Canadian Music Week

CMW Review: Martha Wainwright, March 22, El Mocambo

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

The last time I saw Martha Wainwright, I missed half her set due to an unfortunate venue timing mixup. That wasn’t the first, and it won’t be the last time that I’m late for a show. It was, however, the most memorable. The remainder was so captivating that it remains on my shortlist of top Toronto Jazz Festival shows. I was not going to miss the start of her CMW appearance.

Martha Wainwright controls her voice the way rocket surgeons control their finely tuned rockets.

Fortunately, I was able to get to the El mo in plenty of time to set up camp. She strode on stage in a bejewelled jacket as if just dismounting from her trusty Harley, then launched into an intimate set of solo acoustic guitar. Her voice is so signature that it really stands in a category all its own. She can serenade like a bird, evoke the singsong qualities of an innocent child, or growl like a rocker. Martha Wainwright controls her voice the way rocket surgeons control their finely tuned rockets.

This was a decidedly different Martha from the one I saw at the jazz fest. That Martha was a demure jazz vixen backed by double bass and warm guitar singing songs from the late great Edith Piaf. That Martha paired nicely with a glass of merlot. This Martha was as ready for a rock show as she was the camp fire. This Martha worked best with some beer. That she can so easily move from chill to elegant and back again underlines her versatility as an artist.

Martha Wainwright has no upcoming shows, though I would consider flying somewhere to see her again.

CMW Review: Sidney York, The Bright Light Social Hour, March 22, Supermarket

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

You know what’s great about CMW’s website? Live streaming clickable tunes that give you a taste of the band’s repertoire. Dear CMW: please do more of this. It’s awesome. I relied on these clickable little gems last Thursday night to craft one amazing night of live music. After awaking from a power nap at 9:05 pm (!), I was clicking on random things by 9:34, and out the door to see Sidney York at the Supermarket by 9:45. If the internet has taught me anything, it’s that sometimes you just don’t know what you want until you click on it.

Sidney York is a tri-city Vancouver/Calgary/Toronto-based collaboration between three band geeks that made good. Like the band geeks from my High School, they play instruments like the oboe, the French horn, and the bassoon. Unlike the band geeks from my High School, they’re ‘effing femme fatale rockers now! Band nerds unite!

The trio crafts super fun indie pop music by pairing their woodwinds, keys, and brass with a backing rock band. That made for a textured sound artfully complemented by lead-singer Brandi Sidoryk’s powerful operatic pipes. My only regret was that in my rush to leave the venue to see Martha Wainwright, I missed my opportunity to tell them how much fun they were, and also to ask whether they would marry me.

The Bright Light Social Hour is an Austin-based southern man’s band coming off a successful SXSW. When I saw this big-haired, big-bearded and big-moustachioed band setup, I had a feeling I was in for some big old-fashioned rock. I was not disappointed. The BLSH rock hard and they rock well. It’s always an amazing thing to see a bunch of musicians play with intensity and grit. It’s even better when that intensity is being guided and focused by sheer talent and hair.

This modern day Lynyrd Skynyrd fuses elements of funk, blues and soul into something that is still unapologetically rock and roll. What more can I say? This was the sleeper hit of my CMW. Go see these guys.

The Bright Light Social Hour is playing shows throughout eastern Ontario over the next few weeks before returning to the U.S. Check them out at Ottawa’s Zaphod Beeblebrox on March 31.

CMW Review: Royal Canoe, Papermaps, ALX, March 24

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

On Saturday, I headed over to the Hard Luck Bar to catch Winnipeg’s Royal Canoe. I went in knowing that they had a really groovy and weird new EP called “Extended Play,” but just a couple songs in, I was absolutely blown away. With six members all completely focused on many different things but still showing that they were into the audience and feeling the music, it was impressive to watch them all so in sync with each other, even when their guitarist was having some mic troubles. Everyone kept commenting on how much gear they had, and how it must be to travel across the country with it. With two, sometimes three drummers, three sets of keyboards or synths to two other members plus a couple guitars and a bass, it was a full stage. Matt Peters and Matt Schellenberg take most vocal duties, but the others all chime in throughout the songs, showing that they know when to have solo and group voices, and it adds a whole other layer to their work, especially when one guy goes low and another guy goes high. When you think about it all, it sounds like it shouldn’t work, there’s so much going on, but all the puzzle pieces now fit together for Royal Canoe to sound enchantingly strange, quirky and headed in a direction that will give Canadian rock music a new edge. If you missed this set, be sure to check them out when they’re back in May at the Garrison.

Toronto’s Papermaps took the stage after them. With new member Betty Dimo who proved to be a strong yet appearing behind-the-scenes backbone to the group, they used most of their set to premiere new material. But they weren’t short of the hits from their self-titled album (“woooo, old songs!” yelled guitarist Todd Harrison) like the pop rock radio-friendly anthem “Reunion” as well as “Complicate Things,” “Can’t Make a Living” and “You Are My Gallows.” Papermaps played with a lot of gusto and seemed genuinely happy to play there and then, which always makes the audience comfortable. They ended their set on a fun note, bringing up tons of friends on stage for a song to sing and play tambourine to.

After their set, I power walked over to the Garrison for ALX, the new incarnation of Allie Hughes’ band. The five-piece fronted by the theatrical singer who used to perform marriages and proms as her set have re-worked her older songs into more synth-based, drum-driven dance songs. After she had released her new song “I Will Love You More” a couple weeks ago, I was looking forward to more material like that, but it’s yet to come. But this was only their second set after as a new entity, so there’s much to look forward to as they figure out the new path. Many kudos to Hughes for being so graceful about the computer’s synth track turning off during that single at the end of her set. I know each of the band members — who also included Maddy Wilde (of Moon King/ex-Spiral Beach) and Kelly McMichael (of Rouge)– have enormous talent, so I’m interested to see what they come up with next.

 

A CMW Review: Parlovr, March 23, El Mocambo

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

On Friday night, I somehow continued my trend of seeing bands from Montreal with hair I could say a lot about by going to see Parlovr. I had seen this trio three years ago at North by Northeast and missed every festival appearance of theirs since, so it was time to see them again. After the chaos that was the outside of the El Mocambo (dear security guard: don’t separate the lines into two and then if someone asks you which line is which, do not respond with “I don’t know”), I finally got in for their midnight set. Their set-up was just like it was in 2009 (but their hair had been somewhat altered) with big makeshift green and red arrow lights draped around their equipment, adding a little bit of extra ambiance to the weird room that is the upstairs of the El Mo.

“Hell, Heaven” is a perfect opener for their set. It led the crowd right into Louis Jackson’s and Alex Cooper’s bitterly angelic oohs and angsty guitar pushes. They moved right into “Where is the Sun” which is also off the “Hell/Heaven/Big/Love” EP. Parlovr took a couple stops in between songs throughout their set to tell jokes (“did you have some of that barbecue sauce downstairs? That’s all me”) and stories (one about a Quebec prime minister at a Rolling Stones show downstairs many moons ago, and if that had taken place now, Stephen Harper would be beating up bands and banging Adele; they didn’t get much of a response when they said “we need more Quebec prime ministers”). Their mischievous charm is endearing, and adds to the character that is the band.

Their set was an introduction to some material off their much anticipated upcoming album Kool Soul, which is due May 15, but nobody could shake the excitement as soon as they decided to finish their set with the catchy, squirrely anthem “Pen to the Paper” off their first album. Parlovr was everything I’d hoped them to be since I was hooked three years ago. Their vibes, charm and yes, their hair, are all things to take notice of. Hopefully this band will come back soon for a proper non-festival show to celebrate the new album.