Canadian Music Week 2009 kicks off
- March 11, 2009 4:24 PM |
- By Arts Online
Music columnist Sarah Liss. (Photo by Paul Gorbould/CBC)
The springtime thaw means the season of sprawling music festivals is upon us. Though multi-day rockstravaganzas run throughout the summer, spring's the time when melody lovers wake up from hibernation and groggily gear up for a juggernaut of club-hopping in the hopes of discovering their next favourite band. While the grandaddy of annual music fests, Austin's South By Southwest, doesn't start for another week, Canadian music fans get a head start on the rock 'n' roll action with Canadian Music Week, a five-day bonanza of performances, awards and panel discussions that officially kicks off today in Toronto.
CMW's always been divided into two somewhat tenuously connected parts -- the industry-geared conference, based in a downtown Toronto hotel, and the meatier concert component, which is spread out across dozens of clubs in the city. With the exception of certain high-profile speakers (this year, KISS troublemaker Gene Simmons delivers the artist keynote address), the panel discussions and lectures typically don't hold much appeal for the public. That's a good thing, because they're closed events, and an all-access badge can cost almost a grand (even the discounted student pass is a mind-boggling $245). Having covered the conference several years now, I'm still a bit perplexed by how many industry suits shell out bucketloads of cash, hoping to discover the holy grail of music -biz success.
This year, festival organizers have officially (helpfully?) separated the two halves by listing them separately as "Canadian Music Week: Canada's International Music Convention," and the less formal "Canadian Music Fest." I'll be covering both sections in this blog. While much of the convention may seem dreary, I guarantee I'll dig up highlights (Treach from Naughty By Nature opens up on Saturday afternoon!) and enough insider dirt to make reading about shop-talk worth your while.
Most importantly, loads of great shows abound! According to the official website, CMF boasts "500 bands at 45 venues over five nights," and suggests that you can access the complete cornucopia of concerts by purchasing a CMF wristband for $50. Be warned: many of the big name shows (like the Mod Club series by Canrock stalwarts Sloan) only admit a limited number of passholders; you could end up paying for a pricey ticket on top of your CMF wristband (or, worse, be completely shut out of a sold-out show). There's also a one-day wristband that'll run you $25 and grant you admission to as many shows as you can pack into either Thursday, Friday or Saturday.
If you're going, I recommend poring over the schedule. Many of the most popular showcases (online mag ChartAttack's throwdowns, for example, or Pop Montreal's epic and truly awesome lineup) were booked by savvy independent organizers who've endeavoured to pack their entire showcase with worthwhile acts. Unless you're absolutely dying to see loads and loads of bands spread across venues and/or days, your best bet is to probably limit your options to a single show and buy an advance ticket. Having said that, I've made some of my most exciting musical discoveries by accidentally catching a performance by an unknown-to-me artist during festivals like CMW. Being able to roam freely from club to club lends itself to musical serendipity.
There's lots to be excited about this year. For starters, along with the grizzled vets in Sloan (who are officially dad rockers now, since over 50 per cent of the band members have mini-Sloans), CMF showcases feature a number of other well-established Canrockers. There's Montreal Franco-rock aces Malajube, who were nominated for the inaugural Polaris Music Prize and play Thursday (March 12). Also playing Thursday: East Coast-bred Neil Young acolyte Matt Mays and his El Torpedo band. There are countless great indie rock acts at ChartAttack's aforementioned showcases, including critically engaged country act $100, Calgary rock crew Women and indie rock heroes Chad VanGaalen and Gentlemen Reg, all of whom play the Horseshoe Tavern Thursday night.
Aside from those recognizable names, there are a handful of emerging talents that shouldn't be missed.
Vancouver garage rock duo Japandroids recently got a glowing 9/10 rave from Pitchfork for their song Young Hearts Spark Fire. Will they deliver live? Find out Friday (March 13) at the Gladstone Hotel on Queen West West. I'm also looking forward to checking out Regina act the Library Voices, who cram vintage organs and many clever-clever popcult references into their jangly pop music. The Voices are at the El Mocambo on Saturday (March 14).
And ever since I saw Montreal's Little Scream open for Land of Talk, I've been dying for another chance to catch the ferociously intense, guitar-mauling singer-songwriter. She's at the Silver Dollar on Friday (March 13).
Keep checking this space for updates, reviews and anecdotes, as well as my choices for the most atrocious band names on the CMW schedule. In preparation for this exhausting rock 'n' roll marathon, I'm drinking lots of water and practising how to take two-minute power naps while standing upright.
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