NeXT VS. CMW & THE GUY FROM STYX at the Comfort Zone (480 Spadina) tonight through Saturday (March 2-4). Featuring: (Thursday) sunday sinners (midnight), the ADAM BROWN BAND (11 pm), magnet (10 pm), FRONTIER INDEX (9 pm) and BASIA BULAT (8 pm); (Friday) THE DONKEYS (1 am), ROCK PLAZA CENTRAL (11:45 pm), the PAPER CRANES (10:50 pm), SWEET THING (10 pm) and PERMAFROWN (9:15 pm); (Saturday) HORSEY CRAZE (midnight), RICK OF THE SKINS (11 pm), the BROWN HORNETS (10 pm) and more. $8-$9, or $5 at door with CMW wristband/laminate. 416-763-9139. Rating: NNNNN
Dan Burke is a sick, sick man.
The guy NOW named Toronto's best club promoter in 05 is supporting a serious-sounding head cold, currently on its inaugural sinus tour on its way to his chest. Burke attributes said sickness which can't be helping as he scrambles together his rowdy three-night "anti-Canadian Music Week" stand at the Comfort Zone to a "pretty wild lifestyle," which he later equates to "one big after-party."
These days, though, the disreputable yet beloved promoter says, between hacks, that he's trying to take it a bit easier. In the case of his shows, which kick off tonight, that means being open to collaborating with like-minded show throwers. This year he's pulled together a max-hot roster of rock folk from here (Frontier Index, Rock Plaza Central, Sweet Thing, Permafrown, Horsey Craze) to Victoria (the Paper Cranes) to Norway (Magnet), with the assistance of No Format guy Gregg Ipp, Emerge bro Jacob Smith and Pop Montreal mastermind Dan Seligman, among others.
It's a smarter bet than shouldering the brunt of the burden himself, as he did in past years. Burke's exhausting one-man efforts include his infamous anti-NXNE shows (incidentally, Burke asserts he'll be working with NXNE this year), and his 05 CMW showcase when he brought the Zoobombs from Japan to play three consecutive nights at the Silver Dollar.
The latter scored Burke the most chatted-up showcase of the whole puffy citywide festival/industry conference. So why, this year, is he "anti"-CMW?
Mainly, it stems from an incident that happened when Burke started working with Canadian Music Week's organizers to create a showcase for bands that had, perhaps undeservedly, not been accepted to play the fest.
"I sent out a number of e-mails to such bands," he says. "One band was represented by some guy named, uh, Pop Guru? That was the guy's title: Pop Guru. It had been a long day I didn't just do a mass e-mail; I had to write people separately.
"I started wondering, "Who the fuck does this guy think he is, calling himself Pop Guru?' So I wrote a very... er, insulting? (perhaps it was slightly insulting, but it was more humorous) e-mail about somebody calling himself Pop Guru.
"I guess CMW didn't like my style of communication with people," he sighs, "and that was that."
Catch more of Burke's fascinating squabble with CMW on stillepost.ca.
Though he admits that CMW may be "terrified" of working with him, Burke insists he's more civilized these days. That doesn't keep him from mocking Canadian Music Week's invitation to His Royal Highness former Styx frontman Dennis DeYoung to do a brief set of Styx hits. (DeYoung was last seen in the Hilary Duff/Heather Locklear vehicle The Perfect Man playing the lead singer of a Styx tribute band.)
Hence, Burke's showcase's full title: NeXT vs. CMW & The Guy From Styx.
"I mean, Styx were really bad," Dan levels. "They made the bloated, bombastic corporate rock that inspired the backlash known as punk and new wave. So maybe we've gotta thank Styx for causing that.... But Styx were pretty fucking bad."
He's not alone in his hatred.
"Ugh, Styx?" groans Jenna Roker, lead singer/guitarist of 80-per-cent-female group the Sunday Sinners, one of the hottest bands on Burke's bill, over the phone from her place in Montreal. She's just learned DeYoung will be appearing in T.O. the same weekend as her band. Roker didn't know much about CMW or, for that matter, Burke's anti-CMW assault before we talked.
She knows more about Burke, whom she recalls from when he lived in her friend's backyard in Montreal. ("He owned 100 boxes of women's shoes," she reminisces.)
Roker, who describes the sound of her locally loved band, inquisitively, as "pop songs?", would rather learn about CMW than talk about her music.
"So "Anti-CMW' is Dan's marketing scheme?" she asks.
"And CMW is it like Pop Montreal?"
A bit, but not half as cool.
"It's less cool?"
"So fuck it, then. We're glad we're doing this."