Canadian Music Week 2017: weekend review roundup

Haviah Mighty, Duchess Says, 070 Shake, Freak Heat Waves, Wolf Parade and New Fries play memorable sets during CMW's second half

HAVIAH MIGHTY at Revival, Friday, April 21. Rating: NNNN

One of the GTA’s most impressive new MCs is Brampton’s Haviah Mighty, who delights in fast technical flows that she performs with the furious energy of a battle rapper. During her 40-minute set, she threw DJing and beatmaking into that mix, triggering backing tracks for songs off her recent Flower City EP and improvising beats on a sampler. It was a one-woman show as she alternated between the booth and rapping at the foot of the stage and surrounded by the modest-sized crowd (which included her Sorority groupmates Lex Leosis and Phoenix Pagliacci) on the floor. The only drawback was that her gear was at the back of the stage far from the crowd, so she had to pause to set up each new song. But what she lost in momentum, she made up with in energy. KEVIN RITCHIE

SOLIDS at the Garrison, Friday, April 21. Rating: NNN

If you didn’t get to the Garrison well ahead of 11 pm, your chances of getting in to see Ottawa party rockers New Swears – who never pass up a chance to shoot confetti cannons – were low. The moment they ended, piles of people spilled onto the sidewalk, clearing up floor space for fans of Buzz/Dine Alone bands Solids and Greys (including Carly Rae Jepsen, who was in attendance). Solids, a heads-down band from Montreal peddling various 90 alt rock qualities – sometimes a bit mathy, sometimes drearily grunge, always very loud – were in tight shape thanks to recent touring. But some of their songs and vocal melodies have a plodding quality that volume couldn’t bury. CARLA GILLIS

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Carla Gillis

DUCHESS SAYS at the Baby G, Friday, April 21. Rating: NNNN

Montreal dance-punk four-piece Duchess Says were a great choice for a Friday night festival blowout. Singer Annie-Claude Deschenes is not what you’d call a shrinking violet. She spent more time on the floor with the crowd rather than onstage, encouraging fans to sit in a circle that she stood inside of, dance while carrying a sheet of plastic over our heads and just generally get down as the band played riotous tunes primarily from 2016’s Sciences Nouvelles. On record, it’s gothy and sometimes industrial. Live, it’s a party. CG

BIG SEAN at Rebel, Friday, April 21. Rating: NNN

Walking into the iHeartRadio Fest at Rebel just before Big Sean’s midnight set felt a bit like strolling through Yonge-Dundas Square: unforgiving LED lights filled the room with a corporate glow that exposed a floor littered with crushed empties. This crowd had come to sing a long and the Detroit MC gave them what they wanted. He had just come off a seven-week tour in support of his I Decided album so he made it look easy as he and his three-piece band cycled through hits such as Mercy, Clique, Blessings, My Last and I Don’t Fuck With You. The show began with 2002 MuchMusic footage of Sean freestyling with a beatboxer on Much On Demand, an appropriate reminder during a festival like CMW of how long it can take to ascend from indie act to Top 40 threat. KR

K. FOREST at Revival, Saturday, April 22. Rating: NNN

CMW shows tend to be pretty strict about set times, but hip-hop shows run on their own schedules. It took two DJs, a ton of Drake and Migos, and an MC yelling “fuck the Milwaukee Bucks” before K. Forest finally hit the stage, more than 45 minutes late. If he was waiting for a crowd to form it didn’t work, and he spent enough time telling the audience they need to “get some cups in your hands” that I wondered if he was getting a cut of the bar. The rising Brampton artist’s slow, narcotic R&B isn’t quite turn-up music, either, (though his voice sounded immaculate live), but the small crowd awoke by the end, rapping back the words of Link as he cut the backing track and did it acapella. RICHARD TRAPUNSKI

FREAK HEAT WAVES at the Baby G, Saturday April 22. Rating: NNNN

Over their lifetime, Freak Heat Waves’ intricate and layered arrangements have been woven together by as many as five people at once. Tonight they took the stage as a two-piece, though, with Steven Lind on vocals and guitar and Thomas Di Ninno on electronics. Relentless, automated drum patterns, samples and sequences scraped against harsh guitar squalls, atop which sat Lind’s doomy incantations. For a band who have always sounded spacious and minimalist in their ruined-future post punk arrangements, things felt dense and maximal, their ever-evolving sound appearing in its most opaque form to date. MARK STREETER

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Michael Rancic

NEW FRIES at Handlebar, Saturday April 22, Rating: NNNN

Topping off the entirely flames-emoji bill that was Saturday’s Mint Records showcase, New Fries had their work cut out for them. Though vocalist/guitarist Anni Spadafora played onstage from a chair, and seemed worried it might affect the band’s usual boundless energy, joking “I feel like Timber Timbre or something,” New Fries still managed to get up to their contorted hijinks. Bassist Tim Fagan seemed especially animated, goofing between each song of pure rock gnar, before taking off his bassist hat altogether and manipulating his bandmates and their instruments in a sustained moment of tension, humour and spontaneous creativity. MICHAEL RANCIC

070SHAKE at Studio Bar, Saturday, April 22. Rating: NNN

New Jersey rapper 070Shake’s debut Toronto show was more like a party than a concert. The recent G.O.O.D. Music/Def Jam signee has been building buzz online (several singles and a mixtape featuring her 070 crew) and off (a tour with English rock group The 1975) and so it hardly mattered that her dusky voice was in rough shape or way louder in the mix than her backing tracks: the young crowd of shrieking fans knew every word to her trap-y pop anthems. DJ Dimy played hip-hop hits, manager YesJulz hyped the audience and 070 members Tree and Phi played mini sets. Shake appeared after 40 minutes and sent the crowd into a frenzy. The sound was all over the map, so her easy charisma and confidence left a greater impression than the music, but the general vibe was star-in-the-making. KR

WOLF PARADE at the Great Hall, Friday, April 21. Rating: NNNN

About halfway through Wolf Parade’s set, a fan in the crowd yelled, “Thank you for getting back together!”, to which co-frontman and keyboardist Spencer Krug, replied, “Thank you for having us back.” Indeed, the indie rock vets still looked ecstatic to be back on stage. They plowed through hits off their three previous full-lengths and last year’s EP (highlights included fist-pumping sing-a-longs This Heart’s On Fire followed by I’ll Believe in Anything), as well as a couple new tracks from a to-be-released album, due out this fall. One of those tracks, a catchy ditty featuring Krug’s characteristic yelps, is perhaps Wolf Parade’s most straight-forward pop song yet. After a series of reunion shows last spring at Lee’s Palace, this gig felt like a triumphant encore performance. SAMANTHA EDWARDS

Read part one of our CMW 2017 review roundup here. | @nowtoronto

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