Sunday, 24 March 2013

CMW Festival Wrap Up: Ft. Chvrches, Savages, Besnard Lakes & More

In the past I never really had any interest to go to Canadian Music Week, the six day music conference in Toronto that brings together various types of artists and bands into the city to showcase their talents. In previous years the talent seemed to be a mixed bag of pop artists, pop punk bands, alt rock groups. retreads, indie bands that play here every other week, and the odd buzz band.

Something changed this year as the line up increased from approximately 600 artist showcases to over 1000. They also seemed to leverage off SXSW this year and managed to bring two of that conferences biggest buzz bands to the city. Once I heard Chvrches and Savages, plus a lot more up and coming musicians were coming to the festival, I quickly booked time off work and bought my $60 wristband. From Wednesday to Saturday of last week I enjoyed some really cool showcases:


The Mod Club Theatre


DIANA are a Canadian synth pop band that I have featured on the blog before. In fact their glorious song Born Again made my Top 50 songs of 2012. The band were opening for Scottish synth pop trio Chvrches and quickly proved to the low key crowd that they have a lot of talent.

The band played a set of 8 songs over 45 minutes with lead singer Carmen Elle showing her charisma  by joking with the crowd about the Harlem Shuffle and the spelling of Chvrches name. DIANA's sound was retro cool synth that featured a lot of saxophone and Elle's swooning lyrics about love. I think by the end of the show she had won over the crowd.


By the time CHVRCHES took the stage, the Mod Club Theatre was packed with wall to wall people. When pixie lead singer Lauren Mayberry came to microphone you could see her take a deep breath, maybe a little bit overcome by the sheer size of the crowd. They then opened with their first blogosphere hit "Lies" which was backed by a thumping bass drum machine and her two bandmates, Ian Cook and Martin Doherty, each with a synthesizer on either side of the singer.

The band raced through a number of songs that will be included on their new Recover EP, due out next week and a new album which is promised for the fall. Among the songs they played were "If We Sink," "Lungs," and "Night Sky" that showed off the confidence and the big beautiful voice of singer Mayberry. The singer also had a really good stage presence and a great rapport with the audience.

Near the end of the set the band brought out the big hits "Recover" (my favourite) and "The Mother We Share." The performances of these songs solidified the fact that this band is for real and they will only get bigger and better.

The audience demanded an encore and CHVRCHES didn't let them down. They played one song, a cover of the Prince classic " I Would Die 4 U' which had the whole crowd in a dancing tizzy. Hopefully The Purple One won't sue them.

The Garrison

Shiny Darkly

With Chvrches finishing up a little passed even o'clock I had to quickly make my way down to College Street to the Garrison to catch Danish post punk band Shiny Darkly. I featured their song "Diana" on the blog last September and really wanted to see what else they had to offer. Much to my chagrin, by the time I got there the band were already well into their set. These guys played really loud, so loud that  the thirty people in the audience watching them were all standing well back of the stage. They played an okay set of post punk guitar songs, but they also seemed bored, maybe due the fact there was nobody there to see them.



The Mod Club Theatre

Cancelled!!!.....moving along......

The Garrison

Elephant Stone

Elephant Stone are an Indo-Canadian psychedelic rock band from Montreal who like to use the sitar in their music. It was funny to see lead singer Rishi Dhir running between the guitar and the sitar in the songs that featured both instruments. One minute he was a guitar hero and the next he was sitting bare foot and cross legged. Otherwise these guy were really good and played a trippy set of psychedelic guitar songs including the song "Setting Sun" which I featured last week.

The Great Hall

PS I Love You

Once again I had to rush between venues (almost falling on my ass because it was snowing), this time to try and catch Kingston noise rock duo PS I Love You at The Great Hall on Queen Street. No luck as I missed half the bands set. I tried to see these guy a couple of years ago at the NXNE festival, but they blew an amp on the first song and it was taking really long to fix. I decided to forgo their performance to catch Crocodiles.

I had heard that PS I Love You play really loud, but I think the vacuous Great Hall tempered some of their aural assault. However, guitarist/singer Paul Saulnier's reputation preceded him and he rocked the guitar like there was no tomorrow, all with his long hair hanging over his face making him look like Captain Caveman.


These guys play big songs and seem to aspire to be playing arenas. Their songs had the bros in the crowd with their arms around each other and fist pumping their tall boys of PBR in the air. Wildlife seemed to influenced by a number of big rock acts from the Arcade Fire to Bruce Springsteen. Their one big hit so far is a song called "Bored To Ruin", which is one"i" away from "Born To Run."At one point they brought out a mandolin and that is where they lost me. I absolutely hate Mumford & Sons and these guys seemed to have that whole sing-along frat boy fist pumping art down to a tee. Not for me.

Funny fact: I dissed them on twitter after the performance and called them bullshit. The next day Wildlife started following me.

The Darcys

The Toronto indie rock/shoegaze band were the secret guests on the night, but maybe too secret as the venue was only half full for their performance. They played a quick set of only about five songs, one of them new, another from their Steely Dan- Aja covers album and then ended with a blistering version of "Don't Bleed Me."


The Horseshoe Tavern

Young Rival

Young Rival are a nice Canadian indie rock band from Eastern Ontario who could be compared to a million other Canadian indie rock bands with the same style. Their sound is caught somewhere between The Trews and Hollerado and they played a 45 minute set of meat & potatoes indie. There were a couple of highlights with the Weezer sounding "Two Reasons" and a really great cover of a Deadly Snakes punk song.


By now everybody has heard about the hype about this band. Even before they released a single  Savages were already known across the UK for their blistering live shows. The crowd was full of music industry types and there were even a couple of minor celebrities in attendance. Beside me (for a couple of minutes, anyway) was Jian Ghomeshi the host of the CBC radio show Q and in front of the stage I spotted Oliver Ackermann of New York shoegaze trio A Place To Bury Strangers.

Savages singer Jenny Beth is one of the most intense performers I have ever seen and she has this terrifying icy stare. I wouldn't want to fuck with her. As a matter of fact she made some clown in the first row turn off their video camera.

The crowd was sedate for most of the blistering performance but once the band lit into "She Will" there were a couple of pogo dancers in the first row. More on Savages later.....

Lee's Palace

The Besnard Lakes

I actually made it in time for their performance but had to leave early because I couldn't take the loudness of the ears were shot and needed a rest. Besnard Lakes were test driving a lot of their new songs from their upcoming new album, Until Excess, Imperceptible UFO, and a lot of the songs were not familiar to me. Some of the new tracks were okay and some of them sounded My Bloody Valentine epic including their new single "People Of The Sticks". They also threw in their classics"Albatross", and "Chicago Train." It looked like they were going to play a long set before I left. Too bad.


Lee's Palace


This Montreal dream pop duo Valleys reminded me a lot of Beach House. Although, there was a lot more shoegaze in Marc St Louis' guitar than their Baltimore contempoaries. Nice set.


These guys are a dance punk/R&B group from here in Toronto who are led by the powerhouse voice of frontwoman Vanessa Fischer. These guys really impressed me and their performance knocked it out the park. Hard to believe these guys have been around since 2007 and have had little exposure.


See above.... only more intense, and the crowd were more into it. In fact I thought two girls in front of me were going to come to blows as they "danced" into each other. Crazy shit!!!! Another girl was so pumped I thought she was going to hyperventilate. As should stood there waiting for the band she nailed it by saying that "Savages were PJ Harvey, The Dead Kennedys and Siouxsie & The Banshees all rolled into one." And that it was.......

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