Canadian Music Week 2013 – This is what happened

Image credit: Corbin Smith - The Torontoist
Image credit: Corbin Smith

As the festivities continue here in Toronto, the week seems to be going by pretty fast since there’s always something to do. The whole week started a bit rough, on Wednesday evening my train to Toronto from Ottawa was delayed a grand total of 4 hours because of a freight train derailment along the way. But Thursday proved to be much better, the Marriott Hotel at the Eaton Centre was bustling with bands, industry folk, and media all over the place. It was really exciting to be a part of that. That afternoon I met with PledgeMusic founder and CEO Benji Rogers to speak about the company’s Canadian launch this week at CMW. It was a pleasure to speak with him, as we exchanged our (opposing) views on our respective hockey allegiances and discussed many aspects of the Pledge Music platform. That interview will be posted in the next few days.

Later that eve, I decided to catch some of the Audio Blood showcase at Dakota Tavern. The first band was, a band I had seen recently and spoken with in Ottawa. Seeing and hearing them play to their home crowd was a really good experience, and the sound was (surprisingly) really good. The acclaim they’re getting for their work is well deserved; lead singer Nate Daniel’s vocals are powerful and enthralling, and the band’s backing harmonies and instrumentals are so well put together. Following that performance, I ended up at a small venue/cafe called May on Dundas St. West to check out my pals from Ottawa in Roberta Bondar. As always, their energy and stage presence made that place almost manic, as bassist Gary Franks told the crowd to draw in closer to the stage. Although the sound was not as clear as previous shows I’ve seen of theirs, it was exciting to see them play their Toronto album release to a small crowd of zealous fans wanting more. As the night was winding down, I headed back over to Dakota Tavern to see Ottawa’s indie favourites Amos the Transparent. I was a bit surprised at how many people stayed out, considering the next day was a work day. But, as always, Jonathan Chandler led the way in what was a strong set.

Friday I got the chance to explore some of Queen St. West and the venues around there. I began by heading over to Tequila Bookworm, a small but comfortable atmosphere for music. Pledgemusic was holding a coffeehouse that featured a few artists and delicious coffee. The charming space really set the tone for the afternoon, as a few of us dealt with the lack of seating by sitting our asses down on the floor. I caught the performances at the end of the afternoon, the first of which was Dominique Fricot. Accompanied by a violin and stand-up bass, his performance was very impressive. He included a few stories of his past, bands he was in, and how it all led him to be where he is now as a solo musician recording under his own name. His songs were very refined, and he has some serious skills on guitar. You can tell he’s a seasoned songwriter. The act that could possibly go down as my favourite all weekend was a NY-based group called Lucius. Fronted by two beautiful ladies with incredible vocal talent, the band’s performance actually induced emotional responses from the crowd. Yes, the girl beside me had a few tears. I was absolutely blown away, the band’s raw and animated performance in the cafe really captivated all of us. In particular, the song “Don’t Just Sit There” left us all speechless as the song builds. I recommend this band to all.

That night we headed to The Garrison for drinks and some ear damage from A Place to Bury Strangers. I had been meaning to listen to this band more, since I didn’t really grow up on them like a lot of their loyal fanbase has. I caught a good part of their set, and their instrumental tirades and on-stage madness. It was strangely refreshing to get to see a band with so much energy play the shit out of their instruments, destroy their strings, play with strobe lights (there should have been an epilepsy warning), and send us home with our eardrums bleeding.

Saturday was tons of fun too, starting with a loft party thrown by Audio Blood for Pledge Music. Lots of peeps were there, including Rollie Pemberton (Cadence Weapon), and others in the industry. I finally got to see Acres of Lions play an intimate, yet exciting set that got everyone at the event pretty pumped. After a few drinks, we headed to The Great Hall on Queen W. for Fucked Up’s Long Winter Series finale, a night that I’ll definitely remember. The Sadies were supposed to headline the bill Saturday night, but word on the street is that they ditched because they originally thought Fucked Up was playing. When they found out they weren’t, they dropped out. So it goes. The highlight of that night was Cold Specks playing a beautiful set in the side room of The Great Hall, where she played to a reasonably small group of us. Her voice drowned out everything around us, and proved to be one of the most powerful set of the week for me. The Besnard Lakes took forever to get on stage, and ended up playing a disappointing set. At that point we decided to head home and call it a week, but one can only imagine what the Long Winter night would have been like if Fucked Up had been there. All in all, terrific week!

Here are some photos, I hope no one is offended by how terrible the photography is.

Day 1 at the Marriott Hotel Eaton Centre
Day 1 at the Marriott Hotel Eaton Centre
Cold Specks @ The Great Hall
Pledge Music Launch loft party presented by Audioblood
Dominique Fricot at the Pledge Music Coffeehouse @ Tequila Bookworm
A Place to Bury Strangers @ The Garrison
Roberta Bondar @ May
Fucked Up’s Long Winter Series finale at The Great Hall