Canadian Music Week showcases diversity of genre and talent

Each year for five days in March, Toronto is transformed into a sprawling haven of live music — making the city the ultimate destination for music fans. Celebrating its 30 anniversary, Canadian Music Week was in full swing from Wednesday to Friday with performances by over 800 bands.

The Cord checked out a variety of acts over the course of the weekend to take in the diversity of talent and genre that was showcased at the annual festival.

Friday, Mar. 23

Venue: The Painted Lady

On Friday night, The Painted Lady was host to a number of bands from across the globe, making for a diverse and unexpected evening of entertainment. The intimate venue was the perfect backdrop for the showcase, with antique artwork and a burlesque dancer perched on the bar rounding out the old-school vibe.

Aussie New wave pop foursome The Voltaire Twins provided the standout performance of the night and spoke to The Cord following their set about the over-seas experience.

“We come from Perth, probably the most isolated city in the world — Indian ocean on one side, gigantic desert on one side. So coming this far North of the equator is a fun thing for us,” said Jaymes Voltaire. The group, who is heavily influenced by the sound of decades past, explained that they use synthesizers from the ‘80s to achieve an authentic sound. Inspired by a number of Italian composers, The Voltaire Twins have strived to re-create and re-establish pop sounds since their early days.

The group, who were featured in Nylon magazine in 2010, vocalized an appreciation for Canadian fans, saying, “Canadians are really lose. You have a lot of fun, a lot like Australians.”

Standout tracks from the performance included “Anamalia,” a dark tale about a taxidermist acquiring a pair of feathered twins and “D.I.L.”

—With files from Danielle Dmytraszko

Saturday, Mar. 24

Venue: The Fairmont Royal York Hotel

Among the most anticipated and highly attended Canadian Music Week events, The Indies celebrate the best in independent Canadian music both through an awards ceremony and live performances by some of the most visible bands on the indie scene.


This year’s Indie showcase started off with a two-song performance by Pavlo, a Canadian three-piece band with culturally diverse influences. George Valiakos, of Greek heritage, provides seductive guitar sounds and plays the Bouzouki. Portuguese Randy Rodrigues plays bass guitar and Gino Mirizo, of Italian heritage rounds out the sound with percussion. Although the band may have failed to capture the attention of many fans that were still milling about and arriving at the showcase, they added a unique element to the otherwise genre congruent performances.

The Pack a.d.

The Pack a.d.played a two song set to warm up the Indies crowd. The two-piece of drummer Maya Miller and guitarist Becky Black are imports of Vancouver, BC who recently signed to Mint Records. Black, whose performance and vocal style uncannily recalls that of an early Joan Jett, was complimented well by Miller, whose drum sound is reminiscent of the White Stripes Jack White.

“We’ll definitely have an increased [East coast] performance after playing a show at the Indies,” said Miller to The Cord. “I didn’t like Toronto the first time I came here, but now I’m okay with it.”

Young Empires

Young Empires, who were scheduled to play a show at Waterloo’s Starlight Lounge the same evening (about which Starlight was Tweeting a mere hours before the CMW performance,) spoke to The Cord about their recent appearance at SXSW and feeling more at home then ever in Toronto.

Fresh off a three-week tour that ended at SXSW, the band was noticeably fatigued as they relaxed before their set. “Usually you come home from tour and relax and take a couple weeks off, we got home and are playing our fifth show in three days,” said Young Empires Aaron Ellingson, “We played three shows at SXSW.”

Of the rapid rise in popularity the group has experienced in recent months, Ellingson explained, “It’s not an overnight success thing because we’ve put in three years of playing these shows and these songs and really believing in it and having it not be a big thing. We underestimated the impact that radio still has. From the day that ’White Doves‘ was on the radio, we went from playing to 20 of our friends to selling out the Horseshoe to 600 people.”

“We had almost given up and were thinking we were never going to do well at home. Now we feel like Toronto is really embracing us — we actually feel like a Toronto band now.”

Young Empires set the tone of the evening with their high-energy set, consisting of “Wake All My Youth,” “Enter Through the Sun” and “White Doves.” It’s impossible to miss how much fun the group has performing together and their charisma and playful report is nothing short of contagious.

Treble Charger

Seasoned Canadian rockers Treble Charger performed an Indies set after re-uniting earlier in the week for an additional show. The group performed ‘90s hits “Red” and “American Psycho,” to the obvious delight of the audience.

Treble Charger garnered one of the strongest crowd reactions from the night with their one-two punch of talent and nostalgic appeal. “I remember you from 1997,” said front man Greg Nori to the audience mid-set. Treble Charger was inducted into the Canadian Music Week Hall of Fame, an honour presented to the bamd by Broken Social Scene’s Brendan Canning.

Dan Mangan

Mangan, who played a surprise set lasting nearly two hours at the Horsehoe Tavern the evening prior, floored crowds with his intoxicating, if unpolished, vocal performance.

The rustic, hometown feel of Mangan’s live performance added a needed dose of humility to the evening, as he performed tracks like “Rows of Houses,” inspired by his favourite movie, Stand By Me and told through the perspective of the films main character.

Speaking to The Cord following his set, Mangan spoke of the creative process and inspiration behind his tracks, saying, “it’s less about being angry and more about being thoughtful and inquisitive about why things happen the way they do. I’ve never been good at writing love songs.”

By the crowd’s reaction it’s clear that the East coast following of this Vancouver folk band is quickly growing. “It’s been so great. I’m always amazed anyone has even heard of us or knows any of our songs.”

