TIFF’s Canadian Music Cafe flaunts Canada’s talent

Toronto Film Festival TIFF Music Cafe 2009 By: Sheena Lyonnais
Sept. 29, 2009

The Toronto International Film Festival’s Canadian Music Café is a rare and exciting opportunity that allows Canadian bands/artists to play short sets to a panel of North American music supervisors responsible for getting music in television shows, commercials and movies.

While industry events don’t normally warrant reviews, this one is a different story.  In three short days I was able to catch amazing sets from a number of Canadian bands (and I wasn’t even able to attend the entire event).  And while they may have been playing in hopes of landing some sweet contract, I was just hoping to discover some new music for myself.  Here’s a review of the acts I was able to see:


This hip hop group incorporates a ton of soul and people into their stage performance.  With two different kinds of drummers, female backing singers, excellent presence, intelligent, educated lyrics, and a full band, Saukrates stole the stage and showed the American panel members just how powerful and important Canada’s Hip Hop scene has become.  They were exciting and great performers that were fun and enjoyable to watch, even though I only saw the last couple songs.  If a little blonde white chick who can’t dance can get into this, anybody can.

For more information on Saukrates visit:  www.myspace.com/saukrates

The Duhks
Toronto TIFF Music Cafe
I almost had to leave before this Juno Award winning and Grammy nominated Winnipeg band took the stage, but man was I happy to have stuck around.  This co-ed group combines the best of folk and soul and infuses them into an energetic, powerful concoction that robbed the room of its breath.  Sarah Dugas’s vocals were some of the strongest I have seen, and that strength carried through whether she was singing in English or in French.  They played a variety of songs off their notable discography, but never stopped having fun.  Between the banjos, fiddles and overall sheer talent, this band was beautiful to watch and brought to light some of those little Canadian tidbits this country has become known for: diversity and heart.

For more information on The Duhks visit: www.myspace.com/theduhks

Terri Clark

Country superstar Terri Clark returned to Canadian soil to perform a collection of new tracks and old favourites.  She was extremely enjoyable to watch, making her set feel like it was taken straight out of an intimate concert with the powerful brunette.  She shared personal stories to provide background for tracks like the super fun female-empowered “Gypsy Boots,” the sentimental “No Fear” and the comical “What Happens in Vegas (Follows You Home).”  While her star power was undeniable, her strength and power as a performer and person is what struck me the most.  Terri Clark is an inspirational woman who hasn’t let her successes get to her head and she still looks beautiful wailing on guitar. 

For more information on Terri Clark visit: www.myspace.com/terriclark

Ruby Jean and the Thoughtful Bees
I don’t know where this band came from (Halifax), but they were unlike anything I had ever seen.  Their unique brand of indie electro pumped a full-fledged synth assault, leading the audience into a set that blended songs feverishly into one another and oozed such sexuality I forgot I was at an industry show.  They were noisy and unapologetic, using multiple microphones simultaneously to make echoing panting sounds and creative audio effects.  It was sexy and dirty, but managed to encompass a lot of passion and soul.  Think Spiral Beach’s nasty side that they don’t want their parents to see.

For more information on Ruby Jean and the Thoughtful Bees visit: www.myspace.com/rubyjeanandthethoughtfulbees

Amy Millan

A solo Amy Millan took the stage to perform pieces from her latest album Masters of the Burial without Stars or Broken Social Scene to back her (though she did have banjo and guitar players with her).  The beautiful and hilarious Millan played three originals and interestingly two of her covers, including Death Cab For Cutie’s “I Will Follow You Into the Dark.”  While she performed brilliantly, she drew too much attention to the reason behind why she was there – with high hopes of landing a song on a show/movie/commercial.  While she did so candidly, I wish she had taken the time to play one more track.  Her music is so pretty and five songs felt like too much of a tease.

For more information on Amy Millan visit: www.myspace.com/amymillan 


USS spared no expense in making this show feel like any other by the dynamic drum and bass duo.  Turntablist/hypeman Jason “Human Kebab” Parsons sported a sparkly, sequined jacket and sunglasses while guitarist/vocalist Ashley Boo-Schultz rocked the traditional lab coat for most of the set.  Their dancing, head stands and smoothie making is just one small aspect of their astonishing live show.  Hopefully the antics and song choices (which included “Stationary Robbery,” a rap about stealing office supplies) did not distract the panel from seeing USS’s true brilliance.  This band is always a party to see live, so maybe the gig earned them at least a DJ scene. 

For more information on USS visit: www.myspace.com/ubiquitoussynergyseeker 

Arkells TIFF Music Cafe 2009Arkells

If the Arkells’ working class rock’n’soul didn’t give the panel faith in Canadian music, nothing will.  They played tracks off last year’s Jackson Square with the same fervor and passion as when they sell out venues like Tattoo Rock Parlour.  Big show or little show, the Arkells’ give it their all.  They played songs that have become Toronto music lover’s go-to’s including “The Ballad of Hugo Chavez” and “Oh, The Boss is Coming.”  They provided comedic relief by advising the panel that their track “John Lennon” would be great in a biopic, but overall their focus was on playing a good, solid set and they delivered.  I am never disappointed with this Steel Town band.

For more information on the Arkells visit: www.myspace.com/arkellsmusic

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