Tag Archives: CMW

7 Points Of Interest For CMW 2017 Veteran Attendees



Say you’re the kind of person who can remember a time when there were eight major record labels operating in Canada. Back then, there was no YouTube, or Soundcloud, or Bandcamp. There was no Napster, no streaming, and there was certainly no Twitter or Facebook.

When you wanted to learn about new music you had three choices: listen to the radio (but that was always a Pyrrhic victory because you had to listen to the radio), you could find out about new bands by reading what your favourite music writers in daily, weekly or monthly publications were recommending, or, you could chase down these new sounds the truest way — by trudging in and out of the clubs to check things out.

By doing this you’ve seen soooo many great bands. Some that never broke (Flashing Lights, Copyright, Deadly Snakes, Tangiers, Royal City) and some that, relatively at least, did (Broken Social Scene, The Dears, Constantines, Joel Plaskett).

You’ve been doing this sort of thing for 19 straight years now. And you’re tired. The thought of jostling with college kids with unearned beards in over-capacity clubs to see the “next big thing” doesn’t sound pleasant in any way.

And yet, the spirit remains willing.

So you brace yourself. It is, once again, Canadian Music Week. And once again all of the Canadian music industry will descend upon Toronto to polish up and show off their latest pet projects while a whole separate underclass of patronless dreamers will also arrive in the hopes of “networking” and “making some valuable connections”… but mostly by trying to push unwanted flyers and stickers on you.

It can seem all too much. But you know there are still great bands and great songs out there, so you mutter, “I’m getting too old for this shit” and once again step into the breach…

This time it’s different, though.

Because you are getting too old for this, you know that many of these “new projects we’re working on” are bullshit false flags. You know that party with seafood will smell like seafood and that’s enough for you to skip it. And you also know that navigating the website will, as always, be a Sisyphussian lesson on why organizations should never let musicians and their representatives self-curate their profiles on your web real estate.

Your plan is to simply say “fuck it,” to not be moved by the hype, to not have to cool hunt. You’re going to see what you know, what you like, and what’s not going to irritate the shit out of you.

I’ve identified seven ways in which you can fulfill this quest. Read them below:

Wednesday, April 19 @ Phoenix Concert Theatre as part of the INDIE Awards

54-40 have always been a bit taken for granted all these years because they’ve always been good and they’ve always been with us. But the CanRock we’ve all known and loved for so many years is dying. Rush have retired, it’s been made clear it’s impolite to speculate on The Hip’s future, but y’know, the ’70s and ’80s acts like April Wine, David Wilcox and Loverboy are lumbering into their twilight years, and all those ’90s acts who went gold on every record have officially exhausted all their reunions. Against this, we still have 54-40. They’re getting some sort of lifetime achievement award and they deserve it.

Charlotte Day Wilson
Wednesday, April 19 @ Mod Club
Thursday, April 20 @ Mod Club

There’s a whole generation of young adults who’ve never heard Sade’s “Smooth Operator” and who wouldn’t know a Massive Attack record if Banksy spray-painted one in their ears. To these people, Charlotte Day Wilson is their fast-emerging new queen. That’s not meant to be dismissive. Wilson’s voice is chillingly good and if there is a legit “next big thing” performing at CMW this year, she is it. Seeing Wilson is your best bet to score easy cred points this week.

The Silver Dollar

If you haven’t heard, the Silver Dollar is basically dead. But on the way out, mercurial concert promoter Dan Burke has booked a number of righteous RIP shows up until the end of the month to honour the place. You owe it to yourself to make a stop by this week and pay your respects. And when Dan tries to pretend you’re not on the guest list, or that there’s no more room for wristband holders and badges and it’s paying customers only, just pay your $10 and enjoy the experience. You’ll be happy you did when the new Silver Dollar ground floor retail space/resto-lounge mood-boarded by some Charles Khabouth design protege opens in 2021 and ruins everything.

Danko Jones
Wednesday, April 19 @ Velvet Underground

I’ve got a strong suspicion that large pockets of the “the industry” in Canada hate Danko Jones. And I’ve got an equally strong suspicion Danko feels the same way about them. But the band are still here, playing a showcase-style gig anyway. Officially endorsed by Lemmy from Motorhead and Duff McKagan from Guns n’ Roses, they’re big enough in Europe that they get to negotiate the font size of their name on festival posters. This may very well be an act of defiance-as-rock concert for all those haters, which makes it kinda exciting.

