Any seasoned festival goer knows as much as you love to pour over a schedule pre-festival, your best experiences during the festival itself are almost always those random unexpected things you only discover during the madness. After an amazing Friday that left me completely sleep deprived, I found myself on Saturday afternoon at a Pledge Music event sponsored by the lovely folks at Audio Blood. Hosted by Ben Caplan, the event was a chance for movers and shakers to network, enjoy free whiskey and sliders and of course listen to great music.

The secret guest at the end of this delightful, sweaty loft party was Acres of Lions, a band out of Victoria, BC. I saw a lot of bands during Canadian Music Week and after awhile it’s not hard to spot those that perform solely because they’re desperate for rock star glory and those who put their heart and soul into every performance because they just don’t know any other way to play. Acres of Lions is definitely one of the latter bands.

cmw Acres-of-Lions-001

An upbeat pop-punk band, Acres of Lions has a diverse range of influences from Tom Petty to Jimmy Eat World. At indie parties like this very often you can find yourself leaning against a wall and focused more on the drinking then the music.

Acres of Lions easily inspires immediate attention from their audience. Without even realizing it, you’ve started shaking your hips and clapping your hands. Having recently signed with labels in the UK and Japan I think it won’t be too long before a whole lot more people are paying attention to them as well.

*photos by Chris Zacchia, for more, check out FTB on Facebook

My last stop of Canadian Music Week brought along a pleasant surprise as I was introduced for the first time to Sean Rowe.

While my financial situation dictates that I have to rely on the generosity of friends or cheap hostels when I come to Toronto, I still always try to stop by the Gladstone Hotel for their music venue. After a couple of days of high intensity rock and punk bands, I was looking forward to capping off my 2013 Canadian Music Week with a low key acoustic folk show.

Sean Rowe

I had originally intended to stop by the Gladstone to profile another artist on the bill, but my favourite performer of the night was upstate New-Yorker Sean Rowe. With his electrifying baritone voice and powerful lyrics, Rowe is a mix of Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits with a dirty down south kind of sound.

As I watched the show I remember thinking screw those young, moody emo bands that littered Queen street on Saturday night! It’s a nice to see a performer who is clearly loving life. After declaring that he had a nightmare where he had to shave off his beard (see my Ben Caplan article for my thoughts on bearded men), one of the sweetest moments of my CMW experience this year was Sean Rowe gushing about his young son and then dedicating a song to him. It sent me off to sleep with a smile on my face. If only all our Saturday nights could end this happily.

 

Harlan Pepper, a young foursome from Hamilton, Ontario, are a shining example of why Hamilton bands are just so good. Dan Edmonds (vocals, guitar, banjo, keys), Jimmy Hayes (guitar, pedal steel, harmonica), Thompson Wilson (bass, vocals) and Marlon Nicolle (drums, vocals) make up this versatile group formed in 2008. They incorporate hard rock, blues, alt-country and folk elements into their sound and they are tight!

Recently having toured with Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, the band opened for LeE HARVeY OsMOND on Friday night at the Great Hall, playing to a sold-out crowd. They were well paired to LHO in that they played a selection of upbeat, groove along tunes that set the mood and pace for the LHO set that followed.

Their lyrics and songs overall, as well as their skill levels on their respective instruments, are really quite impressive for young men barely out of high school, a testament to the high level of musicianship that exists in Hamilton. And, they’re fun! They ended their set with a tune where Dan and Jimmy played each other’s guitars mid-song.  Looks easy enough, but it’s not.

IMG_9653

If you didn’t know what they looked like, you’d think they were a band that had been around for years and years. Seasoned performers already, Harlan Pepper have shared the stage with the Sadies, Born Ruffians, Two Hours Traffic, the Arkells and Feist.  Keep your eye on these ones!

Check out this video for their song “Great Lakes,” and listen to their cleverly woven lyrics:

Here’s a clip from a show at the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern:

Photos by Stephanie Beatson, for more Canadian Music Week Photos check out ForgetTheBox on Facebook

 

Colin James came and tore it up at Lee’s Palace on Wednesday night.  Playing to an extremely excited sold-out crowd who demanded two encores from the Canadian icon, James delivered an incredible performance that showcased his talent in both the blues and rock genres that his music touches on. Women were screaming in a way somewhat reminiscent of Beatlemania years ago. James, always a crowd pleaser, came down off the stage and into the audience at one point which heightened the already charged atmosphere.

It was a highly entertaining show.  It’s easy to see why James has done so well for himself over his career, already having been nominated for fifteen Juno awards and winning six. He hit every note, ripped it up during every guitar solo (and there were many) and played with the energy and enthusiasm of a young go-getter.

