By: TJ Liebgott
March 22, 2009
From grizzled veterans to novice newbies, 500 bands descended upon the city for this year’s Canadian Music Week. While maneuvering through the minefield that is the CMW schedule, Toronto Music Scene was able to see only a sample of what CMW had to offer. Here are some of the highlights.
Your Favorite Enemies at The Bovine
Montreal band Your Favorite Enemies sums up selling 30,000 copies of their EP to the "amazing support of their faithful fans" and it’s easy to see why. Before they even hit the stage, a crowd of rabid fans who drove in from Montreal, all wearing orange jumpsuits were front and centre waiting in anticipation. Your Favorite Enemies music was 65% Rock, 20% Pop and 15% Metal, which led to a great musical combination. Lead singer Alex Foster used The Bovine as his own personal jungle gym swinging from the bar to the stage while belting out great songs like "Open Your Eyes."
Vancouver punk legends SNFU played to a surprisingly small crowd at The Kathedral. Regardless, this small crowd was bursting with energy and everyone was up front rocking out, pumping fists and giving all their appreciation to the band. SNFU was perhaps the only band during CMW to go on stage early and gave their set everything they had. For a band in their late 40’s, SNFU definitely rocks harder than most of their twenty-something competition.
Driving in from the capital of country music, Nashville band Cactus were a blaze of some of the trashiest punk rock heard at CMW. Featuring one of the heaviest and tightest drummers you will see in an indie band, Cactus sang songs about lost love (which was dedicated to Toronto musician Lights) and how cool dads are. Standout tracks like "Queen Bee" perfectly exemplify the intensity that Cactus has on stage.
The Bicycles at The Horseshoe
Being touted as possibly their final show, The Bicycles played to an at-capacity audience at The Horseshoe with a line up that left many fans missing their set entirely. "Walk Away" was one of the better tracks for their laid back set. However, I hope this is not how the bicycles choose to close this chapter of their lives. A longer set outside of the CMW limitations would be a better way for The Bicycles to call it a day.
A lot of people are quick to dismiss The Johnstones calling them a gimmicky band based on their onstage antics. However, they posses too much raw talent to even be given the gimmick label. The Johnstones are probably the best band in Toronto to see live. Songs like "Tonight" and "Gone For A Long Time" kept the audience in a frenzy and even though everyone was having a grand time, its quite possible that The Johnstones were having an even better time.
With a new lineup and new album on the way, The Ghost Is Dancing played songs from their upcoming album Battles On to a fairly packed crowd at Silver Dollar. The Ghost Is Dancing’s new songs seem more somber and mature then I remember their previous CMW set, which had a poppier vibe. With the response to songs like "This Thunder" it’s clear that songs from Battles On will be accepted by their fans.
Machetes at The Playdead Mansion
This show was unofficially part of CMW, most likely ‘cause it paid any proceeds to the bands and not CMW. Machetes got the show rolling with their riot-grrrl punk that you would swear was from the early 80’s and they were from New York. Songs like "Black Leather" and "Ace" were instant classics with this band. Don’t be surprised if you hear a lot more this year about Machetes fashion sense, raw sexuality and of course their music.
Five in the afternoon is when I imagine Latefallen usually gets out of bed, but instead they were on stage. The venue seemed almost too small for guitarists Vanya Drakul’s gear, since the guitars where more upfront and prominent than I have ever heard them before, which for the most part was pretty cool. Songs like "The Fly" and "Out Like A Light" were the standout tracks for Latefallen. In fact the chorus from "Out Like A Light" might be stuck in my head up until NXNE comes into town.
Celebrating bassist’s Steph Seki’s birthday, APE played the only way they know how, in an orgy of debauchery mixed with equal parts Jagermeister. "Dead End" had a great live performance and every time I see these guys play, their stage show and the band’s chemistry are coming more and more together. If this set was any indication of what their soon-to-be-released album is going to sound like, APE fans should be stoked.
Spirits somehow replaced Hot Tub for the opening spot for The Ting Tings and am I ever glad they did. Mixing indie dance rock, a hint of fake British swagger and a splash of the ’80s, Spirits main job was to get people primed for The Ting Tings and they did one hell of a job. Listen to "Forbidden Flames" and try to tell me you’re not an instant fan of Spirits.
Riding off of the buzz of having "Shut Up And Let Me Go" featured on an iPod commercial, The Ting Tings played songs off their We Started Nothing album. Although the British duo relies on a more electronic sound, they surprisingly brought a live band feel to their set. With Jules De Martino playing drums, guitar or bass and singing simultaneously and Katie White handling vocal duties, The Ting Tings relayed on a small number of extra musicians playing off stage and a limited number of computer samples. The end result was a bigger rock band feel that made songs like "We Walk" and "That’s Not My Name" feel bigger and more energetic than their recording would leave you to believe was possible.
The Artist Life at The Bovine
Playing pop punk with the intensity of 16 year olds, but with the gritty rawness of seasoned pros, Toronto band The Artist Life showed the Bovine what a live show is made of. The Artist Life combines the perfect amount of punk, pop, pick slides, melodic guitars and backup vocals of "Whoa oh oh’s." Songs like "The Last Time," "Sleep So Sound" and "City Blocks" could have easily been generic, immature songs, but The Artist Life are able to transform them into something more sophisticated, mature and all without losing an ounce of fun.
Montreal electro pop band Les Handclaps started the crowd dancing right away at Rancho Relaxo. The threesome consists of guitars, keys, vocals and a fourth unofficial member of an Apple iBook. They played a number of catchy, dance-savvy songs that made Rancho feel more like a DJ night at Wrongbar. Singing in English, French and even German, Les Handclaps thrilled the crowd with songs like "Cacti Are Delicious Fruit," "Pastiche" and a great cover of Technotronic’s classic "Pump Up The Jam."