Thursday, April 20 @ Costume House (165 Geary Avenue)
Saturday, April 22 @ A Common Sort (free Record Store Day show)

Gal singer + “soundscape” producer duos are second only to “sounds like Drake” for things the music world doesn’t need any more of in 2017. Except for She-Devils, that is. This Montreal pair are mighty compelling in a they-could-have-been-on-4AD-back-in-the-day way. Instead, their first album is going to be on Secretly Canadian, which in its way is almost the same thing, and they’ll be among peers like SUUNS, Anohni, Jens Lekman and Yoko Ono. With their ’60s pop grooves and Velvet Underground world weariness, this may be the actualization of what Andy Warhol wanted in Nico. If your old bones are going to take a chance on something, this is it.

Worst Place To Score Seats

I’ve ranked a number of the key participating CMW venues on how unlikely it is you’ll be able to score a seat if you show up during non-peak, non-at capacity times. The lower the ranking, the lower your chances of avoiding crippling back spasms throughout the week:

15) Horseshoe Tavern
14) Lee’s Palace
13) Silver Dollar
12) Monarch Tavern
11) Cameron House
10) The Paddock
9) The Rivoli
8) Bovine Sex Club
7) Dakota Tavern
6) Mod Club
5) The Garrison
4) Adelaide Hall
3) Drake Underground
2) Velvet Underground
1) Great Hall

The Dandy Warhols and The Sadies
Friday, April 21 @ Lee’s Palace as part of the Dine Alone showcase

Finally, a bill you understand. A label you’ve heard of is putting on a stacked bill with bands you’ve actually heard of and it’s got a headliner whose one album you really liked and they were funny in that documentary and it’s a bit of an underplay for them. You just gotta figure out who you still know who can get you on the guest list…

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7 Best Acts I Saw At CMW 2016

The Magnettes

The Magnettes

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.

John Jacob Magistery

John Jacob Magistery

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.

Fat White Family

Fat White Family

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.

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CMW 2016: Where I’m At

Canadian Music Week 2016

Canadian Music Week 2016

Canadian Music Week 2016 officially kicks into high gear today and for the 17th straight year, I’ll be out there in the clubs hoping to a) see something awesome, and b) not see something crap.

Over the years I’ve come to realize the best personal strategy for me to exact the greatest return on my wanderings is to focus on a) the acts I’ve never seen before, and b) the ones I’m not likely to bother seeing ever again. That means going heavy on the out-of-towners and foreigners and light on highly active and/or local CanCon.

This is reflected in this year’s CMW recommends list below.

If you want to see me there’s a chance I’ll be at one of these places:

Wednesday, May 4
8 pm Ella Fence @ The Cave
10 pm Adam Strangler @ Bovine Sex Club
10 pm The Shrine @ Hard Luck
10:30 pm Bob Mould @ Horseshoe Tavern
11 pm Heat @ Garrison
11 pm Madlick @ Nocturne
12 am Broken Hands @ Garrison
12 am Acid Priest @ Hard Luck
12 am Blocked Bones @ The Hideout

Thursday, May 5
8 pm The Fern Tips @ Silver Dollar
8 pm Vallens @ Velvet Underground
8 pm Basic Nature @ Smiling Buddha
8 pm Holly Macve @ Drake Underground
9 pm Ella Fence @ Painted Lady
9 pm Ora Corgan @ Cest What
10 pm Dark Bird @ Painted Lady
11 pm BR Mackie @ The Paddock
11 pm Broken Hands @ Drake Underground
11 pm Cat And The Queen @ The Hideout
12 am The Shrine @ Bovine Sex Club
1 am Annette Gil @ The Cave
1 am Walrus @ Silver Dollar
1 am BYSTS @ Nightowl
1:20 am Beat Market @ Nocturne
2 am Broken Hands @ Drake Underground
2 am Sturle Dagsland @ Smiling Buddha

