2017’s Canadian Music Week (CMW) landed in Toronto at a time when the city’s live music, and the state of the city’s music venues, has been a very heated critical issue. With a record number of music venues closing in early 2017, the pinch that area and visiting musicians and music lovers have felt for years was on the forefront in recent months as the industry and city hall has begun attempts to triage a long-standing Toronto crisis.
We hope the coverage continues well beyond last week’s CMW, a week that brought a world-class range of musicians from far and wide as well as providing a wider base for local/ Canadian talent. CMW is a marathon of sorts, with bands finding themselves slated in during daylight hours or close to pre-dawn, music lovers and late last call lovers claiming dance floors and drifting in and out of venues or lining up for the most buzzed about. Up and coming bands are happy for the opportunity and up for the challenge of crowds at either extreme end of the schedule and alcohol consumption. Load ins and outs are done with a 20 minute magician’s sleight of hand, merch tables are optimistically assembled, deals and friendship connections are made amid a roar of feedback and, for the eager, ample music discovery awaits.
Some good news about Toronto’s music venues was abundant at thriving showcases thundering out of the Legendary Horseshoe, staple gritty tried and true Lee’s Palace, and nearby must for post-gaming talks, planning and celebration (YUMMY MEXICAN FOOD TIL 4:00 AM, PEOPLE!) the most iconic & truly rock and roll space in all of the city: Sneaky Dee’s.
DISARM did an abbreviated CMW this year, but found the truth in quality over quantity as we spent most of our journalistic time in and around the all-new home of The Hideout at 423 College Street (next door to Sneaky Dee’s), a beautiful renovated space that we expect will be among the fastest booked out in the city. The Hideout has it all: it foregrounds musical performance in a way that is always challenging for older/more cramped spaces, and has been set up with an expertise for lighting and sound. The stage is ample and the view is good from everywhere in the room. The separate bar area and perimeter offers lots of cozy seating while leaving open areas to dance or stand and enjoy. It’s a beautiful space which has atmosphere. It doesn’t feel new, it feels like it was always there and you’ve been missing it. This space will work well for showcases like CMW or industry parties and album releases. And the staff seemed happy to be a part of the new scene at The Hideout and are simply too gorgeous to be this friendly.
Here are the standouts – all very different musically, and all really interesting and worth adding to your must see list- from the memorable CMW weeekend we spent at The Hideout. In just a few days, audiences got to enjoy a range of live music by skilled emerging bands from Toronto, Burlington and from diverse places: James Bay, Montreal, and Copenhagen, Denmark. The program was diverse, too, with styles from well-done folk-rock Canadiana (Midnight Shine) to Indie-flavoured Alternative (Beautiful Nothing) to “Stoner Rock” Psychedelic to please the most earplug adverse rocker (The Hazytones). We lost our photographer for a while as he became a front row fixture for The Hazytones, who had torn themselves away from watching a critical Montreal Canadiens game on a laptop to deliver blistering Black Sabbath vibes, most stunningly of all, via sounds created by a plastic “Sears-type” guitar a la everyone’s self-made musical touchstone, Jack White.
Energetic, charismatic, gritty and rousing, Beautiful Nothing comes to us from Burlington, reminding all present that there’s a lot of interesting musical innovation and creation coming from west of Toronto (including a thriving scene in Hamilton) to watch out for. Their second album, Sleep Walk described as “Indie Electro Rock Stream of Conciousness” is next for the tireless five-piece, who are comprised of three brothers (Anthony, Luke and Shane Ludgate on vocals, guitar/keyboard and drums respectively) and two childhood friends (James Featherstone (bass) & Sven Petrovic (guitar/keyboards). The comfort and trust among lifelong friends comes across in a lively performance which will garner enthusiastic head nods from fans of Depeche Mode, The Killers and Cage the Elephant. Beautiful Nothing’s latest single is Must be Dreaming.
Here for their second CMW and having played a staggering five separate shows at CMW 2017, Midnight Shine has made an imprint on the city in a short time. The first songs included several mentions of James Bay, making us wistful for a visit to our own unique beautiful Ontario north, but a closer listen invites contemplation that there’s a real north, another Ontario, that most Torontonians never see. There is heart and fire in this band, and terrific vocal performance which at times conjures Neil Young. All who’ve picked up a guitar have given a shot at a bit of Uncle Neil, but singer Adrian Sutherland comes organically closer to the heart of what makes early Young so haunting than anyone else we’ve seen in years. It’s also a lot of fun. A band to watch, they’ve already been touted by CBC Radio’s Fresh Air and Alan Cross’s 102.1 playlist, Midnight Shine’s latest single is Sister Love.
Midnight Shine plays Ottawa Bluesfest on July 16th, where they will share the same stage as the one and only Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers later that same night (the closing night of the fest.)
As promised in their name, these unassuming and friendly Montrealers have a bottled up energy that explodes into a wall of blistering fuzzy sludge rock that defies the decades, the size of the room and the three-piece line up. With a prime slot and a full house on Saturday night, ears were ringing on Sunday (with or without earplugs) a point of pride for those you cannot keep away from the stacks (namely our photographer/groupie..) Check out Light of the Day here.
We’ve covered visiting CMW artists The Foreign Resort, who we quite simply believe to be among a handful of the world’s greatest hopes for Post-punk & Darkwave music (a new New Wave) in an earlier review. We also discussed up and coming Toronto artist Marlon Chaplin’s, (whose evolving sound is an exciting range of folk-rock and psychedelia) second of two CMW sets here. Chaplin has a range of music that is well-traveled and confidently intuitive, moving and adapting from solo performance on his 2016 EP to the full band robust rock and roll enjoyed by CWM crowds that has taken the singer/songwriter to Manhattan; Chaplin will be touring and gigging outside of Toronto in the coming months (watch out for news here.)
Words by Jacqueline Howell, All Photos by Dave MacIntyre