Colin James Lees Palace 2

The band, made up of Chris Caddell (guitar), Maury LaFoy (bass), Al Webster (drums) and cutie Jesse O’Brien (piano/organ) played some of James’s older hits including a wonderful cover of Into the Mystic some tunes from FIFTEEN, his aptly titled fifteenth studio release that came out last year, and also many songs from his live album, TWENTY FIVE LIVE, which marks the twenty-fifth year of his illustrious music career and was released just this month.

James was inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame on Thursday night by long-time friends Tom Wilson and Colin Linden of Blackie and the Rodeo Kings. Whether young or old, there’s something for everyone to appreciate in the music of this exceptional artist.  Check out a live performance of “Keep On Loving Me Baby” here :

Savages

A few years ago a friend who shall remain nameless callously declared that there’s no such thing as a good all girl rock band. Well on Friday night at the Horseshoe Tavern, playing their first ever show in Canada, the talented ladies of the band Savages proved him to be very, very wrong. As I attempted to scribble my notes on the show in the darkened, packed venue, a very sweet but very drunk man screamed in my ear “I hope you’re writing down how much these girls ROCK!” It was easy to tell from the energy in the room that drunk man and I were not the only people who knew that you don’t need a penis to put on a kick ass rock show.

Hailing from London, Savages are a post punk band whose psychedelic moody sound are reminiscent of  Sixoisie and the Banshees and Joy Division. Indeed, hearing lead singer Jehnny Beth perform often made me feel during the night that I was watching the reincarnated version of Ian Curtis in the form of a short, feisty lady. Her intense wail on the single “Husbands” convinced me that night if this lady does not become a giant superstar there is something horribly wrong in this world.

I believe the whole band is destined for greatness; although their first record isn’t out until May, their performances have caused a great stir in the UK blogosphere. And if Friday’s show is anything to go by, these Savages are most definitely going to be getting lots more love soon from this side of the pond as well.

Photos by Chris Zacchia for more Canadian Music Week Photos check out ForgetTheBox on Facebook

 

 

Mo Kenney has been making waves in the music scene recently, opening shows for Joel Plaskett and Ron Sexsmith.  And rightfully so.  What a voice!  Mo, a folky singer-songwriter, sounds something like a female version of Justin Rutledge or an acoustic Matt Mays.  The Nova Scotia native played many of the songs featured on her self-titled debut album, released in September of 2012, at the Great Hall on Thursday night.  She kept the audience in rapt attention, even when her vocal mic cut out for a song.

cmw 2013 thurs-Mo Kenney-001The audience crept in as she moved to the front of the stage, eager to hear every word.  At just 22 years old, she is already well versed at writing songs with catchy tunes, well thought-out lyrics and interesting accompaniment.  She sings with strength and a beautiful tone, and can finger pick like the best of them, which allows for versatile guitar parts that are rhythmic and often melodic.  This is emotional music to reflect on, to sing along with and sometimes even to dance to with unstoppable numbers like “Déjà Vu,” a scaled down version of which can be seen here in a live video with Joel Plaskett (who produced her album).

http://youtu.be/_4L4eoPWxG4

Photos by Chris Zacchia, for more Canadian Music Week Photos check out ForgetTheBox on Facebook

 

Trent Severn played to an enthusiastic crowd at the Dakota Tavern on Wednesday night.  The group, made up of Dayna Manning (vocals, guitar, banjo), Emm Gryner (vocals, bass, guitar) and Laura C. Bates (vocals, violin), paint stunning visual portraits in their folk/roots based songs fueled by Canadian landscapes and folklore.  With references to the Bluenose on our dime, getting stuck on highway 400 going up to cottage country, wearing comfy NHL sweaters and Brian Mulroney quotes, what’s not to love, dear Canadians? Especially when sung by a trio of  babes with killer three-part harmonies? Recently, at one of their shows, Chris Hadfield called them from outer space. Though they’re a relatively new band with only one album released to date, Trent Severn are already making headlines.

Listen to these stunning sirens croon their song “Freedom”

http://youtu.be/vu4736ukbR8

Hey guess what? It’s Canadian Music Week in the Tdot! For those of you who don’t know, CMW is a massive festival held in Toronto every year that boasts a buttload (around 1000) of incredible musicians playing shows at 60 venues around the city. There’s also a conference, a comedy fest and film fest. Sound overwhelming? Well, it can be, so we’ve compiled a list of shows we think are not to be missed. And kids, don’t forget to buy a wristband (they’re only $60), try to alternate beers and water so you don’t fall down and piss your pants and miss out on stuff, and check out the website for show times, locations and availability. Mostly though, just have a kickass time. This is the kind of shit we Canucks live for, right?

