Canadian Music Week

CMW Review: River Tiber, Immanu El (Drake Hotel), Lioness, Savages (Lee’s Palace), March 23

Posted on by lauren in Canadian Music Week, Concerts | Leave a comment

If you are going to attend a city wide music festival, it is imperative that you follow these simple rules to ensure success. See the band you’ve just discovered and have fallen in love with, it will be one of the best shows of the year so far. See bands you’ve never ever heard of before that you chose randomly because timing or venue proximity worked. Stay hydrated, lube up that bicycle if weather is suitable and show hop until your hearts content.

I could only make it out for shows on Saturday so I tried to squeeze in as many as I could. Nothing except for random shitty pop punk band at Mod Club let me down.

First stop – The Drake Hotel to see River Tiber and Immanu El

River Tiber was a nice mellow kick off to a night I was barely hanging on to, due to a blasted hangover from the day prior. R&B tones mixed with a jazzy feel, giving off a “How to Dress Well” vibe, the lead singer of River Tiber has got some nice singing chops. Playing to a crowd of maybe 20 people (it was only 8pm after all), River Tiber is a local Toronto band, started a few years ago by Tommy Paxton-Beesley. Started in his basement, he recorded and produced every song, and later collaborated with musicians to create a full album and live show from it. Their second album Synapses came out in January, and if you like electronic indie tinged with R&B and jazz, I highly suggest checking these guys out.

Immanu El – The Drake Hotel

A Swedish band that has made its mark in Europe.They have toured extensively and released three albums, it’s surprising they’ve stayed off of Canadian radar for so long, but this is what CMW is for. An Earthy band that invokes feelings of being adrift at sea. Their music is grand and would be smartly used as a film score. The band collaborated with other artists and built a replica of an 1800’s ship that they set sail and filmed. The footage of beautiful open water, mountains, landscapes, sunsets, is their film, and their music is the soundtrack. It fits beautifully and you get lost in the music, creating a haze in your mind as you are getting lost at sea on the projection screen.

Pop Punk band at Mod Club

I don’t know who they are. I met up with friends briefly, the band was from Toronto, I did not care for them, but many large men did and so did the guys doing push-ups for Jager shots … I left hastily after.

Lioness at Lee’s Palace

I haven’t seen Lioness in six years. Formed by previous band members of Controller. Controller (RIP)  bassist Ronnie Morris, singer Vanessa Fischer and drummer Jeff Scheven have been around since 2007. In 2007 I saw them play a smoke filled loft party that turned into a hot sweaty dance mess, needless to say it was hard to breathe, but I was satisfied. Six years later, here they are, still going strong. Fischer’s vocals are like a punch to the throat, her wild ensembles add a 70’s glam rock vibe to it all. Morris’ bass wasn’t playing out of the main speakers, just from the amp, and cut out from time to time, but even with technical difficulties, it did not faze the crowd which filled up fast on the floor at Lee’s.  By this time, I was lost in the music, my feet unable to stop moving, my formerly blasting hangover nothing but a mere memory. This was all just the story to the climax though with…


The pseudo lovechild of Souxsie and the Banshees and Joy Division, Savages are a four piece all female group from London UK. I always thought, if I could time travel I would love to go to late 70’s post-punk era UK, when the shows you were at were small, filled with angry youth that were looking for an escape. Along came bands like Joy Division, The Fall, and later on New Order. Bands where, when you saw them, you knew you were seeing something special, and that later on in life, those shows would resonate with you, change you and when you told someone “I saw that band at this small club” they would look at you in awe because you had been a part of the beginning of their story. This is how I and maybe others felt seeing Savages. They entered to ominous ambient tones, no light on the stage save a single spotlight. The lead singer Jehny Beth came out like she was looking for a fight, literally, I had seen her punching air in the greenroom above. Their is a subtleness to this band. They’re not flashy, they ooze stage presence without being showy. They come onstage with the understanding that they are there to share something with you. Bassist Ayse Hassan plays with her eyes closed the entire time. Jehny scared me a bit, but in a really good way. The crowd was moshing by the end of it. Guitarist Gemma Thompson played hard and fast, the world shut out, just her and the guitar. After this show, I had to call it a night. I love Suuns, but this was the apex. I can’t wait to see them again.



