The slightly retooled Canadian Music Week 2016 featured less big name Canuck headliners and what felt like more international co-presents. While this may have reduced the number of sure things and verifiable buzz bands, it also increased the opportunity for discovery if you were willing to pound the pavement.
Over five nights I ended up seeing seven acts that managed to not blow while traveling from club to club, including my new faves, the creators of something called the “Sad Girls Club.”
Here they are:
7) Fake Palms
Wednesday, May 4 @ Horseshoe Tavern
One of the tentacles of the very good Buzz Records octopus, Fake Palms’ fuzzy noise pop was entirely acceptable setting the table for Bob Mould’s headlining performance later in the evening.
6) Tia Brazda
Thursday, May 5 @ The Painted Lady
I don’t have much time for jazz in general, and next to smooth jazz that winking, old-time, vocal standard jazz might be the least interesting variant to me. It was profoundly unexpected, then, that I came away from Tia Brazda’s set at The Painted Lady thoroughly entertained. It was a craftsmanship thing. Brazda’s band was solid, her voice was good and her songs, a deft time travel through the eras up to and including early rock ‘n’ roll, was surprisingly compelling.
5) John Jacob Magistery
Sunday, May 8 @ Horseshoe Tavern
I suspect John Jacob Magistery are the sort of band that have impassioned arguments in the van about how Bonnaro has gone downhill now that they care less about “the jams.” Indeed, lead singer Johnny Griffin’s stage getup of a technicolor blue poncho with “Die Hippie” taped across the chest was just about as in-the-pocket as you could get for a student of My Morning Jacket/Magnetic Zeroes/Father John Misty beardo rock. Anyone acquainted with those aforementioned acts would have found John Jacob Magistery more comfortingly familiar than reductive.
4) JEFF the Brotherhood
Friday, May 6 @ Horseshoe Tavern
For a duo JEFF the Brotherhood make a remarkable amount of noise with their burnout cosmic rock. I’m a bit spoiled by having Death From Above 1979 being in my backyard and setting a high-spirited standard for what kind of party a fuzzy two-piece can create. But even though JEFF the Brotherhood were less DFA79 dance party and more Fu Manchu-style basement headbang session, the resulting ear damage was well within the “worth it” range.
Wednesday, May 4 @ Google Party
Sloan’s Chris Murphy, Flashing Lights/Super Friendz’s Matt Murphy and The Inbreds’ Mike O’Neill have formed a new band called TUNS and it sounds exactly like what anyone who loved those bands in the 1990s would hope they sound like — themselves. Picking whose songs were best was like picking a favourite child, but if it means anything it’s old Inbreds songs that I’ve had in my head ever since.
2) Fat White Family
Saturday, May 7 @ Velvet Underground
If I were to construct a fake musical product I couldn’t dream up a better band to plug into the hyperbolic NME jizz machinery than Fat White Family. Happy Mondays do The Horrors, Blur Rebel Motorcycle Club, a live action tribute to the film Dig!… I could go on. Fat White Family aren’t particularly unique sounding to anyone who dug British rock bands in the ’90s, but what they are doing is mixing and matching these pieces in enjoyable ways. Also, the ramshackle, we’re-fucked-up air of rock ‘n’ roll chaos they carry seems to play well with the millennials who haven’t really encountered that sort of thing before.
1) The Magnettes
Saturday, May 7 @ Handlebar
The Magnettes were a revelation. Dressed in matching cheerleader outfits with “Witch” and “Psycho” on them, Rebecka Digervall and Sanna Kalla introduced themselves by welcoming the spotty Handlebar crowd to the “Sad Girls Club” before unleashing a flurry of wryly anthemic electro that perfectly intersected Icona Pop and Lykke Li. Their backstory was sharp: They moved from a small northern Swedish town to the big city to get laid… but they couldn’t because everyone was into indie rock, so they had to start their own band. Their moves were sharp: synchronized blowing your own head off gestures married to cheer steps, stomps and jumps. And their songs were deadly catchy, too. Even their electro-fied cover of Springsteen’s “Dancing In The Dark” fit perfectly. I’m pretty sure I joined the Sad Girls Club that night and I’ve got a strong suspicion there are going to be a lot of people filling out membership cards in the near future.