Tuesday

jeremy fischerThe opening day of the festival is somewhat sparse, however, that just means there is no reason not to check out the showcase at the Dakota Tavern. Trent Severn and Jeremy Fisher will make a killer combination beginning at 7:30pm. Trent Severn is made up of Emm Gryner, Dayna Manning and Laura C. Bates, each of whom have had exciting music careers prior to joining forces in this folky group. Their wonderfully melodic songs paint a portrait of the Canadian landscape sung with beautiful three part harmonies, and accompanied by acoustic guitar, bass and violin.

trent severnJeremy Fisher is celebrating the recent release of his fifth album, Mint Juleps, an acoustic-driven album that highlights the strong songwriting of this two-time Juno nominee. The album has the spirit of his live shows; in fact it was recorded live off the studio floor, a refreshing and brave idea in the world of digital technology. Mint Juleps contains original songs and covers that Fisher plays live, and you can expect a mix of upbeat dance along numbers and slower, finger-picked soulful songs at the show. His set begins at 8:30pm. If you can’t make it out Tuesday, fear not! The showcase will be repeated on Wednesday night.

Wednesday

starsStars (with Yukon Blonde)
Montreal band Stars are an exciting indie pop band who use electronic layers under soft, wonderfully nuanced vocals sung by Torquil Campbell (also of Memphis and Broken Social Scene) and Amy Millan (also of Broken Social Scene). They are something of a hidden gem in the Canadian indie music scene, but have steadily been gaining popularity. To promote their recent album The North, they toured with Metric in late 2012. Check them out at the Danforth with Yukon Blonde, another must-see act. Doors open at 8:00pm. They also play on Thursday with opening act Said the Whale.

colin jamesColin James
This six-time Juno award winner, hailing from Regina, has done it again with his fifteenth studio album, aptly named FIFTEEN. The album, featuring rock, blues, gospel and pop infused songs has been nominated for a Juno. On this record, James collaborated with industry greats including Gordie Johnson (Big Sugar, Grady), Tom Wilson (Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, LeE HARVeY OsMOND) and Thomas “Tawgs” Salter (Lights, Josh Groban). Hear the latest and greatest from Colin James at Lee’s Palace, 10:00pm.

Thursday

mo kenedyMo Kenney
This newcomer into the Canadian music scene is just 22 years old, but writes with wisdom well beyond her years. Her self-titled debut album, produced by Joel Plaskett, is a fantastic collection of original tunes which feature her strong vocals and solid guitar skills. From Waverly, NS, she recently announced she will be playing with symphony Nova Scotia next season, alongside Plaskett. Her showcase is at the Great Hall at 9:00pm. She’s also opening for Ron Sexsmith on Friday at 9:15 at the Randolph Theatre. Don’t miss Mo Kenney; you will not leave disappointed!

Two Hours Traffictwo hours traffic
This award-winning alternative band base their songs on pop melodies, built from the bass and drums up. Another east coast act, from PEI, they also collaborated with Joel Plaskett on many of their albums, but in trying to evolve their sound have teamed up with Darryl Neudorf (Neko Case, the Sadies, the New Pornographers) for their most recent release, Magic. Their collection of mostly love songs are filled with catchy hooks and emotional and lyric depth that will keep the songs lingering in your head and heart long after the show is over. Catch them at Lee’s Palace at 12:00am.

Friday

lee harvey osmondLeE HARVeY OsMOND
Former Junkhouse frontman Tom Wilson (also with Blackie and the Rodeo Kings) has taken on a psychedelic acid folk solo project. His debut album as LeE HaRVEY OsMOND, A Quiet Evil, was critically acclaimed and added to the Polaris Music Prize long list. His follow-up album, Folk Sinner, features Tom’s signature grit and subject matter revolving around growing up in the sixties and experiencing the political unrest that plagued North America at the time. Tom is featured on guitar and vocals, and has an array of guest artists including Margo Timmins, Hawksley Workman, Colin Linden, Oh Susanna, Andy Maize, Colin Cripps and Paul Reddick. Andy Maize, Oh Susanna and Colin Linden are also featured at his showcase at The Great Hall. This show will be raw, and it will rock! Doors open at 8:00pm.

Yukon Blondeyukon blonde
Formed in 2005 in Kelowna, BC, under the name Alphababy, the indie rock band changed their name to Yukon Blonde in 2008 and changed from a moody style to a more raw, guitar-driven rock sound. They were later named one of the 10 Canadian bands destined to break by 2010. They certainly have done well for themselves since, receiving critical acclaim from CHARTattack and Exclaim! Magazine. Their song “My Girl” off their 2012 album Tiger Talk reached number 30 on the Canadian alternative chart. Don’t miss this band! They play at 9:40pm at the Kool Haus. They are also opening for Stars at the Danforth on Wednesday.

