Wednesday, March 2
Organizers should be thanking their lucky laminates that OutKast 's Andre 3000 is in town shooting a movie. The sharp-dressed man lent Canadian Music Week some much-needed star power, and during Esthero 's 2005 comeback special at the Phoenix , Dre was spotted in the VIP area chillin' with approximately eight of Toronto's most attractive women. As for Esthero, she was on pitch, although her Paul Shaffer-style backup band (complete with two drummers) sounded about as inspired as a sober Steven Tyler.
Luckily, dread-disco dudes (and gal) Controller.controller gave the night some valuable edge. Drummer Jeff Scheven was even wearing a mask, possibly cuz he felt weird about having his face glowing from the massive video screens lining the walls.
Thursday, March 3
Thursday's abysmal Gen-Sub showcase at the Drake was a good example of how misdirected label influence can promote musical mediocrity. Take Windsor's Lodown . Could there be anything less relevant in 2005 than some fresh-faced dude trying to bellow Danzig-style over softcore metal grind? For those foolish or masochistic enough to hang around in the hopes of seeing well-hyped Hitch at 11:30 pm, that question was answered by Syndicated , an outfit who seem blissfully unaware that the world's not waiting for some clean-cut chappies to fill the gap left by the Godfathers. At 11 pm, Bavarian bozos Scorefor , sporting knee-length Dockers, performed their ESL take on Blink-182. After a full 45 minutes of woefully generic pop-punk, frontman Florian Kropius said, "We are still playing because the next band isn't here." Great. Couldn't he have told us sooner?
Between industry hacks and rock fans warming up for the Zoobombs ' imminent set, the Silver Dollar was packed with leather. Former Carnation Thom D'Arcy and his Ladies and Gentlemen rose above technical glitches with synth- and bass-driven slacker new wave ditties, earning their stripes with sweet harmonies that fused the Shins with the Supremes and shamelessly swiping the opening hook from Van Halen's Jump.
Sonic Unyon 's showcase at the El Mocambo was a night of confusing elements and disappointing sets. The ethereal atmosphere created by Steeltown's A Northern Chorus was rudely disrupted by the grating whine of Raising the Fawn 's John Crossingham . When his vocals were taken down a notch, the band improved, with super-tight arrangements and slick drumming courtesy of Dylan Green .
Metrosexual Much VJ Devon Soltendieck chatted up the Fawn gents' much-anticipated headliners, Damon & Naomi . Sans backing band, Damon & Naomi's stripped-down folk shtick seemed forced. How embarrassingly tragic to watch the El Mo go from fully packed to virtual wasteland.
At Lee's , you could only get into the Guitar Wolf show if your name was Andre 3000. Dude sauntered in shortly after Cuff the Duke 's impressive cavalcade of mind-bending psychedelic riffage, complete with bowed guitars.
After what seemed like hours of canned Ramones on the sound system, Japanese rock gods Guitar Wolf took the stage in typically stylized fashion, bassist Billy hamming it up with an imitation of John Travolta's hair-combing Saturday Night Fever shtick while choppers revved up in the background. The crowd greeted P.A.-mounting frontman Seiji with devil-horn fingers and blood-curdling screams that carried on through GW's set, which was packed with mugging, incoherent lyrics and buckets of sweaty punk energy.
Finished the evening at the 360 with the adorable anti-punk quirkiness of Montreal baby-faced indie pop posse Lovely Feathers . Their herky-jerky antics, impressive keyboard twiddling and the showmanship of frontman Richard Yanofsky suggest that the New York Times should name-check the Feathers in their next Montreal-is-the-new-Seattle feature.
Friday, March 4
In the Drake 's 9 pm time slot, Ryan Luchuck got his Billy Joel on while a crowd of adorers beamed. If you were more in the market for rawk 'n' ruckus, Shaker 's ironic classic 70s rock provided pure entertainment along with leather fringe vests and porn star handlebar 'staches at Lee's Palace . Too bad their act failed to fill the club for second-stringers the Golden Dogs ' set.
With or without badges, you had to kick and scream to get into the Horseshoe . A handful of badge-holders were let into the "non-CMW event" as a courtesy just in time to hear bratty upstarts Money Money 's surprisingly un-rocking set. Montreal garage icons Tricky Woo almost made up for the organizational hassles.
Ben Lee 's set at the Reverb was filled with heartbreak ballads about being dumped by Claire Danes, but those woe-is-me lyrics were tempered with a cheery strum and the sweet bah-bah-bahing of reliable accompanist Lara Meyerratken . The best tune of the night was Lee's cover of the saucy Pony Up! ode to their favourite actor, Matthew Modine.
Over at the Silver Dollar , the Creeping Nobodies easily won over the crowd with their infectiously jangling brand of brainy, off-kilter indie punk. Japanese psych rockers the Zoobombs topped off the night with a wicked set of LCD-soaked jam rock that proved Don Matsuo is a one-man wrecking crew. Blindingly good.
Saturday, March 5
The CMW cock-ups continued through Saturday. Though Nashville Star runner-up George Canyon was slated to be onstage downstairs at the El Mocambo at 11:30 pm as part of the CMT showcase, instead we got Celtic country star Dave Gunning strumming 25 minutes of slight variations on an I'se The B'y theme with a silly grin. Then Gunning switched to impersonating Stompin' Tom Connors. His routine may be a roof-raiser in Halifax and parts of Labrador, but in Toronto it was reason enough for many frustrated badge-holders to head for the door. At Lee's , the vibe was Animal House, except with fan boys going apeshit over 90sVideoFACT wonders Staggered Crossing instead of John Belushi. Jay Bennett still managed to get a few good songs in between fanatic catcalls, including one accompanied by his old Wilco pal, local pedal steel ace Bob Egan , before the StagX dudes showed up as his backing band. Solo, Bennett was the night's highlight; the rest of the set seemed unrehearsed, with the Staggered lads posing as if a Rolling Stone photog were taking shots.
Thanks to an extended liquor licence, a reliable source told me the booze was flowing till 4 am down at the Bovine , where a glammed-out crowd partied till the wee hours and took in surprise sets from the Illuminati and C'mon . Both bands played way too loud for the small room, but maybe that's the point.