In stark contrast to South By Southwest, which takes place in Austin immediately afterwards, Canadian Music Week takes place in minus ten degrees in Toronto in March, offering up an array of new music showcases and information-heavy industry conferences, with the biggest headliners being Bloc Party who triumphantly play two huge shows, the start of their massive North American tour.
However, our first experience of Toronto is the bizarre sight of Kiss co-founder Gene Simmons, walking into the breakfast room of the hotel, looking a bit dazed and confused, an incredibly larger-than-life character, even without any of the stage make-up he’s famous for.
Simmons is in town, firstly to make an Artist Keynote Speech, and secondly to scout for bands for his new Canadian based Simmons Records. By the end of the second day, Simmons has already checked out, after a huge public sulk with US music mogul Bob Lefsetz. Each accusing each other of being a sell-out and having no opinions, the row has ended up with insults about their girlfriends and finally their hair, and is now all over YouTube:
So there’s 500 bands playing across the city, and when the guides highlights acts as tediously mainstream as Buckcherry, Ting Tings and Papa Roach, you really do have to dig deep and check out as many band showcases as possible, and a few gems were found amongst the seeming trends for 1. Large numbered pop-rock-classical crossovers (Flowers Of Hell, Final Flash) and 2. Psychedelic folk singers and bands (Hermann Dune, a very Feist-like Rebekah Higgs and Hey Rosetta, who collaborate with Hawksley Workmen.
Montreal-based, five-piece Final Flash were sublime with their own take on psychedelia, at a late night show at a packed-out Hideout venue. Yet to finish their debut LP, on which they have enlisted the help of Besnard Lakes’ Jace Lasek, you really should check out some rough mixes of tracks they posted on their Myspace.
Another homegrown highlight were Alberta’s Women, tipped as their town’s great musical hope, they really impressed. Tracks like ‘Black Rice’ played much slower than on their Chad VanGaalen-produced debut touched on Pavement-esque experimentalism despite their very 60s psychedelic sound.
‘Shaking Hands’ and ‘Cameras’ also had the Horseshoe Tavern completely rocked out at their Thursday night show.
We caught up with Toronto’s own Holy Fuck. Playing support to Bloc Party in a warehouse on the Quayside, they filled the room with much faster versions of album tracks ‘Milkshake’ and ‘Frenchys’ to combat the time curfew.
The chaps were happy to chat to us about acts they saw at the festival, and their new as-yet-untitled album, which will finally be ready this September. Since their last LP in 2007, the band have distracted themselves with live shows and remixes for the likes of Royksopp.
See the band chat in their dressing room here:
The same night, we snuck backstage at the Indie Awards, the 9th annual celebration of independent music in the country, where Anvil, the heavy metal trio who have finally found fame after 36 years through last years movie ‘Anvil! The Story of Anvil’, were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.
The band, having just been confirmed to play this years Glastonbury Festival too, were on fire, happy that everything seems to be panning out like some sick rock dream. Their new album is just about ready they say, and will be called ‘Juggernaut of Justice’. Recording the album around movie promotional tours and shows, Glenn Five told me: “We’ve never stopped writing material, and we knew we had to come up with a great album after all this fanfare.
See Glenn Five and Rob Reiner backstage at the Indies here:
All in all, CMW was surprisingly lacking in bands to write home about, a great statistic heard at one of the conferences was that of the 6, 000 albums that are released in Canada each year, 85% of them only sell one copy. ONE COPY! Not even BOTH of your folks? Granted, showcases like these are meant to increase awareness, but when the international big name draws are the The Ting Tings, you have to wonder.