nothing says music festival quite like four consecutive morning headaches. But no matter. This year's Canadian Music Week bonanza, though slightly fraying at the ends by Saturday night, offered more highlights than lowlights while guaranteeing outstanding week's-end receipts to cab drivers citywide.
Of course, record labels are as eager as emerging acts to seize upon a captive industry, so boozy private parties were to be expected. Leading the pack and the official CMW timetable with its Wednesday-night slot was a terrific showing by gangly former Talking Heads maestro David Byrne, organized by Virgin and held at the Orange Room.
Peppering a set devoted to his new Look Into The Eyeball disc with past hits -- and then encoring with a jaunty gallop through Whitney Houston's I Wanna Dance With Somebody -- Byrne was relaxed, engaging and, in his crisp khakis, apparently braced to wrangle crocodiles should the situation arise.
At the other end of the spectrum was a Saturday-afternoon double bill hosted by Sony at Lee's Palace. A raffle for a new DVD player held people through sets by OK roots rock combo Five for Fighting and spectacularly average pop rockers Train.
And there were the showcases, piles of them. Two Montreal acts -- Rubberman and Fly Pan Am, both playing Thursday -- illustrated the breadth of style in evidence throughout the fest. While the former combo scooped up pogo-perfect blasts of serviceable rock, the latter stapled onlookers to the wall with a combative instrumental throb that would have been hypnotic were it not so damn loud.
By Saturday, rumours of cancelled gigs (Dweezil Zappa), last-minute set-time switcheroos (the Guthries) and strict precautions against overcrowding (the Horseshoe) triggered quickie schedule revisions and happy accidents.
That was certainly true of Australian singer/songwriter Anne McCue, who, despite following an incendiary set by Vancouver's John Ford, won the Ted's crowd with a clear, strong voice and bracing pop compositions. Downstairs at Barcode, meanwhile, the hayseed thunderclap of trad country pickers Steve Ketchen & the Kensington Hillbillies reinforced the fact that quality exists in every genre. You just have to look around.