Canadian Music Week – Part One heads North for a feast of new tunes

It just so happens that the first night of Canadian Music Week festivities, one of the most exciting times to be living in Toronto, landed on my birthday this year. If the first night wasn’t already scheduled to be full of drunken festivities, being that the showcases had just begun, now it most definitely was.

It wasn’t that hard to decide which venue I wanted to make a home out of for the night. Eye Weekly (a local publication) put together quite an impressive line up at the Phoenix. Usually claiming a “press” pass for CMW requires you to hop bars like a frog on speed (stopping in at 4 or 5 venues in one night) but it seemed tonight that wouldn’t be necessary.

…one of the most exciting times to be living in Toronto

Toronto’s own Ten Kens eased us into the half filled venue with their awkward proggy-rock. At times their sound took off and sent epic convulsions through the crowd but unfortunately that was only about 15% of the time. The other 85% they spent gracefully jamming on stage. To be honest, that got rather boring after a while. I spent most of the time wishing some huge melody would emerge from all the doodling and take over the lacklustre song, and like I said once in a while I was in luck, unfortunately for most of the set I was not.

Two tequila shots later (my friends failed to listen to my banter about not wanting to get drunk tonight) it was time for half of the remains of Death From Above 1979’s Sebastien Grainger and a mixture of great local musicians (for example, Leon Taheny from Germans-fame) to stun us with their indie-rock. Dubbed ‘Sebastien Grainger and les Montagnes’ the band took to the stage with a rather pretentious strut. But that was easily dissolved when they started plugging away on their instruments. Out of the speakers came a sound that wasn’t too distant from Grainger’s previous musical endeavour in DFA1979 but was on the other hand, entirely different. Bigger and juicier -the band took to catchy melodies and regulated, but not limited, noisey-ness like a match takes to paper. The now full venue was dancing, smiling, and of course what every Canadian has a tendency to do, hand clapping like there’s no tomorrow! Sounding Strokes-esque in their simplicity, yet almost Mars Volta-y with their delivery, Sebastien and crew will be making a comfortable home out of the North American indie-rock music scene in no time, if I know anything about music.

You’d be mistaken for thinking the next band, No Age, was from New York. A two piece with enough energy to set cities on fire, it’s clear they take cues from the likes of Lightning Bolt and Japanther. But their Las Angeles home has enabled them with enough explosive and unique punk post-rock to distance themselves greatly from the aforementioned shit disturbers. So there they were, on a stage that looks relatively empty considering their lack of members, but with tunes that filled the room to a boiling point. Their drummer not looking a day past 19 years old and the guitarist frantically attempting to keep up with the schizo tempo changing, No Age came as a welcomed surprise. They mastered the art of slow builds and made use of distortion pedals so eloquently one could easily forget exactly where they were and what was going on –AND be completely satisfied with that feeling.

Last but not least, Deerhoof, the band we’d all been so patiently waiting for, set up stage. With trippy lighting ornaments that matched their unpredictable nature, they set to it and as their tunes rang out everyone’s jaws hung low. The band looked almost surprised by the amount of fans going crazy about their music. Satomi was adorable, and stole a few hearts with her bass performance, quirky hand gestures, and sweet high pitched vocals. The drummer harassed his kit moving so quickly all you could see was a blur of his skeleton, all you could hear is the angry sweet music they have become so well respected for. Deerhoof are a band most comfortable on stage, on record their dynamic songs are flattened, but on stage everything manifests. With two new members, the two guitarists played off each other constantly impressing with their cute little licks and quick riff-age. The end of the night came too soon, even though they played for about an hour, and the venue now swelled with noise, came to a final crashing halt. Entering the outside world was a bit of a challenge after experiencing Deerhoof at their fullest and most fruitful but everyone stumbled on to the streets.

With trippy lighting ornaments that matched their unpredictable nature

I’m almost afraid of saying I don’t think the rest of CMW is going to be able to beat this first night. It was so epic and when I finally did wind up in my bed at the end of the night, I wondered if it was all some dream I had fabricated within the depth of the night! Lucky for me and the other few hundreds of people there, it wasn’t.

For part two of our exciting glimpse into the Canadian music scene just click here.

Join the Clash mailing list for up to the minute music, fashion and film news.