Cajmere, Hanlan’s Point, August 16
CAJMERE, MOBY, WOLF + LAMB, THIEVERY CORPORATION, LEE FOSS and many more as part of SUNSETS at Hanlan's Point, Saturday, August 16. Rating: NNN
At any all-day outdoor music festival, one unannounced guest always has an inordinately large impact: the weather. In the case of the Sunsets festival, cold temperatures and drizzle made the picturesque island location more a curse than a blessing. Thankfully, most of the DJs and live acts overcame the gloom, and the thunderstorms never actually materialized.
Green Velvet performed as his more soulful alter ego, Cajmere, and his deep Chicago vibes were easily one of the highlights of the day. Wolf + Lamb bounced from disco to tech, but unfortunately, the event's MC, Sir LanceLot, insisted on talking constantly, which greatly disrupted their flow. Thievery Corporation brought a full live band for their dubby bossa-nova-influenced performance, and Lee Foss tastefully augmented his tech house set with live vocals by Anabel Englund. Rave survivor Moby's closing DJ set didn't make a lot of sense after the preceding artists, and sounded painfully dated at times.
PHILLY MOVES at Sneaky Dee's, Friday, August 15. Rating: NNN
Ottawa-bred, Toronto-based hip-hop duo Philly Moves were in fine form just past midnight on Friday at the release show for their latest album, Olga. Emcee Tynan Phelan was particularly brave, bouncing around the Sneaky Dee's stage barefoot, Donnie Darko-style bunny mask pushed to the back of his head.
Producer Jonny Desilva was slightly more reserved, splitting his time between capably beat-making and jumping on acoustic guitar, and lending his falsetto pipes to the proceedings.
The pair delivered a contagiously high-spirited brand of poppy hip-hop that lends itself well to the live arena: Old As Fuck, for example - a song that conveys the familiar it's-time-to-grow-up sentiment for the almost-adult, approaching-30 generation - is very singalong friendly. Same goes for their new single Fuxwitchu, an alt-R&B-indebted tune that, if not for its un-PC title, would probably find a good home on Much.
The guys could go a little deeper subject-matter-wise, sure, but it's refreshing to see an act who take their music very seriously while still having fun with their image. A sense of humour in hip-hop is so underrated.
CAM'RON at Danforth Music Hall, Saturday, August 16. Rating: NNNN
In the run-up to Cam'ron's nine-date Canadian tour, fans around the country were speculating on social media about whether or not the elusive star would make it across the border. So when the 37-year-old New York emcee took the Danforth Music Hall stage on Saturday night, the crowd cheered with palpable relief.
Cam's set list spanned his discography. Hits like Hey Ma and Oh Boy, harder-edged deep cuts like I Used To Get It In Ohio and Bout It Bout It demonstrated the strength of his catalogue and satisfied the broad swath of fans in the venue.
The performance clocked in at around 45 minutes, leaving some fans clamouring for more. Still, diehards who've followed Cam'ron's career through its dips and recent re-emergence left satiated. He closed out with Dipshits, a recent A-Trak and Just Blaze-assisted song with the triumphant bounce of his mid-aughts classics. The choice was fitting - illuminating Cam's ability to modernize without compromising the sound he's spent his career building.
JIM CUDDY WITH DEVIN CUDDY AND SAM POLLEY, THE GRAY BROTHERS, JERRY GRAY and more as part of JAMES GRAY MEMORIAL at the Horseshoe, Monday, August 18. Rating: NNNN
Blue Rodeo keyboardist James Gray's esteem in Toronto's music community was evident in the assortment of musicians who gathered Monday night to pay tribute to his memory, taking the stage for short sets filled with Latin shuffle, psychedelic prog rock and rootsy classics.
Jim Cuddy, along with sons Sam and Devin and members of Blue Rodeo, delivered a country-tinged set that included a rousing cover of Great Big Sea's The Night Pat Murphy Died.
Gray's family delivered the strongest performances. His three brothers swayed in unison during Sweet Brother James, a tender, bluesy ballad written the day after their sibling passed away. Incredibly, the crowd began singing along to a song many were hearing for the first time.
James's father, the legendary Jerry Gray of Canadian folk heroes the Travellers, served up an extended This Land Is Your Land that damn near made everyone weepy. But seeing Gray Sr. perform with such gusto at 80 - and remember his son with a smile on his face - reminded us that this was a celebration of life.