CMW Review: Joseph Arthur, Jordan Cook, The Pack AD, March 22, Horseshoe Tavern

Posted on by Paul in Canadian Music Week | 2 Comments

Joseph Arthur is a talented singer-songwriter with a fairly dedicated fanbase, yet he stood out like a sore thumb on this bill.  With the possible exception of Brett Caswell and the Marquee Rose, who went on right before Arthur, he really had nothing in common with the rest of the acts on the bill.  Case in point: this evening’s headliners were Hamilton hard rockers Monster Truck.  A fine band certainly, but I imagine there’s not a great deal of crossover between their fans. (in fact, I could be one of the few … didn’t stick around for Monster Truck though)  Joseph Arthur played a good set, but I felt like his Lou Reed-isms were sort of lost on much of the audience who was not really there to see him and so generally just talked at the back of the bar, drowning him out somewhat.  I’m not sure who put him on this bill, but it didn’t quite work somehow.  Maybe someplace like the Dakota would be a better fit.

Following Arthur was Saskatoon’s Jordan Cook, who, I’m sad to say, sort of had me hating live music for a minute there.  He and his band plowed through some rather generic blues rock (or is it “blooz rawk?”) that did not sit well with me at all.  Not that Cook and his band aren’t talented or anything, it’s just that it’s hard to make this kind of thing sound all that good.  There’s a fine line between The Black Keys and Blueshammer, and these guys are on the wrong side of that line.  During their set, a friend asked, “Are they from Nickelback country?”  More or less.  In fact, I imagine I’d find a Nickelback set infinitely more entertaining than these guys.  Still, they played a Fleetwood Mac cover so I can’t hate on them too much, and some people up front seemed to be enjoying it.  Not my cup of tea though

Following Cook’s unremarkable blues rock, the blues rock of The Pack AD sounded absolutely stellar by comparison.  They avoided the overly cliched stylings of Cook and band and added a bit of a punk edge.  Despite an energetic set, they still left something to be desired, largely in the form of stage banter.  It needs a bit more work, ladies.  Just sayin’.

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.


CMW Review: Joel Plaskett, March 21, CN Tower

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

The Joel Plaskett Emergency played the top of the CN Tower to kick off the five day music festival that is Canadian Music Week. Seeing one of my favourite Canadian bands in one of the most interesting of Toronto venues was certainly a highlight of the festival. We got to rock out while enjoying a panoramic view of the city and gorging on baked pastries. How sweet is that?

The band has been featured on CBC as they record a song every week for their latest album Scrappy Happiness. As one would expect, the audience was treated to new material from the album as well as classics from the Plaskett discography. It was a good show at a memorable venue, but with a 6 pm start time, it felt a little, well, early. I couldn’t help but wonder what it would have been like with a later start time, some free booze a la SXSW, and maybe a few more die hard Plaskett fans.

Either way, it was a fantastic opportunity to see a band at the top of the world.

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.