CMW: Daytime and Miscellaneous Events

For those who were eager to take advantage of all the music in the city, there were lots of events happening in the city before the evening showcases. I happened to catch a few of the events, but missed out on a couple industry showcases (Audio Blood and Ta2 Sound + Music/The MuseBox each hosted one). But hey, there’s always next time.

Live Near Bellwoods: the CMW Daytime Living Room sessions, presented by The MuseBox, Humble Empire, Ta2 Sound + Music and Spinner

On Thursday, March 10th, I hit up the Toronto Institute for the Enjoyment of Music to catch a couple stripped down performances in the intimate and cozy front room of the facility. This was the first of 3 days with 4 hours of short live performances.

I happened to catch Allie Huges and Rich Aucoin. Other notable guests over the course of the festival include Paper Lions, Hooded Fang, Aidan Knight, and the Wilderness of Manitoba. But honestly, each day was worth the whole 4-hour showcase – every lineup featured artists/bands from across the country that were ready to get close and personal with their audience.

I walked into TIFEM to an already mid-session Allie Hughes. Most of the crowd was seated, entirely focused on the songstress. There is something completely riveting about Hughes, as her ability to command stage, even a small makeshift stage such as this one, makes her a force to reckon with. Her stripped down songs were less about theatrics, but you can only take the theatrics out of the set – not out of the performer. Her powerful operatic voice, charismatic stage presence and amusing lyrics all contribute to a great set.

If you’re unfamiliar with Rich Aucoin, then you’re seriously missing out. Aucoin syncs up his music with video, which is one aspect that makes his set a memorable one. But what is undeniable is Aucoin’s completely infectious energy. It didn’t take long for Aucoin to have the audience in his hands, jumping up and down when asked and participating to the fullest. Even Aucoin, after the set, commented that this was one of the most fun sets he’s ever had. That’s right – ever. The intimate environment works to his advantage, as it meant that every single person in the room was participating and having a ball. You could honestly feel the electricity in the room. The ultimate highlight was when everyone was under Aucoin’s parachute, which is really more fun than you can imagine. And honestly, big venue or small venue, what is certain is that Aucoin puts 500% into his set. The crowd is sweating by the end and everyone has a smile on their face. A recommendation isn’t enough; seeing Rich Aucoin is a must.

XM The Verge’s Brown Bottle Sessions

Held in the Algonquin Room at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel on Thursday, March 10th and Friday, March 11th, these events were intimate, but also meant a lot of schmoozing with artists and industry alike. Oh and there was free beer. It didn’t take any convincing for me to hit up this event at least once.

I was able to catch the Friday session, which featured Molly Rankin (whose set I unfortunately missed), Gloryhound, Zeus and The Sheepdogs. The Thursday session also had a solid lineup with Michou, Hollerado and Amos the Transparent.

Gloryhound’s powerpop rock was so stripped down in the 3 songs they played that they were hardly recognizeable. But the vocals were still strong and full of life, which is certainly a strong point of the band.

When introducing Zeus, Jeff Leake of The Verge joked about the band being one he “paid $25,000 to be here” since they won the award for Album of the Year for Say Us. There’s something to be said when a band can completely blow you away with a stripped down version of 3 songs. Zeus managed to do just that, with each of the vocalists taking lead for a song. Mike O’Brien took the lead first with a new song, “The Darkness.” Carlin Nicholson shushed the crowd at the start and from that point forward, the crowd was silenced by the music. Nicholson was on lead next for “I Know,” followed by a mind-blowing vocal performance from Neil Quin for “Hello Tender Love.” They certainly left me wanting more.

The Sheepdogs feature powerful vocals against a background of 60s-esque rock. The Sheepdogs are currently vying for a chance to be on the cover of Rolling Stone and they showed the small crowd exactly why they deserve that spot. In fact, Ewan Currie (vocals, guitar) commented, “The chandelier is moving, we’re rocking so hard.” With 3-part harmonies and an oft-tinged Southern flare, The Sheepdogs ended off this event in style. They even threw in a 4th song that featured “serious guitarmonies.” Let me just say that they weren’t kidding. Now get them on the cover of Rolling Stone!

