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.



Canadian Music Week/Fest 2012 Preview

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

As SXSW wraps up, it’s time for the Panic Manual to turn our eyes and ears from Austin to Toronto. Canadian Music Week gets under way and runs from Wednesday to Sunday all over the city. CMW is an exciting time; it announces the arrival of spring and music festival season in Toronto. Whether that announcement is premature or not really depends on Mother Nature, and it looks like she will be cooperating this year. Also, the festival got pushed back a few weeks to give her a fighting chance.

There is a lot to see and hear: a film festival, a comedy festival, a conference, and of course, the music. With all that’s going on, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, so for tips on navigating the festival, check out last year’s CMW Survival Guide. The entire music schedule can be found here. While there aren’t a lot of big ticket names in this year’s line up, there certainly is something for everyone. From established artists like Joel Plaskett, to young up-and-comers like Zeus and Whale Tooth, there will be a mix of both familiar and new.

CMW is a great place for discovery. I certainly plan on hitting up some old favourites like Martha Wainwright and the aforementioned Plaskett and his Emergency band. I also look forward to seeing a bunch of newer artists like Jenn Grant, blues rockers CATL, and maybe even check out the retrospective screening of The Muppet Movie at the NFB.

Slacker Canadian Music runs March 21-25 all over Toronto.

CMW Review: The Zoobombs, Mar 12, Comfort Zone

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

Toronto – As some of you may know, fellow Panic Manualer Paul is our resident expert in all things metal and hard rock. Paul has been making an effort of late to broaden his musical horizons by covering jazz and funk shows. I commend him on his efforts. He has risen to the challenge and to this I say “a funkety funk.”

As the Panic Manual’s resident jazz writer, I’ve been tasked by Paul with the following challenge: “review me some hard punk rock music at Canadian Music Week.” To this I respond, “I am up to your challenge Paul!. I also have diverse and broad musical taste! I fear not this punk rock you speak of!” So marks my first hard rock experience since seeing Sum 41 play Ottawa Bluesfest  7 years ago. That experience has amply prepared me for more of the very same type of legitimate hard rock music.

Fast forward to late Saturday evening where I was dragged chose to go to the Comfort Zone to check out Japanese punk rockers the Zoobombs. Sporting a knit tie and a vest, I could tell immediately that I would fit right in. You see, my nefarious plans involved going to the Comfort Zone all along. I knew that this was the sort of all-black-clothes or hoodie wearing crowd that would look down on a silk tie. That’s why I chose a knit tie. I blended in like a mofo. Mark 1. Punk Music 0.

The Zoobombs are an energetic bunch of Japanese punk rockers. My earplugs were turned up to maximum warp and I could still feel the music shake me and my trusty Nikon. After snapping a few shots, I realized that the music was so loud that it was shaking my index finger at just the right tempo to simulate the “quickshot” feature of much more expensive cameras. Take that loud music. Mark 2. Punk Music 0.

It was at this point that I starting to feel like the music was trying to shake my precious brain goo out of its enclosure. A modest retreat was in order. At first Paul was wondering why I was standing behind instead of beside him. Also, I was actually hunching and cowering more than standing. It was at this point that Paul realized that I was expertly wielding him as a sound shield. There was a tremendous amount of sound energy assaulting ears that are more qualified for Chopin than Megadeath. Admittedly, that’s worth two points. Mark 2. Punk Music 2.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciated the energy the Zoobombs had to offer. For me it was just like trying to eat an entire watermelon while on E.

Too intense for my blood. Let’s call it a tie.

CMW Review: These Electric Lives, Piper Davis, Mar 12, El Mocambo

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

Toronto – In my books, it’s not truly a music festival in Toronto until I’ve been to either the Horseshoe or the El Mocambo. The only exception to this rule is the Toronto Jazz Festival. In which case it’s not truly a jazz festival until I’ve been inside that tent with the chandeliers at Nathan Phillips Square, or the Rex. With this in mind, I figured that the El Mo was a good place to start Saturday evening.

The first band on my agenda was These Electric Lives, a Toronto-based band that plays rock, alternative rock, and a brand new form of music I’m calling “indie rock”. The Lives are fronted by singer Chris Martin from Coldplay. At the very least he could have easily been Chris’ brother, or maybe his younger cousin. Their first tune was head-boppariffic, as I caught myself bopping my head almost immediately.

The best part for me was the contrast between the polished Coldplay-esque stage presence of the singer against the rough and tumble drummer. He reminded me of Animal from the Muppets. He looked rough around the edges and he played like he was rough around the edges. It was great. Just check out the lower left corner of the picture above to see what I mean. Although the band got off to a strong start, I felt the wind leave their sails pretty quickly. There was good indie rock moments in there. I just wish the momentum of the first song would have propelled them to an Animal-like craze similar to the Muppet Show theme song.

Next up was Vancouver-based Piper Davis. I don’t really know what to say about this band. The CMW site says “her songs represent a mixed bag of musical genres”. And how. Piper Davis herself danced in angular movements to what I’m told are “micro-sampled beats”. I can only guess that these are tiny beats that are kind of jarring and pierce your ears. I ran into fellow Panic Manualer Brian at the show. Thankfully for him, I had me an extra pair of earplugs.

“Thank you very much for these [earplugs]” – Panic Manualer Brian

Drink sales rose sharply during this set as people moved steadily away from the music and stumbly towards copious amounts of alcohol. Music is such an interesting thing; there’s an indescribable quality to so much of it. Take something and tweak it here and there and you get an amazing live show, or maybe a train wreck. I think there’s a lot to say about a musician’s stage presence, whether they’re truly into it, and the feedback between the artist and the crowd. Unfortunately this particular show seemed to lack all of that.