Another CMW is upon us, and by now most of you probably know this is one of my favourite times to be in Toronto. I genuinely love Canadian Music Fest. It feels a whole lot more local and about the incredibly strong music community in Toronto than NXNE does to me, oddly enough. Or maybe it’s because it always marks the end of winter, so it feels especially nice to be out enjoying the city again. Let festival season begin.

This years lineup is especially good meaning there are far too many worthy bands playing for anyone to see all my choices, so you have a lot of options for each night of the fest (I have no idea how I’m going to narrow down who I actually see – Thursday’s options are almost making me cry with the Sophie’s Choice scheduling of all my faves).

With that said, here are my recommendations on which venues you should be at, and which bands you should be checking out, each night of the festival. Links to each band go to my favourite song of theirs, or a post I’ve done up on them in the past.

Tuesday March 19th

Horseshoe Nu Music Nite Showcase featuring  The Nature Boys 8:40pm, Silver Creek 9:30pm, Inlet Sound 10:20pm, Artful Vandelays 11:10pm, The Bloody Five 12am.

Dakota Tavern Showcase featuring Willie Stratton 10pm, The Sam Willows 11pm, Graydon James and the Young Novelists 12am, and The Ballroom Thieves 1am. Any band that can make an overplayed Fun song sound good is a band worth checking out. The Sam Willows are the one band that have me truly excited from Tuesday’s lineup.

If you have a VIP wristband, you will probably be checking out Rihanna with A$AP Rocky at ACC, though.

Wednesday March 20th

Six Shooter Records Outlaws and Gunslingers showcase at the Horseshoe featuring Daniel Romano 10pm, Jim Cuddy 11pm, Justin Rutledge 12am, Belle Starr 1am. To say I am in love with  Daniel Romano’s ‘transformation’ into one of the best currently active country musicians (the hardest genre to get right, by far) anywhere is an understatement. I liked Attack In Black on some level, but moreso because it was really nice to see people I went to high school with, boys from Welland, being creative and doing really well at it. I think all of their new projects as individual artists are more interesting and beautiful than anything they did together in that band. Kind of like Alexisonfire – (but) that band sucked – while City and Colour is solid work.

Yukon Blonde and Stars 8pm @ Danforth Music Hall (limited wristbands accepted). I love Yukon Blonde, probably more than Stars at this point. This will be a great show.

DIANA 9pm Chvrches 10pm @ Mod Club (limited wristbands accepted). I saw DIANA live a few months back and the song they ended their set with (for which I haven’t been able to find anywhere online since!) was absolutely beautiful. It’s fitting that they’re opening up for this ‘buzz band’ that I haven’t quite made up my mind about yet.

Delta Will 9pm @ Supermarket.

Atom and the Volumes 10pm Sorry OK Yes 2am @ Rancho Relaxo. Sorry OK Yes is one of those rare bands to email me and actually get my attention (meaning they used my name instead of sending a generic email, and their music was actually good). They recently moved here from Milan where they had moderate success, and thank god for that move because their sound is developed, fun pop rock in the vein of the Black Keys – something we need more of in Toronto. I read something recently about how the problem with these festivals is that they can be CBC RADIO-core (which is kinda funny) but booking of bands like this prove that CanRock incestuous stereotype wrong. 11pm @ Cabin 5. I adore Nate Daniels’ voice, and while I think he might actually be even stronger if he were to go solo, this band is criminally underrated in the Toronto scene (which probably won’t be the case for much longer now that Audioblood is working with them).

Revelstoke 11pm @ Rivoli. Another overlooked musician from Toronto, one of the stronger singer/songwriters playing the festival.

Gabrielle Papillon 12am @ Drake Underground. This woman can sing. If you loved Kathleen Edwards latest, you should see Gabrielle play this week.

Thursday March 21st

Acres of Lions 3pm, The Treasures 5pm @ CBC Lounge inside Marriott (VIP wristbands only).

ATTAGIRL 10pm @ Global Backpackers Village. Interesting venue, curious to see what a show would sound like here (!?!) – even if the venue proves to be shit, their songs are strong enough to still make it worth showing up. Make sure to check them out during CMW, they’re playing a few different sets and an in store!

Stars with Said the Whale 8pm @ Danforth Music Hall (limited wristbands accepted). 9pm Amos The Transparent 1am @ Dakota Tavern. Amos is one of those bands you need to see live to understand just how great they are. My favourite bands either have very few members or a ridiculous Broken Social Scene number of members – they fall into the latter, which always makes for a great show.

Strumbellas 9:20pm, Poor Young Things 10:10pm, Great Bloomers 11:10pm, Teenage Kicks 12:10pm, Ben Caplan 1:30am @ Horseshoe Tavern. This showcase is bumming me out because it features two of my most favourite Toronto bands – Poor Young Things and Teenage Kicks – the two that really pulled me back into the local scene in the first place – and I may have to miss it. I feel like it’s been forever since I’ve seen either of them play, and missing out would make that last even longer. Strumbellas, Great Bloomers and Ben Caplan all put on great shows as well so it’s fair to say this showcase is stacked.

Mo Kenney 9pm, Mad Ones 10pm, PS I Love You 11pm, Wildlife 12am, and a secret guest at 1am @ Great Hall. This is the reason I may have to miss the Horseshoe showcase. I haven’t seen Wildlife play in ages (maybe since last years CMW??) – and their new album is wonderful, and this is their first Toronto show since its release, AND their shows are always a highlight of any festival – so I really don’t want to miss it. Plus, apparently The Darcys are the secret guest, which makes it even harder to miss out on. And Mo Kenney, Mad Ones and PS I Love You are all great as well. Another stacked showcase. Thursday, why must you do this to me?