Saturday and Sunday

ninique royerNinique Royer
Ninique Royer’s vocal style has been compared to Ray LaMontagne. There’s a soulful rasp to it, which combined with his expressive lyrics and soft acoustic guitar strumming, make for truly moving music. For a quiet, eloquent evening, catch Ninique’s set which begins at 9:00pm at the Central on Saturday.

The Maladies of Adam Stokesthe maladies of Adam stokes
Toronto based band The Maladies of Adam Stokes were formed in 2009 and in a short time went from playing small clubs to sold-out shoes at the Horseshoe Tavern. This six member group were recently featured on CBC’s Searchlight contest, and in 2012, released their first full-length album City of Trees which they are currently promoting. Their songs feature beautiful and thought-invoking melodies, backed by a band including the foundational bass and drums, with guitars, piano, violin, trumpet and glockenspiel, resulting in a powerful collage of indie folk wonder. It’ll be worth staying up to catch their late Saturday night set at the Free Time’s Cafe at 1:00am.

in my comaIn My Coma
Toronto based alternative rock band In My Coma is made up of a trio of strong players who put on a great live show. Their music is influenced by Brit-pop of the 1980s. They tell unusual stories and use unexpected chord changes, yet it works and the result is a collection of interesting and melodic songs that will get you grooving along. They are about to embark on a cross-Canada tour, but before that see In My Coma play a showcase at the Horseshoe Tavern at 9:00pm on Sunday, or you can catch them earlier in the week at Cherry Cola’s Rock N’ Rolla Cabaret at 10:00pm on Thursday.

Writer Perk #37: Pre-release tunes in my inbox.

I’d never heard of Magneta Lane, and opted to set aside the bio for later, uploaded the goodies to my MP3 and headed out for a stroll. I was boppin’ and smilin’ in no time.

Despite the ridiculous cold and layers of clothes, I was suddenly transported to petticoat dresses, army boots and burgundy lipstick. It was melodic pop princesses, embittered and unafraid, but just pissed enough that they never fall out of key (sorry Hole, you know I love you, but different category….Magneta Lane is more Veruca Salt’s American Thighs album, which remains awesome in my heart).

Their upcoming album is called Witchrock, which I think it a neat-o name, and I’m glad they didn’t besmirch it by sucking. It’s cleaner and tighter than the grungy gals of my youth (we invented Lolita Goth, btw, if you’re keeping track). The smooth sounds of uber-production are a sign of the times, though, and they haven’t abused their post-production powers, it’s only that for it’s style, I miss the grit of garage tapes, I suppose. Still, the tunes are boppy without being oversweet, the lyrics are fun and witty and def for the ladies. If I was throwing a retro party, circa 1995, with enough bitter ladies to make a drunken circle and scream the lyrics of a song, we could probably replace the standby You Oughta Know with Magneta Lane’s Lucky.

There’s something beyond that though…something more retro, more refined, something that made me think of beehives, glammed out shift dresses and boots made for walking, that may one day in fact walk all over you. So, after a couple of days of dancing down the street to the tunes and even finding X stuck in my head at one point, I was pretty pleased with myself when I found Nancy Sinatra listed as one of their influences. Oh look! Veruca Salt’s there too! I’m diggin’ these chicks…

The suburban Toronto trio, comprised of sisters Lexi Valentine and Nadia King along with their good friend French, formed back in 2003 when they realized that they were on the wrong side of the stage and taught themselves how to play.  At the time they were fifteen and seventeen years old, lying about their age so they could play in Torontos’ clubs, where they had to be nineteen (yet another reason Montreal’s cooler).

witchrockA few albums and a hiatus later, here they are, ready to call the shots, and unapologetically embrace their style…whatever that is. Through the realization that they were not really grungy enough to be alternative, far too polite to be punk, way too empowered to be emo, they came up with Witchrock as a genre and knowing that gets my mind ‘thinking about all the other fab chicks, broads and sultry status quo subverters that could fit in under that umbrella, from Janis Joplin to Luscious Jackson, Lana Del Ray, Adele, L7, P!nk, The Breeders…the list goes on and it’s a pretty good one (if I do say so myself as I compile it).

The album’s out February 12th through eOne Music Canada and their release party is on the 14th, if you’re out Queen Street way, and you know, if I was in the T Dot, I think I’d hit that. I betcha it’ll be good fun and one day you can say you saw them way back when. Also, my money’s on this album being the perfect Valentine’s gift for that chick in your life who says love is an illusion and V-Day’s a trite corporate festival, because in case you were unclear, you still totally have to get her something.

The release party’s tonight, Thursday February 14, at The Rivoli, 334 Queen St. W., Toronto. Follow them @magneta_lane

Poor Young things

Poor Young things
Poor Young Things @ NXNE photo Chris Zacchia

So after the Rooftop BBQ we headed right down to The Horsetavern to see Poor Young Things, and the secret guest. Poor Young Things come from Thunder Bay, Ontario. They packed up their shit, and moved to Toronto without knowing anyone (via their website). I stumbled upon them about two months ago and was addicted to their song, “Blame It On The Good Times“. Maybe I could relate? Heh.

