Roxy Blu, Fri, September 8
The film festival's in full swing, but no one flailing their arms and dancing furiously at Roxy Blu appeared to give a rat's ass -- not with Brighton jazz-dance supremo Russ Dewbury on the decks.
It started off pleasant enough with a few mid-tempo icebreakers, but when the seaside selector cued up his charging Urban Sky Unit discovery you could feel the dance-floor energy shift up a notch.
Dewbury began to bounce lightly between the turntables as if ready to pounce on a weak second serve, then turned to flip through his raggedy-sleeved discs to set up a plan of attack. The booming volley of Salambo by the Salambos set up for the thunderous blast of the Trüby Trio's A Go-Go -- a clear winner, judging by the convulsive frenzy of sweat-dripping limbs.
Some wiseacre might argue that anyone with Dewbury's $10,000 bag of funky artifacts could make the floor smoulder in similar fashion, but it takes special skill to rock a Toronto party with Lighthouse oldie One Fine Morning. Nuff respect.
Reverb, Sat, September 9
That the complimentary jerk chicken was still available at 11 pm was unusual enough for a hiphop record release party, though not as strange as the fact that the featured artists were keeping to the schedule. But then, those "Nefarius bastards" have their shit together, and the Tough Dumplin' 10-inch taster for their forthcoming album is head-nodding proof.
Unfortunately, boisterous opening act Nish Rawks -- a highlight of Mastermind's promo-only Volume 49 mixed disc -- didn't get much love from the capacity crowd, since DJs, A&R types and promo reps were busy getting their snack on. By midnight, the Reverb was packed with what looked to be the entire T-dot hiphop community.
Nefarius's dreaded ragga rapper MC Collizhun, aka Tristan Graham, made a cordial host by bumpin' knuckles with all the headz in the house before pushing his way to the stage through a cloud of dry ice. After a few minutes of Collizhun's ripping rude-bwoy rage, Japanese rhymer Yoshin stepped forward to demonstrate his Tokyo technique. Other guests popped up, and then a band and still more mystery-guest vocalists, until Collizhun began to look more like an emcee than an MC.
Rivoli, Wed, September 6
Having ace producer Michael Phillip Wojewoda expertly work your sound board never hurts. But one-time Jitters frontman Toronto singer/songwriter Blair Packham has a few strengths of his own -- catchy, smart pop songs and a solid band playing them. A Beatles logo on the kick drum is a nice touch, too.
Heralding the release of his Everything That's Good solo debut with a couple of sets at the Riv, Packham confidently shot through the new stuff like the pro he is (he did tour the UK supporting Heart once, you know), proving there is life after a successful band and a major-label deal.
Also on hand: songwriter Mia Sheard, multi-talented Kurt Swinghammer and, of course, Packham's partner in crime, singer/songwriter Arlene Bishop, all of whom clambered onstage for a rousing blow-out. Special props to Bishop, whose Snarky Girl Pop disc was recently named by the National Post one of the best records ever, along with Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell and other Canrock institutions.
Lee's, Wed, September 6
Also releasing a new solo record Wednesday -- make that a newish record -- Weeping Tile singer Sarah Harmer, whose You Were Here disc, though available independently via her Web site since spring, has just been reissued by Universal Canada.
Looking radiant before a jammed house of musicians, club bookers and label folks (obviously, an inter-office e-mail came down from the top for this one), Harmer sailed through the songs, bringing everything to a hush during a centrepiece performance of the delicate ballad Capsized, which featured Harmer on guitar accompanied by a cellist.
A full set complemented by Harmer's partner Luther Wright of the Wrongs was followed by an encore -- not something you often see at industry events. But girl's got it going on. Harmer is expected to give a public show as part of a national tour sometime before year's end.