Friday, May 6
8 pm Sturle Dagsland @ Central
8 pm Madlick @ Comfort Zone
9 pm Broken Hands @ Velvet Underground
9 pm Kane and Potvin @ Garrison
9 pm Dark Bird @ Hard Luck
9 pm Ho99o9 @ Comfort Zone
9 pm Holly Macve @ Cameron House
9:15 pm Ella Fence @ Supermarket
11 pm No Sinner @ Garrison
1 am Walrus @ Garrison
1:20 am Art Diktator @ Nocturne
1:30 am Beat Market @ Revival
12 am Dead Obies @ Great Hall
12 am Old James @ Cadillac Lounge
12 am Jeff the Brotherhood @ Horseshoe Tavern
12 am Fat White Family @ Lee’s Palace
12 am The Magnettes @ Nightowl
1 am Broken Hands @ Smiling Buddha
1 am RJ Cormier @ The Paddock

Saturday, May 7
4 pm Holly Macve @ Drake 150
5 pm Dark Bird @ The Garrison
7:30 pm AA Wallace @ Great Hall
10:45 pm Walrus @ Rivoli
11 pm Dead Obies @ Adelaide Hall
11 pm Acid Priest @ Smiling Buddha
11 pm Death Valley Girls @ Hard Luck
11 pm In Drift @ 300 Club – girl Smiths
11 am The Magnettes @ Handlebar
12 am Fat White Family @ Velvet Underground
1 am Above Top Secret @ Painted Lady
1 am Ho99o9 @ Adelaide Hall
2 am Onefilm @ The 300 Club

Sunday, May 8
9 pm No Sinner @ Garrison
10 pm Rolemodel @ Adelaide Hall

As an added bonus to reaffirm my music critic snob cred, below is a list of names that when I read them in the “Similar To” section of various CMW bands’ bios, I immediately skipped to the next act. There is no world in which any act who claims they sound like these bands would be entertaining for a 40 minute showcase.

All Time Low
Ani DiFranco
The Black Crowes
Blink 182
Brand New
Bright Eyes
Dan Mangan
Dillinger Escape Plan
Ellie Goulding
Elton John
Emerson, Lake and Palmer
Foo Fighters
Frank Zappa
Fuck Buttons
Good Charlotte
The Guess Who
Guns n’ Roses
Great Big Sea
Imagine Dragons
Jackson Browne
Jason Mraz
John Mayer
Kid Cudi
The Killers
King Crimson
Kings of Leon
Led Zeppelin
The Lumineers
Maroon 5
Mars Volta
Matchbox Twenty
Matt Nathanson
Motley Crue
Mumford & Sons
New Radicals
No Doubt
One Republic
The Proclaimers
The Ramones
Rascal Flatts
Red Hot Chili Peppers
The Script
Sigur Ros
3 Doors Down
Sum 41
Taking Back Sunday
Two Door Cinema Club
Ty Segall

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CMW 2015 Reviews: Single Mothers, APigeon, Programm, Dead Tired And More

Dead Tired at Lee's Palace

Dead Tired at Lee’s Palace

The most valuable lesson I’ve learned from 17 years of covering Canadian Music Week is this: If you don’t like the band you’re watching… leave.

Jet. Scoot. Ghost. Just get out of there.

When the back pain sets in, your feet hurt, you’re a little bit hung over and your ears are ringing of eight days worth of questionable viewing choices, the last thing you need to do is subject yourself to more punishment.

So I don’t.

This means I get to see more bands, get irritated by less of them, and get a certain amount of exercise along the way bouncing from club to club. For the 2015 edition of CMW I ended up seeing parts or all of 26 sets over six days (including Gateway Drugs four separate times, which we’ll deal with separately). I’ve broken the most notable adventures down into one handy chronological recap for easy reading.

Here’s what I saw:

May 1

Jesus And Mary Chain @ Phoenix Concert Theatre
The Chain were celebrating the 30th anniversary of their Psychocandy album by playing the whole thing in order. It was a both illuminating and enjoyable slice of noise rock nostalgia. I wrote a fuller review here.

May 5

The Wayo @ The Garrison
A saxophone-playing frontperson flashes all sorts of warning signs, but it works rather well with Charlotte Day Wilson’s just-a-bit-icy croon. Imagine them as a sort of R&B flipside to Etiquette.

Programm @ The Garrison
Part of the pleasure of hearing a band for the first time is when you know they like all the right records just from listening to one song. The Horrors, Neu!, Joy Division, Velvet Underground… Programm are people you actually wouldn’t mind being trapped talking to at a house party.

