Our breakdown of the shows we caught on the second night of Canadian Music Week.
Missed it? Fear not, Torontoist was there for day two of CMW, and we report.
Pre-Show Hype: Reasonably high.
Crowd: Apparently something about Grant’s music really speaks to women. The first three or four rows of fans at the front of the crowd were almost exclusively female.
Performance: Fans hoping to hear familiar tunes may have been disappointed with all the new material. But the performance was spot-on and the crowd seemed to appreciate the new songs every bit as much as favourites like “Dreamer” and “Getcha Good.”
Best Moment: The explosion of dancing during “Getcha Good.”
Miscellaneous: Jenn Grant is a consistently entertaining and lovely performer—we’ve never seen her play a set that wasn’t completely charming.
Pre-Show Hype: Medium
Crowd: Close to capacity, very loud, very drunk and fairly heavy on Aussie expats. Considering Hilltop’s relatively low profile in North America, a surprising number of people in the crowd knew the words to every song.
Performance: As 15-plus year veterans of the Australian hip-hop scene, Hilltop MCs Suffa and Pressure know how to work a crowd. Suffa bounced around the stage like an overgrown, sugared-up toddler, whipping the crowd into a frenzy seemingly at will. Pressure was less kinetic. He relied instead on raw charisma and laser-sharp focus, as evidenced by his near light-speed rapping early in the set.
Best Moment: Pressure and Suffa getting the two sides of the room to yell “Fuck you” at each other before they launched into an amped-up, sing-a-long version of “The Light You Burned.” A close second was watching the Aussies in the room lose their minds for the Hoods’ 2003 domestic break-out hit, “The Nosebleed Section.”
Miscellaneous:The Hoods’ CMW show was actually the first stop on a North American tour in support of their new album Drinking from the Sun.
Pre-Show Hype: Medium. The gloriously loud post-punk ensemble’s coveted midnight time slot in the much-anticipated Hand Drawn Dracula showcase probably didn’t hurt.
Crowd: Sweaty, thrashy, and drunk.
Performance: It’s amazing how much noise a three-piece band is capable of producing.
Best Moment: When drummer Leon Tahney (ex–Sebastian Grainger and the Mountains) materialized from behind his curtain of hair to contribute vocals. It was like being sung to by Cousin Itt.
Miscellaneous: Rituals’ self-titled debut EP, released last October, can be heard through the band’s website.
John K. Samson & The Provincial Band
Pre-Show Hype: Pretty huge, though less than if Samson was playing with The Weakerthans.
Crowd: Engaged and energetic.
Performance: Though they mostly played songs from their recent album Provincial, they busted out some Weakerthans favourites, like “Anchorless,” “Pamphleteer,” and “My Favourite Chords.” The set’s highs and lows kept the audience absolutely enchanted throughout.
Best Moment: For the final song of the encore performance, Samson played an unplugged version of “Virtute The Cat Explains Her Departure.” The audience was absolutely silent until they all joined in on a singalong chorus that ended the night.
Miscellaneous: One of the best—if not the best—show we’ve see so far.
Pre-Show Hype: A lot of people are talking about Half Moon Run because their debut album is set to be released next week.
Crowd: They deliver great grooving tunes, and the audience was definitely swaying. Considering this was the band’s second show ever in Toronto (the first was at last year’s CMW), the crowd they drew was impressive.
Performance: The trio was spot-on with their intricate bass- and percussion-driven rhythms, while Devon Portielje’s unique vocals seemed influenced by Thom Yorke. Plus, it was great to watch guitarist Conner Molander. He’s so physical on stage that he’s almost a kind of backup dancer for the group.
Best Moment: That said, there wasn’t a whole lot of interaction between the performers and the audience. The standout moment was the live performance of their single, “Full Circle.”
Miscellaneous: The chord clip on Portielje’s mic stand was in the shape of a hand, so there’s that.
Pre-Show Hype: Medium? It wasn’t exactly a raging word-of-mouth wildfire, but Parks & Rec seemingly enjoy one of the most loyal followings in Toronto. It was pretty hard not to know about this show.
Crowd: In keeping with that near-familial sense of loyalty, most of those at Rancho were clearly avid fans, or at least enthusiastic seekers. Many of the exchanges between stage and audience felt like the banter of old friends, a warmth that certainly fits the character of this band. What’s great is seeing the newly initiated swept up in the love.
Performance: Whenever Parks & Rec play anywhere—and that could be at a sweaty College Street bar or in High Park—it’s like someone set off a crate full of Roman candles in the middle of the room. Parks & Rec were bursting, laying sparkling guitar work that shimmered behind plaintively soulful vocals. A lot of the songs performed were dedicated to Cristina Taborda, the band’s tragically departed friend and member. You could hear it in every line, lick and harmony.
Best Moment: Probably the two or three minutes hectic minutes of “All These Lives Collide.” Either that or anytime someone new walked in and a breeze came in from outside. It was sweaty up in there.
Miscellaneous: The sound quality and acoustics at Rancho last night were excellent.