Anyway, they’ve been referred to as Tom Petty like, Canadian alternative rock, and after seeing them live I would definitely tag them as one of Canadian’s up-and-coming rock bands. Poor Young Things played to a pack venue, ripping into song after song, and charmingly chatting with the audience in front of them. They’ve got that catchy Canadian alternative sound running through their blood and pouring out in their music, and they give show-goers exactly what they want: a band you would pay to see again, and again.

Yukon Blonde
Yukon Blonde at NXNE – Photo Chris Zacchia

After Poor Young Things, came the surprise NXNE guest…and who was it? Yukon Blonde. I was complaining from Thursday to Saturday because Yukon Blonde wasn’t listed. Seriously, pretty sure Chris was super annoyed with me. Anyway! Yukon Blonde played a mix of tracks off their various albums, including my favourite, Brides Song (album, Yukon Blonde) and Stairway (album, Tiger Talk). They even got their friends from the Wooden Sky to join them, and had numerous females gushing over them as they played. By the time they finished up The Horseshoe Tavern was more packed and hot than a bag of microwave popcorn. It was pretty intense. So we bounced and headed to the westside.

twitter gong show
Twitter Gong Show @ NXNE – Photo Chris Zacchia

Instead of heading straight to another music show, we spiced it up and hit up the Twitter Gong Show at LOT 100 on Ossington. The Twitter Gong Show is a comedy skit that features live comedians, who then get picked on by crowd as they live tweet their opinions and jokes about the comedian on stage using the hashtag #twittergong. Oh, and they pick on you too. It wasn’t a packed house, but almost every person there was interacting with the live twitter feed…including Chris and I. Of course, I went ahead and started picking on the host because he said my name wrong. Which resulted in me being heckled for the whole event. This concept is genius. More people should have their live twitter feed…everyone loves to see their face online.

Country @ NXNE - Photo Chris Zacchia
Country @ NXNE – Photo Chris Zacchia

After the Twitter Gong Show we ended up at another Pop Montreal Showcase where Country was performing. Country is a weird dream to watch. Their show included smoke machines, dark lights, neon lighting, and an odd awkward feeling. But it was amazing! They’ll be playing again in Montreal soon. Be sure to check em out.

Bleached at NXNE

M for montreal boatOn our last day exploring NXNE we ventured to the M for Montreal Bruise Cruise, ended up at a rooftop BBQ at a hostel, then ran around the city watching band after band. To make this easy and fun for you, we’ve broken the coverage up into two parts: NXNE day and NXNE night for June 16. Oh, small side note… One thing about watching so many bands is that after a while it all becomes pretty blurred. Especially if they all sound alike. Lucky enough for us this wasn’t the case with the bands we saw on Saturday.

So let’s get started with daytime coverage!

Saturday, June 16 DAYTIME started with the M for Montreal boat cruise. This was my first M for Montreal boat cruise, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. We got there just in time, boarded and headed to get a beer. What more could you want on a hot sunny day during a music festival? Seriously dude, so needed. The line-up for the boat cruise included some of the same bands from the Pop Montreal Showcase from Friday night (BLEACHED and Hooded Fang), so I wasn’t as stoked about seeing them again, but instead talked with some of the showgoers about their NXNE experiences. I’ll talk about these conversations in the NXNE festival review. I did meet this guy who actually dished me some dirty details about Avril Lavigne – remember her? Gotta love first-hand celebrity gossip.

Bleached at NXNE
Bleached at NXNE on M for Montreal Bruise Cruise – Photo Chris Zacchia

Back to the boat music… BLEACHED was the highlight for the boat showgoers. When they took stage, the boat show area was packed with dancing, semi-drunk BLEACHED fans. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of BLEACHED, but they definitely get the kids all pumped up.

While I was mingling we came across these wicked guys from Wales who play in horn-rock band called, The Roseville Band. They where in town for NXNE and invited us to a BBQ and rooftop show at the hostel they were staying at, Planet Traveler. So of course after spending four hours off land, it would only be natural to go from water to a rooftop.

By the time we finally got off the cruise, made a stop at the LCBO, and found the hostel. The Roseville Band had already played. Super bummed. I was so stoked to see them. But, c’est la vie of running around from show to show. So when shit like this happens, you gotta rely on soundcloud.

We did get to see some rooftop jams however as Mushy Callahan played next.The band is composed of 4 brothers and has an Indie alternative sound. They entertained us as the guests smoozed, drank and were treated to free BBQ fair.

