Showcasing our nation’s talent
With over 700 artists playing over the course of five nights, Toronto’s 2010 Canadian Music Festival must have been no small effort to organize, nor was it to report on.
With that many artists, playing at clubs, taverns and concert halls scattered across downtown Toronto, attending enough shows to get a good representation of the talent, or the atmosphere, or simply to avoid the feeling of missing out proved daunting.
The festival was part of Canadian Music Week, an event that also included a music industry conference, guest speakers (including Slash of Guns and Roses) and industry award ceremonies.
The Cord attended some carefully-selected shows over the five nights, the aim being to see a good variety of diverse artists and genres, from acts just starting out to established names in the national and international music scene.
Click the artist’s name to see photo galleries of their performances
In review: Fucked Up
Fucked Up, the much-hyped Toronto hardcore band that has recently risen to semi-prominence outside of their home city, helped open the festival with a vicious Wednesday night show.
Thoroughly warmed-up after having a couple layers of skin peeled off their faces and slightly deafened by openers Bastard Child Death Cult, the growing crowd welcomed the energetic punk of local two-piece band and the final opening act, Tropics. Asked to play the show by Fucked Up, the band fit in nicely, keeping the energy level high in the bar with frantic instrumentation and piles of distortion.
When Fucked Up took the stage with a certain relaxed manner about them, those familiar with the group, who won the 2009 Polaris music prize for their album The Chemistry of Common Life, and have been cranking out 7” albums since 2002, knew the calm would be short-lived.
Vocalist Damian “Pink Eyes” Abraham, known for a tendency to become less and less clothed as shows go on, announced to the crowd, “Tonight, I’m keeping my pants on.”
At different points, Abraham climbed on top of the speakers at the side of the stage, waded into the crowd trailing the microphone cord behind him, threw members of the audience over his shoulder and, during the final song of the night, lifted lead guitarist Mike Haliechuk onto his back.
For the entire show, Abraham’s eyes held a look of deranged glee. Whether he was grinding the steel mesh of the microphone against his shaven head or staggering through the crowd tripping and tangling members of the audience in the microphone cord, the rest of the band played on as consistent force, providing the driving soundtrack to the mayhem.
Rural Alberta Advantage
Rural Alberta Advantage’s lead singer and guitarist Nils Edenloff came to Toronto from Alberta several years ago, writing songs about his home province and eventually meeting and forming the RAA with drummer Paul Banwatt (also of electro-pop group Woodhands) and keyboardist Amy Cole.
The band self-released their debut Hometowns in 2008. After touring and Internet press drew attention to the band’s work, they signed to Saddle Creek Records last year, giving the album a wider re-release.
“It’s kind of insane the way that it’s spread out and the amount of people it’s touched,” Edenloff told The Cord before the band’s show Saturday at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto.
Cole commented on the extensive touring the band has done in the last year in support of Hometowns. “We figured out that in 2009 we played something like 100 shows,” she said. “Our entire history before had been less shows than that.”
Edenloff spoke of the music community in Toronto that RAA has become part of and the relationships they have formed with other bands.
“We have a lot of friends doing different projects and when your friends are doing something really great, you’re happy for them and it inspires you to raise the bar for yourselves in a way.”
There has been considerable attention paid to the lyrics and themes in Hometowns that seem to resonate with people. “We were always making music that we felt was very personal, but I never anticipated the depths to which it would touch people,” Edenloff said. He added that the band hopes to return to the studio and begin recording a follow-up this summer, as they are already working on at least 10 songs.
Plants and Animals
Montreal’s Plants and Animals emerged from the city’s tight-knit music scene with a string of EPs and their acclaimed full-length debut Parc Avenue in 2008. Touted by the media as a sort of classic rock revival band, the group has toured extensively in support of Parc Avenue and the upcoming April 20 release of their sophomore effort La La Land.
“Talking about us as a classic rock band started as kind of a joke,” guitarist Nic Basque told The Cord at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto. “A lot of the music we were influenced by or listened to was from the ‘60s and ‘70s but we’re still listening to everything new that comes out.”
After spending a long time recording their previous release, Basque described the pressure this time around. “With Parc Avenue we had the time we wanted to do it, this time we had songs quicker, we wanted to work quicker.“
The band franticly re-mixed tracks in a Montreal studio after time spent working on the album in France didn’t yield great results. “We weren’t satisfied with the mix and the deadline for whatever reason was coming close. We re-mixed it against the clock, we slept there, [lead vocalist and guitarist] Warren set up a tent.”
The result is a product of the band’s experiences over the last few years according to Basque. “The touring influenced us in the way we play together; we knew more what we wanted right away so it changed the process. We started playing louder, playing live.”
Toronto-based punk band Tropics brought their rambunctious guitar and drum crossfire to El Mocambo on the first night of CMW, opening for Fucked Up. Playing together since junior high, guitarist Slim Twig (aka Max Turnbull) and drummer Simone “TB” Tisshaw-Baril have grown up in Toronto’s music environment playing shows and releasing material over the last several years.
“It’s kind of just take what you can get. If someone is nice enough to say that they’ll put out a single for you, you go for it,” Simone told The Cord over coffee in Kensington Market.
She talked about Tropics’ position in Toronto’s music community saying, “We’re a really weird band. We get to play really cool stuff and put out recordings periodically but we’re really a band’s band.”
An opening act for bands such as the Constantines at various points (including a tour that brought them to the Starlight in Waterloo last winter), Tropics have toured and played with other bands at a shared studio space in Toronto’s east end.
When asked about next steps for Tropics, Simone responded, “We hope to do more stuff and put out records as we get more offers to do different things. [We’re going to] keep doing it the way we’ve always done it. We’re going to keep practicing and playing it by ear as things come up, and hopefully get better over time. I don’t think we’re going to stop any time soon.”
“We just both play music, for both of us it’s really the only thing we’ve ever wanted to do,” she said.
Indie award winners
The Independent (Indie) Music Awards were announced on March 13 at the Royal York Hotel to honour the best in independent music in Canada and around the world.
Favourite Pop Artist/Group
Favourite Live Artist/Group
Galaxie Rising Stars
The Rural Alberta Advantage
Favourite Folk Artist/Group
Great Lake Swimmers
Favourite Rock Artist/Group
Favourite Punk/Hardcore Artist/Group
Favourite Solo Artist
CHARTattack Favourite Album
Marianas Trench – “Cross My Heart”
Favourite Francophone Artist/Group
La Patere Rose
Favourite Electronic Artist/Group
Favourite Country Artist/Group