By: Sheena Lyonnais and TJ Liebgott
March 29, 2012
And just like that, another Canadian Music Week has passed. March is a stupid time to get sick, but we did – and when we managed to pull ourselves from sleep to venture out, packed venues prevented us from seeing almost half our picks. We tried to be troopers friends, we really did, but CMW did not win this round. Despite this, here’s a roundup and a couple videos from what we did see. From disappointing adolescent nostalgia to Rapunzel-haired, double neck guitar bands, our taste of the fest has us yearning for summer and NXNE.
March 21, Phoenix
Maybe it’s me, but Treble Charger have sunk to a brand new low. The highly anticipated reunion show at the Phoenix sounded more like a cover band – although a cover band would have played with more passion and conviction. After a decade of bitter tension between Greig Nori and Bill Priddle it’s not that much of a surprise to discover an awkward distance still exists between them, but for fans sake they should have at least pretended otherwise. The band stumbled onto the stage without an introduction, then fiddled around awkwardly tuning their guitars before finally breaking into song without so much as a nod. It was good for nostalgia, but only for the first few tracks. Moments where interaction should have been were instead filled by Nori’s clever observations such as, “oh, the awkward silence during guitar tunings.” Apparently he forgot that those are the times a band is supposed to engage its audience, especially unnerving for a frontman of Nori’s calibre. The show was so authentically boring that if we had come across them for the first time that night we wouldn’t have stayed. Actually, who am I kidding. We stayed until “Red” then got the heck out of there.
These Electric Lives
March 22, The Drake
With a 2010 Indie Week win and coming off the heels of their cover video for Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” touted by industry heavyweights like Alan Cross, it seemed like These Electric Lives were destined for a grand CMW showcase. However, their slot at the Drake hotel was a small and intimate affair. Most bands might have taken a jaded approach to a show like this and perhaps self-sabotaged their set, but TEL played on like consummate professionals treating those in attendance with their infectious, upbeat, dancey rock. Lead singer Mark Stanfield is a natural showman, engaging the crowd and even tossing out a tambourine to a cute dancing girl in the front, to which she played perfectly. Even with a minor pitfall, we expect nothing but bigger things for this local act.
John K Samson & The Provincial Band
March 22, The Great Hall
Winnipeg’s John K Samson brought his packed-house gig to The Great Hall – and to the delight of myself and everyone else in the audience he didn’t leave his Weakerthans classics behind. Somewhere between “When I Write My Master’s Theses” and “I Hate Winnipeg” lay the progression of a hockey-loving Canadian so true and pure the music echoed the soundtrack of a poetic plaid nation. This was the debut Toronto effort since Provincial dropped earlier this year and the crowd embraced it with open arms and even joined him in a toast to Samson’s favourite hockey player, Mr. Reggie Leach. Yes, a perfectly memorized rendition of the knotty-named track “www.petitions.com/petition/riveronrifle/” had fans cheering and clinking beers as if the Leafs made the playoffs. Samson will always have a second home here in Toronto. Lets hope he visits more frequently.
March 22, Cabin 5
We didn’t think it was possible for a band as enigmatic as USS to captivate further, but low and behold the addition of a drummer four months back has transformed them from a unique, peppy science party into a punk rock dance show without sacrificing any of the original charm. Human Kebab remains a star, playing a crazy robot, mixboard guitar at times, handstands galore inclusive with feet clapping and of course crowd surfing like a champ. Ash Buchholz’s vocals have skyrocketed in awesomeness and he is as natural on stage as an award-winning broadway performer, complete with theatrical flair and compelling song. And can we talk about Cabin 5? This hidden, cowhide packed wooden hunting cabin of a club authentically felt like you were in the middle of the woods – if the middle of the woods had several bars, Ted Nugent decor and you had to climb fire escape stairs behind a random building on Richmond to get there. Complete with fans that mimicked rabid wolves, likely the rowdiest crowd CMW saw all week.
March 22, Cabin 5
Apparently 1:00 a.m. on a Thursday is mass exodus time at Cabin 5. While the crowd bailed out presumably for Monster Truck at the Horseshoe, we stayed to see what Burlington’s Saint Alvia had been up to since we last saw them some time ago but I don’t remember when, possibly when they were still a Cartel. Greg Taylor’s vocals have become even more intense, harnessing influences of such a Rancid punk rock it evoked in me remnants of a high school time when rough vox and attitude were pretty much the only things that mattered. After minor lineup changes and small crowd some may wonder if Saint Alvia still has as much importance in today’s local scene as they once did, but that’s irrelevant since Greg Taylor and Ben Rispin still seem to hold a torch for the band. As long as the love of music flows through its veins, Saint Alvia will live on.
March 23, Supermarket
For Toronto band Time Giant, the 70’s never left. They still believe in riff rock, long hair and killer moustaches. While the band may not concentrate on hooks or specific songs, Time Giant instead pour their energy into an explosive set that’s destined to melt faces. You don’t walk away from this band humming a specific riff, but instead just have a killer time throughout their set. The band is tight and lead singer Tyrone Buccione has an impressive vocal range drawing on influences such as Freddie Mercury and Robert Plant. As a bonus, when was the last time you saw a band rock a double neck guitar!?