronto’s Parks & Rec was one of them. Seemingly an homage to our “city within a park” in both name and music, Parks & Rec represent the same open-souled love of one’s town that Taborda’s friends remember in her. Their latest EP, 2011’s Seeds Grown Here, is an affecting seven-track compilation dedicated to their former bandmate.
Go if: You want to feel like you’re drinking wine (shhh) at Trinity Bellwoods and hearing really great music, except you’re at Rancho Relaxo.
If you’ve haven’t had a chance to watch the Mighty Rhino explode rhymes all over the faces of his multitude of adoring fans, you have been missing a Toronto legend in the making. What began with a dream and a knack for Hip Hop Karaoke has turned into a budding rap career for the man otherwise known as Noah Goodbaum. After impressing HHK host More or Les with his ability to deliver even the fastest and most aggressive songs with accuracy, Les put Rhino on an album and the rest is history. His CMW show is part of a lineup curated by Shad, arguably Canada’s best modern-times MC, so expect Rhino and the rest of the gang to surpass expectations.
Go if: You’re sick of dudes like Drake who can’t actually rap.
So here’s the thing about country music: if it’s good, you won’t know it from the radio, or from any source but a live performance. This is a moment of editorializing, full disclosure, but the airwaves have been dripping for a long, terrible time with the worst examples of country-pop, none of which epitomizes the working-class, renegade, libertarian characteristics that the best country music always has. Don’t think about Toby Keith or Shania Twain or some crap about the American flag, think about Waylon Jennings and the impulse to break pint glasses over a man’s head. Think about a rattlesnake rising from the grass, wailing on a Telecaster. That’s country. Does London’s The River Junction Band fit this particular mold? No idea. Like most country acts, it’s more or less impossible to know through a pair of speakers. Still, there’s something about these guys that seems equally at home on Queen West as in the Kawarthas.
Go if: Your flannel is from somewhere other than Exile, even in spirit.
The bio on the CMW website for Dirty Penny must surely be one of the longest, and if not, is almost certainly the most bizarre. The Toronto band has made a name for themselves with live shows that hover somewhere between performance art and a bad drug trip. Led by enigmatic vocalist JC Penny, the rest of the lineup is filled out by instrumentalists with names like Lucky Louis and Grimlock. The fact that they play some pretty catchy tunes with titles like “If I Wuz A Cat” and “Maximum Sherpa” only clouds the issue further.
Since they haven’t released an album since 2009’s Sage Against The Machine, one can only hope that the band has grand and twisted ambitions for the near future. Perhaps there is none better qualified to predict this for them than the group’s de facto biographer, Alex Magnussen, who once stated that “Dirty Penny will go down in rock history unless God or a scorpion is holding a grudge against the band.”
Go if: You are not afraid to journey down the rabbit hole.
In true punk rock spirit, Forever Came Calling is committed to kicking down doors themselves, rather than waiting for them to be opened. Paying homage to their fellow southern California forefathers, the hard-working group of young upstarts play melodic, energetic rock at a breakneck clip. Now, they’re even finding themselves sharing stages with the same old-school acts that inspired them—and more than holding their own.
In addition to their live performance at CMW, they can also be seen in the Vans Warped Tour documentary, No Room For Rockstars, screening as part of the festival’s accompanying film program. It reveals them to be dedicated to all of the true tenets of the punk movement, including the formative struggle to keep a broken-down van on the road for months on end while hustling for gas money and working in desperation to be heard. The film is sure to bring the band to a wider audience and in fact—as evidenced by their appearance here in Toronto—it already has.
Go if: You think a sweaty mosh pit might be a fun way to spend a Thursday night