There was, however, something naggingly incongruous about Programm’s set. The band’s performance was part of a themed showcase night dubbed “Toronto Women In Music.” Which is fine. They have a woman in the band — bassist/vocalist Jackie Game — who sings a couple songs and therefore technically fulfills the requirements of a showcase featuring women, from Toronto, in music. However, guitarist Jacob Soma sings more and everyone else in the band were dudes. Basically, there was a lot more Thurston Moore than Kim Gordon in their set, which felt a bit like a broken promise for a female-centric theme night.

Programm at The Garrison

Programm at The Garrison

May 6

The Cocksure Lads @ The Rivoli
The Cocksure Lads are a real band based on a fake band from a real movie attempting Gerry And The Pacemakers-style British invasion rock as performed by ex-Moxy Früvous members Murray Foster and Mike Ford. Or something like that. Being the veterans they are, the Lads displayed a level of technical competence that was sometimes missing from the greener bands at the festival, and they’ve got the music form locked down as well. Unfortunately, there’s an undercurrent of charmless smirk working against them. It’s like they weren’t willing to fully commit to their gimmick. This is a problem because100 per cent commitment, even in satire (think Steel Panther), is what you need for something like this to work.

SIANspheric @ Horseshoe Tavern
If you wanted to assassinate everyone who had a campus radio show in 1997, the ‘Shoe was ground zero for the who-knows-when-they’ll-ever-play-again resurfacing of Hamilton shoegaze rockers SIANspheric. Years later SIAN still sound exactly like SIAN, complete with requisite skronk, whirl and whoosh punctuated by the occasional tear-y buzzsaw sound.

Swervedriver @ Horseshoe Tavern
Swervedriver’s new comeback album I Wasn’t Born To Lose You is not the best. So I went into this set expecting to wade through a lot of muck in order to hear those songs from Raise and Mezcal Head. It was a bit of a surprise then, that I knew and liked so much of their set. I actually road-tripped across Ontario to watch multiple Swervedriver shows when I was younger, and hearing “Never Lose That Feeling,” “Rave Down,” “Son Of Mustang Ford” and “For Seeking Heat” again opened some sort of musical portal to the past.  The homestretch featuring “Duel” and the brilliant narrative tale “Last Train To Satansville” were, as expected, worth waiting for, but finding small pleasures in the catalogue songs was a bonus treat.

May 7

Solids @ Horseshoe Tavern
Solids’ Blame Confusion album served wonderfully to fill that vacuum created last year in the aftermath of Japandroids’ ascension. Unfortunately, unless something dramatically changes — particularly with their unchanging stage show, Solids’ ceiling is going to top out around “the favourite band of a couple campus DJs in town.”

D-Sisive @ Hard Luck
It was fitting that hard-luck rapper D-sisive’s showcase would take place in the dingy confines of the punk-centric Hard Luck. After all, he did pull off the most punk move of the entire festival. In the days leading up to his set D-sisive aggressively promoted a new album he was dropping specifically for the event called Loathsome Lullabies 4 Loverz. It was, in his own words, “A hit-filled masterpiece that will land me a recording deal with a major label.”

Thing is, the eight-song record was really just him singing Billy Ocean’s “Caribbean Queen,” Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” and Foreigner’s “I Want To Know What Love Is” over top of karaoke instrumental versions of those hits. And when it came time to perform his set, with the exception of a short three-song actual rap set, THESE were the songs he performed for an alternatingly amused, offended and stupefied crowd. It was unquestionably the most ridiculous thing I saw at CMW and the world was better for it (maybe).

Programm at The Garrison

D-sisive at Hard Luck, reading the lyrics to the songs as he’s singing them

Twin Guns @ Bovine Sex Club
Sometimes when you get deep into a music festival and you’re starting to get fed up with people and taxis and bands who list their influences as “Kings Of Leon and Foo Fighters,” finding out some dude who played drums or The Cramps on a European tour or something sounds like the best way to spend an hour. And so to the Bovine we went to see New York City’s Twin Guns and their Lux-associate ‘Jungle’ Jim Chandler. While there was certainly less “billy” to Twin Guns’ rock than The Cramps, their buzzy set still fit comfortably in a world where everyone with a leather jacket carries a switchblade.

May 8

Red Mass @ Velvet Underground
Y’know those times when your set starts five minutes late because your fucking bassist is at the bar waiting for his drinks. And you can see him. Just standing there. While everyone else is ready to go. And then you pick a fight with the soundman because he’s a fuckup who’s clearly going to fuck everything up. And THEN, because you’re still waiting for your bass player you decide to count the bodies in the room. Seventeen. At least eight of whom are in the other bands playing that night. You can’t fucking believe you drove all the way from Montreal for this horseshit.