In-Store Performances at Sonic Boom and Criminal Records

I wasn’t able to catch any of the performances at Sonic Boom, but they had performances running from Thursday, March 10th until Saturday, March 12th. For much of the Festival, Sonic Boom was the place to be. Some notable guests include The Most Serene Republic, Bombay Bicycle Club, J Mascis, and James Vincent McMorrow.

I was, however, able to catch the one in-store at Criminal Records, which featured BC’s We Are The City and Aidan Knight. With everyone sitting down in front of the makeshift stage area, Criminal Records was a great place to be on the evening of Friday, March 11th.

We Are The City took the stage first. The band had the crowd sit down, making this event even more intimate. Cayne McKenzie delivers such passionate vocals alongside powerful keyboard work. Their piano rock is dynamic and a little experimental. Andrew Huculiak’s bouncy energetic drum style was noticeable, really emphasizing how much energy the band puts into their set. As an added bonus, McKenzie’s banter was quite amusing, even making reference to his musician father. The highlight of the set was “Astronomers,” a song that is incredibly moving and has the ability to silence a room. With a new EP out, We Are The City is certainly a band worth your attention.

Aidan Knight started playing solo while his band finished setting up. It turned out the band was having some technical difficulties, so Knight went on to play “Canadian Lovesong (Laying Beneath Manitoba),” a song he’s never played live before. He started out thinking he might not remember the chorus, but it worked out beautifully. After some assistance from Cayne from We Are The City in fixing the problems with the bass amp, the band went on to perform their dynamic and layered tunes, including the new “Friendly Fires” and the beautiful “Knitting Something Nice For You.” With a backing band of multi-instrumentalists behind one of my favourite voices, Aidan Knight mesmerized. Knight even had Andy from We Are The City join the band on drums for the latter half of he set. Ending of with a rousing “Jasper,” Knight showed exactly why he’s quickly garnered a name for himself. See Aidan Knight live and I guarantee he’ll win you over.

Daylight Riot, presented by SCION and TheMuseBox

Held on Saturday, March 12th at The Baitshop, this event certainly lived up to its name. If you’ve never been to The Baitshop, picture a halfpipe for a stage, a crowd gathered in the middle, all around and above. With two floors and a killer setup, The Baitshop is certainly an interesting venue for a show. On top of that, the event featured performances by Diemonds (a set I missed), The Zoobombs, Dinosaur Bones and The Russian Futurists (another set I missed due to leaving for the Indies).

It’s no secret what happened in Japan during Canadian Music Week. Tokyo’s The Zoobombs addressed the disaster immediately, almost bringing a tear to my eye speaking about all the people who have been asking the band how they were doing, as while as their family. They opened up their heart and it’s a moment I won’t soon forget. But there’s no better way to get out all of your feelings than an absolute balls-to-the-wall performance. And honestly, that’s probably an understatement. Their psychedelic-laced rock is already full of energy when recording, but seeing it live is a whole other experience. DON Matsuo is likely the most energetic frontman I’ve ever seen. The rest of the band is relatively stagnant, but Matsuo is EVERYWHERE on that stage jumping around. This is a band you won’t get the chance to see very often, but when the opportunity strikes, I highly recommend you don’t miss them. But be prepared to sweat it out with them.

Dinosaur Bones took the stage next and frontman Ben Fox commented on the killer performance by The Zoobombs, jokingly thanking Bobby Kimberley of The MuseBox for having them play after The Zoobombs. But the band happened to be celebrating the release of their album My Divider during Canadian Music Week and this was the final set for the week, right before gearing up for a trip to Austin for SXSW and a heck of a lot of touring in support of Tokyo Police Club, as well as their album. Dinosaur Bones still have that brooding indie rock feel, with Fox’s vocals (and lyrics) really driving that sound. Bassist Branko Scekic, full of antics, got on top of their bass. While I feared for his safety then (unnecessarily so, apparently), I feared for my own as Scekic jumped off the halfpipe stage into the crowd and nearly right into me. But I was impressed with the band’s ability to work a crowd. With Fox’s humble banter, feverish guitar playing, hard-hitting drums and stage antics, Dinosaur Bones can really move an audience.

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Categories: Canadian Music Week 2011, Live Music


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