Canadian Music Week – Part Two

A second glimpse into the murky world of Canadian music...

If there was ever a moment being a Canadian when you didn’t feel fully patriotic to be representing that red and white maple leaf flag, then spending a night at Toronto’s legendary Horseshoe Tavern with a bill filled with Canadian talent, will definitely derail your doubts.

In fact it won’t just derail them; they’ll snap them back into place so fast you won’t even be able to say “maple syrup’. So night two of CMW comes around and I draw myself up a schedule. This night however, was one of the most stressful for me, too much happening all at once. Just for an example, Jason Collett, the Meligrove band, and Plants & Animals (three of my favourites) were all playing at the exact same time (11pm) at different venues around town. So needless to say, decisions had to be made, but like most things… my night didn’t go as planned. I ended up getting turned away from Lee’s Palace for Jason Collett, as they weren’t allowing any more passes in. I was bummed to be thinking what was going on behind those doors I was brutally outside of, Arts & Crafts members (Feist, Emily Haines perhaps?) bustling and collaborating on Collett’s acoustic folk; it was easily forgotten however after a quick taxi ride down to the Horseshoe. SO by default, I spent the whole night at the Horseshoe. Let me start from the top…

It was a rather chilly night but nothing too startling for Toronto’s nightlife. This winter had come with a lot worse. So myself and some friends waved down a taxi. This particular driver seemed a little disgruntled with life. He actually started driving away before one of my friends got in the car. I had to slap him on the arm for him to realize not everyone was in the car, and then he just rolled his eyes at me. Incredible. After arriving in one piece at the Horseshoe, Victoria, British Columbia’s Immaculate Machine had just dived into their set filled with dance inducing bi-lingual indie pop. The sugary sweet jams seemed to flow from the three members instruments as if they weren’t even trying. With help on their debut album from the likes of Owen Pallett (Final Fantasy) and Alex Kapranos (Franz Ferdinand) the New Pornographer members’ live show was just as potent, if not more potent, than their latest release, Fables. The self proclaimed “language whores” messed with English, French, and even some mandarin lyrics, all while maintaining the catchiest of three part harmonies. They wailed into the venue without hesitation and even when front man Brooke Gallup sang “there’s no such thing as the future” in one of the happiest pop songs most of the crowd ignored the irony and seriousness of such a statement, to dance and clap.

This night at the horseshow included bands from all across the country, so by sitting in one dimly lit venue you could get a taste of each major music scene in Canada. Not all of them, but many of them. Unfortunately I missed Dog Day and Kate Stelmanis while attempting to see Jason Collett, but made it back in time for everyone’s newest object of affection, Plants & Animals. Just on the heels of releasing their album, “Parc Avenue”, after their well received EP, Montreal’s Plants & Animals are anything but a “new” Canadian band. Their sound is established and sounds classic the minute you hear it. With more similarities to the Beatles and Elton John than Broken Social Scene, the three piece (all three parts singing) blasted the venue with their crazy post-rock folk piano melodic pop. The venue was at its fullest point all evening and not well air conditioned, but still no one could take their eyes off the stage. Plants & Animals are NOT the next big thing or the next hipster indie rock band; they are a band for the masses. They have no right to be playing venues this small they should be on the road with the Foo Fighters. The beautiful hook injected sing-a-long that graces “Bye Bye Bye” melted a few faces and the haunting Modest Mouse-y and Pink Floyd inspired “Faerie Dance” proved Plants & Animals a band with many surprises up their sleeves and a never ending imagination of incredible song writing. Above all else, the three bearded fellows on stage were honest and simply playing their songs with no gimmicks or pretensions. The fact that their music is so great, makes me fully confident in saying this is a band you need to know.

Ottawa’s The Acorn were welcomed to the stage with a monster applause. Their busy folk rock rang loud as each member sweated out a bucket of fluid. Front man Rolf Klausener took a moment to address the crowd, “I hate Canadian Music, don’t you?” and at that point everyone got his humour as we were all stuffed in a sweaty room clapping and yelling wearing the biggest most patriotic grins, so happy to be a part of this country. They played everyone’s favourites from their debut EP Tin Fist, and of course most of the songs off their newest LP, Glory Hope Mountain. It is obvious why Paper Bag Records signed them at such an early stage; they have turned out to be quite the crowd pleasers.

It was getting rather late so the crowd was thinning out. Left were the drunkest of drunks and the true music diehards (me being part of the latter half, promise!). I’m happy I stuck around for the two remaining Toronto bands. Sunparlour Players are a sight to see live. I own their album, Hymns for the Happy, but never quite “got” it from the recordings. When you see them play, there’s no way not to get it. Three guys sitting down in front of kick drums playing 2 or 3 instruments at a time is something not often seen. Add in the amount of sweat and guts they were pouring into their twang-y rock sing-a-longs and you have the recipe to an audience filled with dropped jaws. They jammed through their loud songs not pausing once to take a breather. It was tiring to be watching these three guys got at it so hard on stage, yet ridiculously enjoyable.

It was almost 2:30 am by the time Oh No! Forest Fires took to the stage. Rumour was the surprise headliner was supposed to be the Constantines but they weren’t able to make it for some reason or another, and Toronto’s newest super group of sorts found themselves in the headliner position. The band comprised of ex members from the Most Serene Republic, Five Blank Pages, Fox Jaws, and Vulcan Dub Squad (all great central Ontario entities) didn’t really have the folksy twang most of last nights bands did. They did however have the loudest set of the night. Their noise-y distorted post rock ambience drowned the tired audience. The band jumped around the stage frantically and woke everyone up with a messy cover of “Foot Loose”. After just loosing one of their vocalists, the band had gone through some major changes. The new songs were reworked but undoubtedly messier than the other times I’d seen them play. This could however be the fact that it was really late and the members were tired or drunk. It sounded good though messy, the massive soundscapes bounced off the walls and the juicy sing-a-longs made waves through the venue.

There you have it. Night 2 of Canadian Music Week completed, and just as great as night 1. This time it was all Canadian artists and 5 obvious reasons for Canadians to love their country.

Photography: Katelyn Mudry

Perhaps the most fertile musical field on the planet, Canada is producing some incredible bands just now. To read more, just click here.

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