The Sheepdogs

In terms of notoriety, The Sheepdogs were the most recognizable name at the Indies, thanks to the great success of their first single “I Don’t Know” this year and their summer appearance on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine. The Saskatoon rock band was joined on the Indies stage by legendary Bad and Free front man Paul Rogers. Together, Rogers and the Sheepdogs performed renditions of “I’ll Be Creepin’,” “I’m a Mover” and “All Right Now,” which culminated in the evenings more electric moments.

“This has been a dream of ours,” Sheepdogs front man Ewan Currie declared onstage, referring to the opportunity to play with Rogers.

Overall, it was exactly the kind of badass performance fans should expect when two generations of rock royalty share the same stage.

Rich Aucoin

Haligonian musician Rich Aucoin took the energy to a whole new level with his set, jumping onto chairs in the audience and causing a general ruckus. Equal parts party and performance, at one point, Aucoin threw a parachute over the crowd and jumped into it, solidifying his reputation for wild live shows and incredible audience engagement tactics. Standout tracks included “Push,” and “It,” with which Aucoin closed his set.

Passion Pit

Headlining the Indies were Boston based Passion Pit, the only non-Canadian performers and also the only performers who didn’t mingle with fans or participate in media interviews.

Despite being a heavy draw for the show, Passion Pit failed to live up to the hype. Opening with “Moth Wings” and closing with fan favourite “Sleepyhead,” Passion Pit covered all the bases that should have made for a satisfying performance. They were also joined by Tokyo Police Club’s Graham Wright on keyboard.

Whether fans were exhausted from the preceding performance by The Sheepdogs and Rich Aucoin or the fault lay with Passion Pit themselves, the general consensus seemed to be that this set was the biggest disappointment of the event. Fans expressed the sentiment that vocals by Michael Angelakos paled in comparison to other performers.

Or maybe fans have just lost some love for the band, considering they haven’t provided a single new release in three years.

With files from Sarah Murphy

Below is a full list of 2012’s Indie Award Winners.

Favourite Pop Artist or Group of the Year

Favourite Jazz Artist or Group of the Year
Jill Barber

Favourite Blues Artist or Group of the Year
Suzie Vinnick

Favourite Folk/Roots Artist or Group of the Year
Elliott Brood

Favourite Country Artist or Group of the Year
Doc Walker

Favourite Children’s Artist or Group of the Year
Splash’N Boots

Favourite World Artist or Group of the Year
Minor Empire

Favourite Video of the year
Marianas Trench – Haven’t Had Enough

Favourite Rock Artist or Group of the Year
The Sheepdogs

Favourite Single of the Year
The Sheepdogs – I Don’t Know

Favourite International Group of the Year
Bon Iver

Favourite International Solo Artist of the Year

Favourite International Breakthrough Artist or Group of the Year
Young The Giant

Favourite International Single of the Year

Favourite International Album of the Year
Adele – 21

Favourite International Video of the Year
Gotye – Somebody That I Used To Know (feat. Kimbra)

Favourite Solo Artist of the Year
Dan Mangan

Hall of Fame Inductees
Treble Charger

Favourite Francophone Artist or Group of the Year
Coeur De Pirate

Favourite Electronic Artist or Group of the Year

Favourite Urban Artist or Group of the Year
The Weeknd

Favourite Alternative Artist or Group of the Year
Library Voices

Favourite Punk/Hardcore Artist or Group of the Year
Fucked Up

Favourite Metal Artist or Group of the Year
Protest The Hero

Favourite Live Artist/Group of the Year
The Sheepdogs

Group of the Year
The Sheepdogs

SiriusXM Emerging Artist of the Year
Rich Aucoin

Favourite Album of the Year
Fucked Up – David Comes To Life

Sunday, Mar. 25

Venue: The Phoenix Concert Theatre

Aussie rock four-piece POND kick started Sunday night’s showcase. Despite being a group of relatively unknown musicians, POND made an impact, showing that they may be rising stars on the garage-rock scene. Solo-heavy with tight production and an engaging live show, POND’s performance was complimented well by the dark and dingy atmosphere of the Phoenix and was ultimately well-received by the crowd. Mid-set, band members switched roles, with the bassist taking over lead guitar, the keyboarding playing bass and the lead singer playing the keys, showing the skill and diversity of the group.

Oberhofer contributed a decidedly less impressive performance and lacked congruency in their band dynamic. While the guitarist, bassist and drummer exuded laid-back confidence and a toned town vibe, the lead singer danced spastically around the stage, at one point hitting himself in the head with the microphone and narrowly missing the neck of a band mates guitar. Although the antics were mildly entertaining they functioned to distract from the music itself – consisting mostly from tracks off their brand-new LP Time Capsules II (March 27) – which was passable, but forgettable.

As the Temper Trap took the stage, the crowd finally became truly engaged. The energy, which had been building perceptibly as stagehands set up and tuned instruments, peaked into a deafening roar as the band took the stage.

The Melbourne-born now London-based Temper Trap played a brief but gripping set, complete with crowd favourites “Love Lost,” which had the crowd obligingly following along with the handclap led by Manadgi and “Science of Fear,” strategically placed between newer material to keep the crowd engaged and the set flowing. The high point of the set came with “Drum Song,” as the band performed the closing riffs over and over again as the energy in the venue reached astounding levels.

Dougy Manadgi set a new standard for live vocal performances as he hit notes most men likely couldn’t achieve unaided by a strong dose of helium.

The sole downfall of the performance was that the stamina and enthusiasm of the band members themselves seemed to dwindle as the short set progressed.

The band closed the Phoenix set with a rendition of “Sweet Disposition,” which provided the night’s most galvanizing moment, as the crowd unabashedly sang along to the now famous chorus.

Despite the fact that the band had little interaction with the audience and seemed almost bored at points, their live sound left nothing to be desired and was a perfect way to close a weekend of Canadian Music Week performances.

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