You know what you do when this happens? You don’t scowl and pout for five minutes straight on stage. You don’t make “Aw, fuck it” glib remarks to the soundman. You put your head down and rock the fuck out. Because that’ll be your best revenge. And because if that’s not the way you decide to respond there’ll be 16 people in the room by the end of the third song.

Dead Tired @ Lee’s Palace
When Canadian post-hardcore band Alexisonfire mostly-dissolved, the band’s co-lead singer Dallas Green used that time to fully realize his City And Colour project as a world-beating, lighters-in-the-air showcase for lonely heart ballads. In an almost perfect shift in the opposite direction, Alexis screamer George Pettit has retreated back to the clubs with Dead Tired, a bristling, relentless, purposefully uncompromised hardcore assault. The packed sweatbox (apparently an air conditioning unit had blown up earlier in the evening) at Lee’s was the perfect place, then, for Pettit to re-emerge like a spitting, screaming, t-shirt-tearing Lazarus. The noise Dead Tired made represented a strident rejection of Pettit’s arena-filling past with its violent rejection of melody and multi-guitar grind. If this is going to be Pettit’s second act, it’s not going to play out overground. It will, however, ensure that he’ll be able to sleep at night.

Single Mothers @ Lee’s Palace
To the best I can figure Single Mothers lead singer Andrew Thomson’s wild gesticulations, urgent screaming and stabbing truthbomb lyrical insights represent the platonic ideal for a specific sort of doesn’t-have-a-name-for-it-yet combination of Gen Y rage and soul searching. Maybe it’s because they suspect retweeting someone else’s good deeds doesn’t actually count as activism, or maybe because they realize Tinder swiping is pretty much the shallowest way you can conduct your romantic adventures, but when Thomson was rolling around on the Lee’s stage howling away an entire room full of sleeve tattoos and asymmetrical facial piercings were right there with him and totally understood.

May 9

APigeon @ The Drake Underground
There’s a certain dance to festivals like CMW which focus on emerging talent. And that dance is usually “we want to be exactly like X act who are already famous.” Often these acts fail to realize that if they aspire to be like the Foo Fighters or Kings Of Leon (which was a disturbingly frequent namedrop this year), well, they can’t. These bands already exist. They’re already famous. And the bands that are trying to imitate them already exist and already got signed five years ago expressly to fulfill the role of plugging content into the music industry machinery while the bigger acts are out of their touring/album/cycle.

For the female acts of CMW, this year’s copycat shorthand citations were Grimes, Charli XCX, Zola Jesus and Portishead. All wonderful acts who travel a path that’s just a bit darker, just a bit more dangerous than the average pop musician. But, again, all acts that already exist and therefore render anyone who tries to sound like them, or who’re even just tangentally “inspired” by them, redundant.

It was with much caution, then, that I wandered down to the Drake Underground to see APigeon, a Montreal electro singer who’d earned “comparisons to the likes of Björk, Feist and Lykke Li,” according to her website. These names could’ve been cautionary for APigeon, signs of an art-school striver who’d overreached. Thing is, APigeon wasn’t like Björk or Feist or Lykke Li. Not exactly anyway, or at least not exactly in any way that was tiring.

There was a certain magnetism to APigeon. Certainly she trades in the same dark electronica pop as many of her colleagues, but her strong, dynamic voice puts her a skillset above the Grimesalikes in a way that’s less off-putting than Björk can occasionally be. And while her songcraft doesn’t yet match Lykke Li’s perfect melancholy slogans, there’s something there worth investigating as well. Of all the acts I saw at CMW over the week APigeon is the one I suspect may create something magical in the future.

The Soul Motivators @ Supermarket
Despite one of the most infuriatingly long soundchecks I’ve ever seen in a festival setting (they hit the stage some 30 minutes after their advertised set time), nine-piece soul-funksters The Soul Motivators were a refreshing dose of actual musicianship. Anchored by the smooth vocals of lead singer Lydia Persaud, the Motivators’ polished sound hovers between a less world weary Sharon Jones and a Budos Band without the Dungeons & Dragons influence. It’s a slick, pro affair closer to hire-outs for grand ballrooms than Amy Winehouse tribute nights, but sometimes craftsmanship is important.

