canadian music week

CMW Review: Steph Macpherson, The R.G. Morrison, Mar 10, Bread & Circus

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

Toronto – You know I really like Bread & Circus. It’s a super laid back place in the heart of Kensington Market and it easily lends itself to intimate musical experiences. It’s been a full year since I’ve last frequented the joint, but I am now going to make an effort to get back there over the summer. While the drink selection isn’t huge, the prices are reasonable, and the staff is friendly.

Thursday evening began at the Circus with Steph Macpherson, a singer-songwriter based out of Vancouver. It was a foot-tapping experience. She played well-constructed folk rock. Everything seemed like it was in the right place. It was tastefully done. I believe I was bobbing my head and tapping my foot in the all the right places. While Steph has a very sweet voice, I wonder what a few extra years of experience on the road combined with a bit of risk-taking might do? I’d be curious to hear the result.

Steph Macpherson plays the Central, March 12, at midnight.

“[Introducing himself and his absentee band] We are The R.G. Morrison. I am R.G. Morrison.”

Next up was The R.G. Morrison. The first thing I noticed about R.G. Morrison was that he had a pronounced U.K. accent; he was decidedly not Canadian. As an aside, this year’s Canadian Music Week line-up seems to have the highest selection of non-Canadian music I’ve seen to date. I’m not sure if this is actual fact, but I expect CMW to focus mostly on Canadian talent, leaving the world-wide stuff to NXNE. Perhaps, there has been a conscious change in artistic direction of the festival? I will try and find this out and report back.

The second thing I noticed is that, while “The R.G. Morrison” sounds like a band name, and is in fact a full band, only front-man R.G. Morrison himself was on stage. He explained to us that his band had been caught up in American customs. Without getting into details, he explained that this show was going to be a solo one, and it would give him a chance to play some solo material that he doesn’t usually play live.

The third thing I noticed is that R.G. has a powerful and emotional voice. Once he got into the groove of the set, I was pulled into his music. It can be amazing what one talented musician can do with just a guitar and a voice. His guitar work was just a touch more complex that the standard singer-songwriter fare, making it a perfect accompaniment to his both nuanced and impressive set of pipes. This was an intimate musical affair and live music at its best.

I can’t pretend to know what the actual band would have sounded like, but I was happy enough seeing R.G. Morrison play an intimate solo act. It was a nice little slice of CMW.

CMW: 2010 Festival Highlights

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

Toronto – Well the dust has settled on another Canadian Music Week. I’ve had an opportunity to take a step back and have a good think about the shows I’ve seen, so I’m ready for my recap.

Best show:
It’s a tie between Plants & Animals and the last 20 minutes that I saw of the Handsome Furs set. I’m going to go with the Handsome Furs because it was so intense and energetic.

Best show from a band you have never heard before:
Bahamas. He is a solid guitar player and singer. Of the Jason  Collett/Zeus/Bahams trifecta, it was the aesthetic of the Bahamas songs that I was most drawn too. In terms of musicianship, he seemed like a cut-above his band mates.

Worst show:
The angry music during the middle of the Constantines set at the Indie music awards had me high-tailing it out of the Royal York before they were finished.

Best CMW moment:
The Handsome Furs encore. Because encores are so rare at music festivals like CMW that have strict set times, and because it was so good.

Worst CMW moment:
There are two worst CMW moments. The first would be showing up early to see Joel Plaskett, only to wait in line for the better part of an hour in the cold windy rain. On top of that, they were running behind so the doors opened late.

The second is a vicarious moment. I met a young woman who was so discouraged about the Plants & Animals lineup that she decided to forego that show to make sure she got to see the Handsome Furs. She arrived at the El Mocambo early but accidentally went upstairs instead of downstairs. When she realized her mistake, they wouldn’t let her in downstairs. This was a shared culpability situation, but better handlers at the door could have easily avoided this problem.

Here were Paul’s moments at CMW

Best Show: Parlovr @ Sneaky Dee’s. It was 2 AM. They seemed totally drunk, off the cuff, and a little bit goofy, but still blew me away with their songs and their stage presence (which was actually probably due to the apparent drunkenness) and proved that they were more than just another band of Montreal hipsters.

Best show from a band you have never heard before: A tie between The Atlas Moth And P.O.S.

Worst show: Nothing totally sucked, but Homicide @ The Comfort Zone was a bit of a letdown. Mind you, I only caught like 1 or 2 songs.

Best CMW moment: Separado! That movie just made me feel good.

Worst CMW moment: The mandatory coatcheck at The Phoenix. I’m fine with keeping my coat on, thank you very much.

CMW Review: Jeff Martin, Mar 13, Mod Club

Posted on by Mark in Canadian Music Week, Concerts | 3 Comments

Toronto – Former Tea Party front man Jeff Martin played the Mod Club last Saturday. It was an exciting set of music both new and old that had me cursing the super quick 30 minute sets at the Mod Club that night. It’s not entirely fair that I’m writing this review because I was such a huge Tea Party fan as a teenager. I’ve long since internalized their first two albums Splendor Solis, and The Edges of Twilight.

I was skeptical as to what exactly to expect from Jeff after so many years. Thankfully he still plays to his strengths: eastern-influenced rock played with open-tunings that resonate with a gutsy metallic heft. I can’t believe I just used the term “gutsy metallic heft”; I’m such a douchebag. Anyway, he opened with The Bazaar, and kept the crowd happy by later playing the crowd favourite Sister Awake. He also kept things fresh by playing some of his newer non-Tea Party material that fit well within the set.

He peppered Tea Party lyrics into his other songs as if he spontaneously felt like it.

What I forgot about Jeff Martin is how consummate a musician he his. He can seriously play the guitar, and he can seriously sing. I don’t know how much of his set was rehearsed, but it certainly felt like an off-the-cuff set from a musician extremely comfortable in his own skin. He peppered Tea Party lyrics into his other songs as if he spontaneously felt like it.

His last song was a particularly impressive blues number that borrowed lyrics from old blues greats. As exotic as his tastes are, Jeff reminded us that he’s still got roots in the blues and can fuse that with his other influences into a style all his own. Although we may tend to typecast him in a particular era and style; he’s definitely his own musician and worth approaching on his own merits.

CMW highlight.

CMW Review: Joel Plaskett, Mar 13, Mod Club

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

Toronto – Ah Joel Plaskett. We here at the Panic Manual have a soft spot in our heart for Mr. Plaskett. So far we’ve covered three of his live shows (here, here, and here). I suppose that makes this number four. He played last Saturday night at the Mod Club, accompanied by fellow singer/songwriter Peter Elkas. It was rainy, it was windy, and yet still people lined up for the opportunity to hear just a tiny abbreviated set of Joel’s music. Now that’s dedication.

“Is there a reason you loves this town?” – crowd member
“There are many reasons I love this town. Damn.” – Joel Plaskett

What else can I say about this genuine east coast rocker? I suppose what’s just as impressive as Joel’s guitar and vocal skills is what he does to a crowd. His mix of talent, humble east-coast upbringing and down-to-earth attitude makes him an endearing personality and a crowd favourite. There’s just something about him that prods us fast-paced downtown urbanites to smile and let our shields down; for a second we resolve to be more civil to our fellow strangers in this wild concrete rat race. Granted, it’s a passing resolution at best. But thankfully Joel comes to town frequently enough to keep prodding us in the right direction.

Joel won the Indie music award for best solo artist of the year later that night at the Royal York hotel. It’s a well deserved award for standup Canadian artist.