CANADIAN MUSIC WEEK at various venues, February 28-March 2. Rating: NNNNN
Pop and rock aside, CMW was notoriously thin on other styles of the city. The Thursday-night hiphop fiasco at Lee's speaks for itself, and electronic music was either stuck out at the Opera House or, in the case of Belgian mixmaster Buscemi, almost silenced. Someone might want to tell the organizers that if you actually want to hear the records a DJ is spinning, bringing needle cartridges for the turntables is a good idea.
Here's how NOW saw the three-day fest unfold.
choclair cd release
the best cmw performance
was actually turned in before the festival officially kicked off. Hosting a launch for his new record as well as a shoe he's sponsoring, Choclair, in what was perhaps his hardest performance ever, tore apart Revival Wednesday. With support from Kardinal Offishall, Saukrates and more, the flashy MC drove through 30 minutes of furiously raw beats that had necks snapping, stopping only to remark that a few years ago he wouldn't have been able to get a spot at a festival like CMW.
thursday, february 28
other than the unusual sight
of former MUCH VJ Mike Williams flipping through used CDs at a disc shop next door to Lee's Palace, there was no visible sign that anything special was happening inside the club last Thursday.
You'd never guess it was the site of a Canadian Music Week showcase sponsored by FLOW 93.5 FM. The was no huge lineup outside the club, no roving packs of badge-flashing delegates crawling between clubs. The decision to begin the event in February -- far in advance of the Juno weekend that's been its rallying point -- seems to have further reduced foot traffic.
By 9:30 pm, the renovated Lee's was already overstuffed, although few people were intrigued enough by Melanie Durant's smoothed-out R&B take on Amanda Marshall to put their cellphones away.
The GI Joe stageware favoured by Harpoon Missile was a momentary distraction, but it took the exaggerated loverman crooning of the Rezza Dons' entertaining playa parody to finally turn heads. If Disney sues their asses over the lascivious Chitty Chitty Bang single, they could be huge. A surprise guest appearance by Michee Mee turned into a full-on show, delaying set times by at least 30 minutes, and even longer after a fistfight broke out.
By the time G Stokes finished singing corny ballads to a colour photocopy of his infant son, it was nearly two hours past Jelleestone's scheduled start time of 12:15 am, and the once enormous crowd had dwindled to a handful of family members and friends like Maestro and video auteur Little X.
"I don't need your applause, 'cause I live this," shouted Jelleestone defiantly during the embarrassing between-song silence. "There's no one clapping for me when I'm on the street, and I don't need it now!" Whatever.
friday, march 1
while it's easy to dismiss mu-
sic-biz cattle calls like Canadian Music Week and North By Northeast as the same-old same-old and a waste of time for struggling bands looking for a real break, occasionally the system does work.
Take, for example, Oshawa country punks Cuff the Duke, who got into the festival the old-fashioned way -- by submitting a package -- and ended up being one of the most talked-about bands of the weekend. Nineteen but looking like they're 12, the quartet led by Wayne Petti snorted and joked their way through 30 minutes of country, emo punk and psych rock at Reverb.
The sheer amount of energy the rail-thin Petti packed into the band's set was enough to make people sit up and pay attention, but it was the sing-along finale, when the band paraded through the clapping crowd, that stuck out. Once they figure out what kind of band they want to be, Cuff the Duke could be great.
Globe-trotting electro-pop combo Metric have already got that question figured out. With their Grow Up And Blow Away album long finished and in label limbo, the foursome are relying on live performances to spread the word, and left nothing to chance.
Finally featuring a rhythm section to match Emily Haines's seething vocals, Metric's mix of pure pop and driving grooves at the Reverb was devastatingly successful.
The Hidden Cameras and their male go-go dancers were bouncing merrily around, with special guest Bob Wiseman tooting melodica. Unfortunately, they wasted much of their set time tuning their instruments and discussing what song to play next.
Wiry local emo bashers Moneen left a crowd of major-label reps agog at the Rivoli with a taut blast of teen drama. If Moneen survive their two-month trial by fire in the States this spring, they'll be unstoppable.
saturday, march 2
one of the few real cmw sur-
prises was socially conscious Australian groove combo the John Butler Trio, who stopped in at the Rivoli on their way to South By Southwest.
The dreaded Butler showed considerable finger-picking skill while dropping science about media conspiracies and cutting down 6,000-year-old trees for toilet paper that left everyone talking "next Ben Harper" afterwards.
Montreal's Stars were at the heart of the festival's biggest show, the Chart Magazine showcase stacked with Royal City, Buck 65, the Constantines and the Chickens. Unless you arrived at 7 pm, you probably weren't going to get through the door, and once inside, the crush of humanity made the living hell of a packed Rancho Relaxo seem like Valhalla by comparison.
Stars have become more of a complete band while recording their new record, now making full use of Evan Cranley's slouching bass lines and Amy Millan's pop smarts. Those, mixed with Torquil Campbell's cabaret-cool vocals and Chris Seligman's synth squeals, should prove successful when Stars are finally allowed to release a new record.
Too bad the Legendary "Shoehorn" was so tightly packed with major-label suits trying to cozy up to Buck 65 that many fans were left out in the rain.