Pre-Show Hype: It’s not easy to generate a lot of hype for a band playing in their hometown.
Crowd: But that’s just what they did! The crowd was large and enthusiastic, even by Lee’s standards.
Performance: Like Springsteen, Wildlife plays the kind of songs that fuel the grand dreams of kids longing to escape from dead-end towns. It’s a tricky thing to be a heartfelt, earnest rock band in this day and age—the critics and cynics eat you alive—but these guys wear it well. Lead singer Dean Povinsky’s powerful voice and off-hand delivery were impressively supported by the group’s well-honed chemistry. They dazzled track after track, only periodically slowing things down to ready for the next crescendo.
Best Moment: There can’t be a more tried-and-true stage move than standing atop the bass drum. If used sparingly, it will always generate excitement.
Miscellaneous: A lot of artists, including Wildlife, appear to be using their appearances at CMW to premiere new material.
Pre-Show Hype: Medium.
Crowd: Into it, as best evidenced by a pair of inebriated superfans waltzing against the stage.
Performance: Sure, there’s a certain detached bravado associated with Little Girls’ brand of moody post-punk, but frontman Josh McIntyre’s too-cool-for-school stage posturing feels tired.
Best Moment: See under “crowd.”
Miscellaneous: Sometimes a band is best enjoyed in the comfort of one’s own home. But maybe we’re just feeling surly.
Pre-Show Hype: Pretty, pretty high. Moffatt has been a Quebec darling since she released her first album in 2002. But it wasn’t until her latest album, Ma, that she really blew up in English Canada (because, well, it’s her first release that’s mostly in English).
Crowd: The perfect size. Packed, but with enough room to dance.
Performance: The pixie-haired Moffatt oozed sex appeal as she attacked the microphone, keyboard, and drum surrounding her, bombarding the audience with her breathy yet forceful voice. She was backed by hard-hitting electro-pop from her band, which included members from Creature and Winter Gloves.
Best Moment: The sweat getting too unwieldy, Moffatt pointed out to the radio audience (the show was being streamed on SiriusXM) that she was wiping her face with a brown paper bag, which was all she had. “Rock and roll!”
Miscellaneous: Ma might have been her breakthrough album in the English-speaking world (it was a number-one bestseller on Billboard Canada and iTunes Canada), but we actually preferred her singing in her native tongue.
Pre-Show Hype: High among industry and media, but maybe not so much among the general public.
Crowd: A small crowd in a small space, but that’s to be expected at 1 a.m. on a weekday.
Performance: Though Lake Forest (Will Whitwham) worked with backing musicians on his debut album, he was able to accompany himself during this solo set using a series of electronic effects and loop pedals. We’re not sure if Whitwham is more proficient as a songwriter, as a vocalist, or as a musician—he excels on all three fronts. His set was absolutely captivating.
Best Moment: When Whitwham used looped and layered guitar riffs to close out with a momentous rendition of “Autumn Sun.”
Miscellaneous: The crowd at this show really illustrated that some media, bloggers, and industry pros have a good read on top-notch emerging talent.
Pre-Show Hype: The Dears are dearly beloved, and this show was sold out for a reason.
Crowd: Packed and pumped.
Performance: During the show, frontman Murray Lightburn talked about how the band had been performing for 17 years. That’s a good thing for listeners. The Dears’ tunes are heavy and dark, but mesmerizing. And when you’re face to face with Lightburn’s vocals, guitarist Patrick Krief’s shredding, and keyboardist Natalia Yanchak’s deadpan, it’s a hell of a show.
Best Moment: There were a lot. Lightburn chugged white wine from the bottle and went off on stream of consciousness rants (or, “taking a stroll,” as he called it).
Miscellaneous: The Dears also win the award for most drawn-out finale. It went on long after Lightburn had said his goodbyes and, really sincerely, professed his undying love for each and every single one of us. It felt like we could have eloped, bought a house, fought about politics and our friends, had a kid, and died happily together of old age by the end of the song.
Pre-Show Hype: The group’s video for the song “Dick and Jane” is a charming stunner reminiscent of Feist’s “1, 2, 3, 4.” Shot in a single, unbroken take, it has received over twenty thousand YouTube views and counting.
Crowd: Continuing what seems to be a trend at the festival, the room started disappointingly empty, only to fill up quickly once the music began.
Performance: After taking a few songs to settle in, the group’s bouncy energy easily won everyone over. Lead singer Brandi Sidoryk is a cross between Emily Haines gone pop and a sunnier Fiona Apple—which is to say, she’s a true original. And the other two talented women in the band, Sheryl Reinhardt and Krista Wodelet, dominated the oboe and the bassoon, respectively. The title track from their latest album, Apocalyptic Radio Cynic, garnered a justified extra helping of applause.
Best Moment: It would be hard to beat the hand-clap and whistle-along for “Dick and Jane.”
Miscellaneous: But then again, they did pull off an adorable rendition of Savage Garden’s “I Want You.” Ch-ch-cherry cola!