Mushy Callahan
Mushy Callahan @ Planet Traveler photo Chris Zacchia

Well that’s what happened, and who we saw, what we did for daytime. NXNE during the day can be a hit or miss. But there is one thing that’s always confirmed (usually) about daytime events – you get to meet lots of new friends that you’ll remember later on during the nighttime!

What can you expect for the night? How about Poor Young Things, Yukon Blonde, Twitter Gong Show, another Pop Montreal Showcase featuring Country and some sweet DJing at the Drake Hotel.

Goose Hut @ Pop Montreal Showcase

Friday night we hit up the Pop Montreal showcase at the Silver Dollar. The line-up included The Redmond Barry’s, Goose Hut, Hooded Fang, Parlovr, Bleached, TOPS, UN and The Disraelis. Silver Dollar’s is a pretty sweet venue in that you’re not dying of sweat, you can jump out the back to the patio if you’re ears need a break or hide in the back room and chill in a booth. Again, options are fantastic.

Anyway, let’s talk about some of the bands…

Parlovr @ Pop Montreal Showcase

Hooded Fang are a foursome from Toronto who play pop songs that swirl around memories of The Cure and Brat Pack movies. They hit the stage around 10pm to a half-full Silver Dollar. Their live sound verged on the cusp of surf-rock mixed with undertones of psychedelics. Problem is you either dig it or you don’t – live. But they sound great on record. You can catch Hooded Fang, Goose Hut and Parlovr playing shows across Canada this summer.

Parlovr, the most anticipated act of the night, hit the stage right after Hooded Fang. As soon as the first guitar string was strung the stage felt like it was lit on fire. Parlvor have this way with the stage that keeps you hooked, excited and wanting more. During their latest hit, “Holding On To Something“, lead singer Alex Cooper belted out screams that were drenched in woes of heartache and longing. It was a super high-energy performance that had people pushing their way from the back to front.

TOPS took the stage at 1am and was one of the last shows of the Montreal Showcase. They’re by far one of my favourite bands right now. The four-piece hail from Montreal, and are well seeded in the local Montreal music scene. Over the last couple of years TOPS has really cleaned up and fined-tuned their live sound. The lead singer bounced around her keyboard like a little kid in a candy store during their hit song, “Turn Your Love Around.

After TOPS we headed over to the packed El Mocambo to check out Paper Lions. This PEI-based band known for their catchy guitar riffs and upbeat sounds had the crowd dancing and singing along song after song. In between songs, lead singer John MacPhee chatted with the crowd. After the show we talked with them about their decision to give their latest album Trophies away for free online, and how this impacted the success of online music sharing for them.

Paper Lions
Paper Lions @ NXNE 2012

All in all we were super impressed with the POP Montreal Showcase at The Silver Dollar. You’ve gotta check out TOPS live, they’re definitely going to be all over the Canadian music scene in the coming months. And as for Paper Lions, they’re always great to see, and we have so much respect for them for their decision to back away from the label, and release their album on their own. It’s always interesting hearing the other side of how labels can dick-around artists, and yet how the dicking-around can really make a band stronger, make them question what they’re doing, and why they’re doing it aka. making music, playing music…and for whom they’re doing it.

Montreal Tops Band at NXNE
Tops @ Pop Montreal showcase

Sweet. Well our next NXNE post is going to talk about Poor Young Things, NXNE surprise guest, and other random adventures that happened on our last day. In the meantime, check out TOPS, “Turn Your Love Around“…


Photos: Chris Zacchia

The Bright Light Social Hour

The Bright Light Social Hour
The Bright Light Social Hour at the Horseshow; photo Chris Zacchia

I’ve made it through day one of NXNE. Once upon a time I could go for days, but these days I enjoy sleep. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there. Let’s talk about what happened, and not how hung over I am. Unless you want to do that? Jokes! So, our first night hitting the mean streets of Toronto for NXNE lead us to an island for a VICE party, had us stumbling towards The Hideout for crazy wicked performance by Tupperware Remix Party, and ended at the Horseshoe Tavern where we listened to a solid old school rock n’ roll show by The Bright Light Social Hour.

In order to get the VICE party you needed to catch a ferry towards Toronto island. I haven’t been on a ferry in years, so this was a nice little change from the subway or bus. Plus we made friends, and watched some cute folk band from PEI record a music video. Very cool. When we finally got to the fly infested island, and tracked the VICE party where Dusted and Smith Westerns were going to be playing, it was shutting down. It wasn’t even 10pm. What’s up with that VICE? Anyway. We did get to listen to some 90’s R&B, but sadly no Dusted or Smith Westerns. Whomp, Whomp (sad smiley face).

So we ventured back to the city, and hit up The Hideout to see my friend Jorin and his band Tupperware Remix Party.