Honheehonhee 12am @ Rancho Relaxo. Every time I hear about this band, it’s from someone I trust telling me how unbelievable they are live. One of these days I may actually get to experience it for myself.

July Talk 1am @ Lee’s Palace. This band blows me away. While the female vocalist can be a bit much live (pouring blood all over herself onstage at the Horseshoe show was just corny, I can’t stand gimmicks onstage especially from a band as excellent as they are since it really only takes away from their sound) this is easily one of the most engaging bands coming out of Toronto right now. It’s hard to move away from the Tom Waits comparisons, but to be compared to such an enormous talent and have that comparison hold up is a huge feat and a mark of their massive potential.

Dangerband 1am @ Silver Dollar. This is one of those ridiculously young, fun bands like The Dirty Nil that is destined for big things. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them have great success in a couple years.

Friday March 22nd

Ruben and the Dark 2pm Folly and the Hunter 3pm @ CBC Lounge inside Marriott (VIP wristbands only).

Emma Louise, Mo Kenney, Ron Sexsmith starting at 8:30pm @ Randolph Theatre.

Asgeir Trausti 9pm Soley 10pm @ Drake Underground. You know those rare bands who make music that is so incredibly beautiful, it doesn’t matter if you can’t understand the lyrics? Trausti’s music has that effect. Soley is the Lykke Li of Iceland. And that means I am super excited to see this showcase.

Pkew Pkew Pkew 10pm Reversing Falls 11pm @ Global Village Backpackers. Pkew is a guaranteed good time, and Reversing Falls is another band that proves Montreal has an incredible musical output right now.

The Zolas 8:30pm Young Rival 10:10pm Savages 11:10pm Limblifter 12:10am The Damn Truth 2:30am @ The Horseshoe. This showcase is a little spotty/uneven (which is the biggest criticism these festivals tend to get) but The Zolas and Young Rival are definitely not to be missed. I’m quite sad I have to decide between them and the Iceland showcase. And we all remember Limblifter from grade school, so that set will probably be pretty packed. I certainly won’t be there, but it seemed like I had to mention them anyway.

The Indies 8pm @ Kool Haus featuring Cadence Weapon, The Wooden Sky, Cold Specks, Yukon Blonde, Matt Mays, Metric (and others). Now that they’ve changed venues from the Royal York to Kool Haus, I’m wondering how this is going to work compared to the usual industry schmooze this awards show tends to be.

The Dirty Nil 11pm @ Bovine Sex Club. It’s well documented that I think these kids were born to be rock stars, and I’d put money on it happening sooner rather than later.

Reuben and the Dark 8:30pm, Lowell 9:30pm, Lucy Rose 10:30pm, Imaginary Cities 11:30pm, Besnard Lakes 12:30am @ Lee’s Palace.

The Wilderness of Manitoba 11pm @ Revival.

Saturday March 23rd 

Lowell 12:30pm @ Church of the Holy Trinity.

ATTAGIRL 8pm @ Velvet Underground.

Nick Cave 9pm @ Massey Hall (seriously limited wristbands accepted, go really fucking early if you want a chance at this one).

Ryan McKinley 9pm, Jean on Gene 9:45pm, Michael Rault 10:40pm @ Paintbox Bistro. Saw Michael live randomly one time at the Horseshoe and was blown away. Go see this guy if you get the chance.

Aidan Knight 10:10pm, Cookie Duster 11:10pm,  BadBadNotGood 12:10am, The Dirty Nil 2:30am @ The Horseshoe. Ended up missing Cookie Duster’s first show so I’m really hoping to catch this one, and I’m so happy The Dirty Nil are on the bill with them – they’re perfect way to end a crazy night.

Fucked Up’s final Long Winter featuring The Sadies, Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet (!!!), and more starting at 7pm @ The Great Hall.

Fade Chromatic 11pm @ Czehoski.

Savages 12am, Suuns 1am @ Lee’s Palace. Suuns are doing something different, definitely worth checking them out.

Papermaps 11pm, Boats 12am @ Rancho Relaxo. Definitely don’t miss Boats –  (please don’t confuse them with another band playing called BOATS!) they are the band I’m most excited to check out this year at CMF and this is their only show!

Morgan Cameron Ross 9pm @ Supermarket. Love his voice.

Lowell, Austra starting at 8pm @ Danforth Music Hall. Austra live was one of the worst live shows I’ve seen, but their album work is solid so it felt wrong to leave them off, but this is definitely not at the top of my list for this night.

Ainsley McNeaney 10pm @ Garrison.

Apparat Organ Quartet 6:45pm, Revelstoke 7:30pm, Soley 8:15pm, 9pm, Asgeir Trausti 9:45pm @ The Hoxton.

Pat Wright 2am @ Underground Garage. Pat is one of the best guitarists in the city, easily.

Paradise Animals 11pm @ Wrongbar. Any band who can cover one of my favourite Bonnie Prince Billy songs without fucking up has my attention.

Sunday March 24th 

Atom and the Volumes 10pm @ Painted Lady.

Alright Alright 9pm, Boy 10pm, The Beauties 11pm @ Dakota Tavern (limited wristbands accepted). Super excited to see Boy live, and The Beauties have been putting on great Sunday shows at the Dakota for years and years and years.

Who are you most excited to see this year? Did I forget any great bands? Tell me in the comments, please!