Caféïne @ Sneaky Dee’s
I’m not sure there’s anything particularly good to say about Xavier Caféïne beyond the fact that if he keeps performing and doggedly appearing at these things for another 10 years he’ll have earned enough stripes to pull off the Franco-Canadian glam rock equivalent of Anvil: The Story Of Anvil. As long as he can find a camera crew to follow him around, that is. For all of Caféïne’s punk posturing, the best bits of his performance were a few isolated snips, yelps and turns where he approached the sort of melodramatic pop Suede were so successful with 15 years ago. It’s not too late to make that switch.

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Jesus And Mary Chain North American ‘Psychocandy’ Tour Kicks Off In Toronto

The Jesus And Mary Chain live in Toronto.

The Jesus And Mary Chain live in Toronto.

May 1, 2015
Phoenix Concert Theatre
Toronto, Ontario

Four songs in to the Jesus And Mary Chain’s set at Toronto’s Phoenix Concert Theatre there were… concerns.

There was a lot of pomp and circumstance behind the first show for the band’s North American tour honouring the Psychocandy album’s 30th anniversary. The show was to be the marquee anchor kicking off Canadian Music Week, a 10 day club level festival where the Chain’s relative undersell at the 1,350 capacity venue had made it a hot ticket for Toronto’s wealth of Creation Records nostalgists.

“April Skies,” the inexplicably popular “Head On” (the sixth best song on Automatic, tops), “Candy Talking” and “Psychocandy,” the song, were all performed with a simple, studied, and most uncomfortably, clean air of polish and professionalism.

Sure, if this was the way the Chain were going to play it — older, wiser, softer — it would still be a fine evening. But it wouldn’t have been a marquee evening. It’s not what anyone in the Phoenix wanted, though weighed against that vs. nothing, it was an acceptable compromise.

Then they played “Reverence.”

The manic highlight from the Chain’s 1992 album Honey’s Dead and the band’s biggest North American hit brought the single thing everyone in the building was craving — the noise. Jim Reid’s “I wanna die! I wanna die!” cued brother/lead guitarist William Reid to explosively reacquaint Toronto with the spiraling, undulating waves of white noise rock ‘n’ roll that have defined the Jesus And Mary Chain for all these years.

The assault continued with b-side “Upside Down” and that’s when the epiphanies began.

See, I love bands who sound like the Jesus And Mary Chain. So much so that for a music writer I’m worryingly close to lacking critical faculty once that slicy feedback bams up a song to make it all nasty sounding. Devotees like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Black Angels, The Raveonettes, Brian Jonestown Massacre… I love them all. I even, at least to a degree, usually enjoy the many, many, many middling noisy college and art rock bands who rise up out of the weeds before disappearing two years later because objectively they aren’t any good.

The Jesus And Mary Chain can fill a room 30 years later because they’re simply more adept at doing this noise-pop thing than anyone who’s ever come after them. Watching them work on Friday night, it became clear they’re still the kings because they have the one thing their many imitators can’t quite match — the songs.

When the band launched into the 14 song Psychocandy set what became most obvious was their appreciation for a simple pop song, a universal country ballad, a soothing soul song. Look past the squelching white noise and that musical appreciation is buried deep in the DNA of the Chain’s songs, whether it be the surfing safari edge to “The Living End” or the girl group shimmy underlying “Taste of Cindy.”

Sure, if you want to get technical about it, the back half of Psychocandy isn’t exactly the best, which was illustrated by the indifferently performed “Sowing Seeds,” the false start to “My Little Underground” and the placeholder quality of “Something’s Wrong.” But zoom the lens out a little further and you’d see how the buzzing takes on “Taste the Floor,” “In a Hole” and “Never Understand” were electric affirmations the Jesus And Mary Chain are undisputed masters of their craft.

If one thing became clear this night, it’s that 30 years later the Jesus And Mary Chain are still the best at what they do.


“April Skies”
“Head On”
“Candy Talking”
“Up Too High”
“Upside Down”

Psychocandy set
“Just Like Honey”
“The Living End”
“Taste the Floor”
“The Hardest Walk”
“Cut Dead”
“In a Hole”
“Taste of Cindy”
“Never Understand”
“Inside Me”
“Sowing Seeds”
“My Little Underground”
“You Trip Me Up”
“Something’s Wrong”
“It’s So Hard”

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