Tupperware Remix Party

Tupperware Remix Party was just getting ready to hit the stage when we showed up. Have you ever seen Tupperware Remix Party? Dude, they have the best costumes ever, and the most face melting music I’ve ever heard. It’s new wave electronic meets Halloween! These guys come from the planet Zorbon, but have been known to call Halifax their second home. Make sure to check them out next time they’re playing a show near you.

 

The Bright Light Social Hour

Bright Lights Social Hour are a foursome of damn-well handsome boys from Austin, Texas. These dudes have serious old rock n’ roll souls. They have this crazy ability to shake the walls, get inside your heart and have you mesmerized by their performance. I couldn’t look away. The guy sitting next to me kept giving me the “Holy shit. This is fucking amazing!” look. Plus, they’re extremely easy on the eyes… if you’re into that old school 70’s, long-hair, rock boy thing.

Well that’s day one. In between yesterday at 5pm and today at 11am, I think I made about 12 new one-night friends. Don’t quote me on that though.

Tonight we’re going to be hitting up the free show at Dundas Square to see Eight and Half, and Plants and Animals. After that we’re going to wander to the Sliver Dollar to check out the POP Montreal showcase. And who knows where else we’ll end up. Hopefully not on an fly infested island again.

Photos by Chris Zacchia

For more pics from the night check out our NXNE photo gallery

Summer is always filled with dreams of finding new music or revisiting your favourites. It’s like musicians hide all winter, in their little or big spaces, working hard away at whipping up new music for the coming Spring and Summer seasons. And as Summer creeps towards us, so do all the music festivals that tag onto these hot, steamy months.

NXNE may have started Monday, June 11, but most of the bands aren’t hitting the outskirts of Toronto until today. So, we figured we’d wait for everyone to get in, get settled and strapped up…and ready to play.

So who are we going to see? Here’s some of who we have in mind:

FTB Kicks it Thursday

Dusted & Smith Westerns @ 5:30 @ Artscape Gibraltar Point
Tonight we’re heading to the VICE show, presented by JANSPORT. It’s an early show at 5:30pm, but the lineup looks stellar. We’ve got Smith Westerns and Dusted. Have you heard Dusted yet? Oh, and the catchline for this show: Bands and a Bonfire Under a Big Sky. Aren’t city bonfires illegal? Oh VICE.

Anyway, Dusted is Brian Borcherdt’s memorizing and haunting new project. Over the last decade Brian was performing as the frontman for Holy Fuck. Then I guess he woke up one morning and was like, “time for change, these pancakes aren’t doing it anymore.” I don’t know if that’s true, to be honest, I just made that up, but it’s very possible. Either way, Dusted sounds ear promising, and is the complete opposite to Holy Fuck.

To complement those ghostly haunting sounds we’ve got the Smith Westerns. These kids hail from Chicago, Illinois, and are more upbeat than Dusted, but still have a dreamy feeling to them. Which is good because too many ghosts and not enough dreams can lead you down a dark drunk path to sleeping on your porch. No, I’m not speaking from experience…heh.

Ain’t No Party Like a Friday Party
Friday’s going to be a bit different because most of the shows don’t start until 7pm. But here’s what we are thinking…

The Stogies @ The Hideout OR Writers’ Stike @ The Painted Lady – both @ 8pm
Hit up The Hideout at 8pm to check out The Stogies or Writers’ Strike at The Painted Lady. Both shows are 8pm, and I’m having a hard time picking between the two bands. Both come from Canada’s Ocean Playground (that’s what it says on the Nova Scotia license plate), but the two bands are very different. The Stogies are rockers, and Writers’ Strike are indie kings. So basically it’s going to come down to what we’re in the mood for. Options are my favourite.

Plants and Animals @ Dundas Square – FREE show @ 9:30pm
Then I’m going to pull a fast one and hit up Plants and Animals. Usually we don’t cover the big shows because we try to showcase the little guys, but…my heart aches for Plants and Animals. They’re one of my favourite bands of all time, and well, can you keep a secret? I’ve never seen them live. Breaks your heart, I know. BUT! That’s why I’m heading their way for a free show at Dundas Square at 9:30pm. You can follow along my Twitter (@doublecass) as I pour my heart as the play.

All Day and All Night Saturday
Saturday is going to be a gong show. The bands start playing as early as 1pm, and don’t stop until Toronto shuts down at 3am. Of course, we’re probably not going to be ready to hit the town at 1pm in the afternoon, so let’s start at 4pm.

Alphabot! @ Redpath Stage – Harbour Front @ 4:15pm
First up for All Day and All Night Saturday is Toronto’s own, Alphabot!. These guys are corky, fun and full of colour. They’ve got this 90s vibe, mixed with just the right amount of sugar and flat pop.