CMW Review: The Besnard Lakes, March 22, Lee’s Palace

Posted on by Brent in Canadian Music Week | Leave a comment

Over the past few years it’s been difficult to get CMW out there to the mainstream Toronto music crowd. Everyone that’s just come back from SXSW is tired and feel the need to take a break, the weather still isn’t quite Spring-like, and the talent that might consider playing CMW (or CMF as it’s now being called) may have chosen to skip it and play NXNE instead or just tour instead.

This year has been a little bit different though. You’ll see that those in charge of CMW have been able to latch on to other big-name bands that just happen to be touring during the six-day music festival. By claiming a few seats to each of these venues and allowing a very small number of those with wristbands to attend each is just clever marketing. Why wouldn’t they want to advertise Rihanna/ASAP Rocky, Stars, Nick Cave, and Heart on your posters? Regardless, with this many bands over this many days, you’re bound to find some quality. One of those quality acts are the Besnard Lakes.

Riding on their fourth album Until In ExcessImperceptible UFO, the Montreal-based band played just after midnight in the headline slot to a mostly packed Lee’s Palace. They played three tracks (that I could tell) from their new album which is different than their previous albums as it’s less about the ups and downs and instead is more focused on a consistent sound from beginning until end.

Besnard Lakes played a set full of fuzzed out psychedelic ’70s rock with a strong rockstar stage presence. The vocals of primary songwriter and guitarist Jace Lasek nicely complemented the soft and warm voice of bassist and wife, Olga Goreas. They even had time to throw in a Fleetwood Mac cover during their encore that added a nice nostalgic touch.

They’re presently in the middle of a tour with Montreal Psych-mates Suuns.

CMW Review: The Inbreds, March 24, Lee’s Palace

Posted on by Mark in Canadian Music Week, Concerts | 1 Comment

After a 7 year hiatus, the Inbreds reunited to play Lee’s Palace at CMW. This Halifax/Kingston initiative from the 90’s showered us with their brand of drum-driven bass music. It was an opportunity for old fans to hear some classic tunes, and new ones (admittedly myself) to discover this charming band. They played their fun brand of indie rock that harkens back to the days before indie rock was anywhere near as cool as it is now.

One of the most interesting aspects about the Inbreds is their unique approach to standard rock instruments. Bassist Mike O’Neill plays bass the way other people play guitar: by strumming chords and playing through distortion pedals. This makes for a heavy full sound that still manages to not be muddy. Pair this with some good story-telling vocals, and solid drumming in Dave Ullrich, and you’ve got yourself a decent show. Add an encore (a rare CMW treat) where Dave sports a flamboyant Elvis suit and you’ve got yourself a pretty good show.

CMW Review: BADBADNOTGOOD, March 23, Wrongbar

Posted on by Mark in Canadian Music Week, Concerts | Leave a comment

BADBADNOTGOOD was featured on the cover of last Thursday’s NOW. The timing simply couldn’t have been better, since they were playing the Wrongbar the very next day. The band consists of drummer Alex Sowinski, bassist Chester Hansen, and keyboardist Matt Tavares. They met at Humber’s jazz program and have managed to fuse elements of jazz, hip hop, youthful bravado, and web 2.0 net savvy to create some kind of tidal wave phenomenon. It was a crazy and adrenaline pumped set as they celebrated both the Now cover, and getting booked for Coachella.

After seeing their fresh faces, it would be easy to discount BBNG as newbies. That is, until you hear them play. They are tight and skilled the way jazz musicians are, but they’ve managed to combine that with restless energy and the confidence to dash musical boundaries. Why can’t a band who has figured out how to tie the jazz of yesterday with the hip hop and rock of today put on a show that involves moshing? No reason, because that’s exactly what they are doing.

There’s a popular conception that modern jazz has become ossified. It’s easy to get that idea if you listen to standard adult contemporary jazz stations that cater to an older generation that grew up on Miles Davis. If that’s your starting point, then it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking BBNG are a different breed entirely. If you dig a little deeper though, you realize that mirroring the times, exploring new vistas, and pushing boundaries is exactly what jazz was about. In that respect, BBNG is simply part of the latest wave of artists to pick up the torch. They’ve been able to do it in a way that resonates with a new generation. That’s a good thing for jazz, and a good thing for new music.

BADBADNOTGOOD’s next album, BBNG2 is set to release April 3rd.