Harper Blynn @ Dakota Tavern @ 10pm
This foursome of boys, Harper Blynn, come New York, and are supposed to have expensive, catchy pop hooks. Seriously, this is what Time Out New York said about them: “If pop hooks were Monopoly money, this foursome would be buying hotels on Park Place by now.” That sounds like fun to me. I wonder what Monopoly would be like if music was its currency? Hmmm…

Twitter Gong Show @ LOT 100 @ 11pm
Sometimes you need to spice it up, and what’s better than a comedy act about Twitter? Maybe a comedy act about Facebook. But, I’m sure that’s been done. Anyway, Twitter Gong Show is suppose to be a comedy show featuring various comedians pulling jokes and picking fun from a live Twitter feed. It’s hosted by Mark Debonis, not sure who that is but here’s an image that comes up when you Google him…

This is his MySpace picture.

Well that’s just a little bit of who and what we’re going to be seeing. As always, you can expect random moments and newly found bands as we run around Toronto for NXNE. Check out the full NXNE schedule on their website, and make sure to follow us along on Twitter @forgetthebox for tweeting good times.

The clanging of pots and pans rang through Toronto’s west end Wednesday night as an estimated 2000 people of all ages came out to march in support of Quebec’s student movement and against the province’s Bill 78.

“We were both inspired by what was happening in Quebec and we’d both spent some time there in the last couple of weeks,” said Leila Pourtavaf, one of the event’s organizers. “Coming back to Toronto we wanted to both show solidarity, but also recognize that austerity is not affecting only Quebec.”

Wearing red t-shirts, hats, jackets, accessories and the now famous red squares of the Quebec protest movement, people gathered at Dufferin Grove, a west end park, and began the percussive protest at the appointed 8 p.m.

From the outset, the protest had the makings of a family affair. Claudio, a native Chilean, attended with his wife and four-month old daughter. He noted that pots and pans protests were originally used against the Allende government in Chile in the early 1970s, and were later renewed during resistance to the Pinochet dictatorship.

“In Chile there’s a very strong student movement protesting things similar to what’s happening in Quebec,” he said. “So for me to be here with my wife and child, it’s to express our solidarity with the students in Quebec, especially with this oppressive legislation that’s being put forth by the Charest government.”

Vast numbers of Quebecers have turned against the Charest government in reaction to strict limits put on freedom of assembly and of expression by Bill 78, broadening the protest movement beyond simply the issue of a tuition fee increase, which first sent Quebec’s students into the street en masse.

After half-an-hour of noisemaking that seemed only to attract more people to the park, the crowd started its march through the surrounding neighbourhood, bringing their sonic message to locals, mirroring demonstrations in Montreal and elsewhere in Quebec that began May 19.

A contingent of seven Toronto police officers on bikes watched the crowd grow and followed the march, calling in support from squad cars to block streets along the route. Over the course of the evening, police repeated that the protest remained peaceful.

Along the route, some neighbours seemed puzzled, some snapped photos while others brought out their own cookware to beat along with the marchers.  Resident Jason Albuquerque said, although he was not aware of what the protest was about, he found it enjoyable and wouldn’t mind if happened again nightly, as long as it wasn’t too late.

As the stainless steel parade snaked through the streets and up towards Bloor Street, all appeared amused to watch, red squares materializing on their shirts in the procession’s wake.

“I was surprised that there is a movement going on here in Ontario, and hopefully it won’t be negative in terms of violence or destruction,” said Lorraine Heimrath a resident of Hepbourne Street, sporting her new fabric red square, husband Jean-Marie standing by.

“It’s in defiance of these new laws,” he said, referring to Bill 78. “I think people finally got up off their asses and started to say something because they’re not going to put up with it anymore, and I’m glad.”

On Bloor, the march seemed to reach a crescendo, attracting attention and support from bars, restaurants, cafes and residents along the main thoroughfare. The steady stream of people would turn south towards College Street before heading back towards its starting point and making a second round, though far fewer remained as the march headed east on Bloor at 10:45 p.m.

The march was the largest of several gatherings planned in Toronto and was part of a Canada-wide rallying call dubbed “casserole night in Canada,” after the Quebec “casserole” demonstrations that have broken out nightly in neighbourhoods across Montreal and elsewhere in Quebec.

The wave of arrests and clashes with police have made headlines internationally, with the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, weighing in on the crisis on Wednesday. “It is regrettable that the authorities have resorted to a restrictive approach, rather than seeking dialogue and mediation to resolve the current situation,” said Kiai in a public statement.

Responding to mounting pressure, both student groups and the Quebec government are in the midst of negotiations that are now stretching into a fourth day, and have seen concessions made by the government on the tuition fee increase. Offers and counter-offers continue to be debated in what Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, spokesperson for the student organization CLASSE, called “a bit of a ping-pong match” on Wednesday night.

Photos by Malika Pannek and Tomas Urbina