Tag Archives: Canadian Music Week
I arrived to the Horseshoe for the Arts & Crafts showcase just after 10pm, weary at the thought of another very long night ahead of me, but very excited for this lineup. I figured arriving in time for their set would ensure I’d have no issue getting in, as they were only the second band of the night, but of course, Arts & Crafts knows how to pack a venue so there was a long line up already when I got there. Disappointed, I contemplated joining all my friends who chose to go to the El Mocambo for the Dine Alone showcase (which had another great lineup, but it didn’t even come close to this in sheer quality of bands playing, in my opinion). Luckily, being media sometimes has its perks, and I was pulled out of the long line by someone I’ve admired for years, and was able to catch the very end of Gold & Youth’s set.
I definitely didn’t catch enough to give a proper review, but the last two songs I heard were enough to leave me wanting more. Their first single “Time To Kill” is infectious in its rhythms, the use of layering and harmonies in their sound is enviable for such a young band, and the vocals have a deep Ian Curtis-ish tone to them. By all accounts they sound like a British band, and I mean that as a big compliment. This electro-rock trio was the perfect lead in for the next band.
I recently wrote about Eight and a Half after their first show at the Drake, so I won’t go into much detail again, but I will say the shows they played between that one and this showcase obviously upped their confidence and cohesion as a band, and any uncertainty present in their first show had dissipated at this point. They seemed more comfortable together, and seeing them again only served to confirm my initial belief that they are a band to watch out for.
Despite The Darcys self titled debut easily making my top 10 Best Albums of 2011 list, for one reason or another I kept missing out on them live, so as you can imagine my anticipation for this set was huge. I loved the album, but could they live up to the hype? Of course, they met and exceeded my high expectations, and I was instantly in love with them from the first song in.
I had heard the comparisons to Radiohead all along and noticed a slight influence in the vocals, but didn’t realize why they so regularly received the compliment until I witnessed Jason Couse on that stage. Seeing Radiohead live was possibly the best musical experience I’ve ever had in my life, so comparing someone to the genius that is Thom Yorke is my highest praise. Clearly, his performance skills are very much influenced by Yorke’s spastic trance like stage presence, and it made for a show I will never forget.
The most memorable songs of their set had to be “Shaking Down The Old Bones” and of course, the incredible “Don’t Bleed Me,” but I’m sure if you asked someone who is more of a Steely Dan fan than I am, they would have went with one of their Aja covers. At the end of the day, they are a spectacular (and well dressed) band in the studio as well as on the stage, and I will now be making it a point to never miss another Toronto show of theirs again.
Zeus could probably be called my favorite (established and currently active) Canadian band. To say I love them is a gross understatement. They are one of those bands I refuse to miss live. Even if a bigger international band is in town and has a show the same night as them, I know their performance won’t compare to what Zeus will give out. They are the one band that I can truly say, I feel sorry for you if you’ve never witnessed their energy and talent in person.
Every single song they’ve recorded is single worthy, pure 60s/70s nostalgic bliss (and not in that currently popular but dated one note throwback way, they always remain modern and timeless in their sound). Because – like the Beatles – they have three hugely talented songwriters/multi-instrumentalists, they manage to cover all the bases within one band, never slipping into anything even remotely boring. And with the recent release of their second album Busting Visions, they’ve proved yet again their infinite potential.
I’m starting to wish all bands would employ that Beatlesy multiple songwriter format, as it is the best way to ensure the records are incredible. When each musician only gets three songs, there is no doubt they are putting out their best work. And being surrounded by writers as talented as you are allows for a high level of quality control and feedback that other bands just don’t have.
Before they even took the stage I could see the setlist, and was floored when I saw they were opening with “Heavy On Me,” which happens to be my favorite song on Say Us and is in my opinion the sexiest song ever recorded – followed only now by their incredible “Hello Tender Love” which I also saw on the setlist and had a little freak-out about. That was the song I was waiting for, having literally played it on repeat non stop the week leading up to the show (I get obsessive like that about certain songs). They honestly could have played 20 minutes of guitar noodling after those two and I would have been more than happy.
When they came out, I had to laugh at the perfectly mustached Carlin Nicholson’s amazing bedazzled white leather jacket – he always proves to be the showman of the band in the same way Chris Murphy is in Sloan. I always feel sad when a band lacks that superstar personality.
After sexing the room up with “Heavy on Me” they owned the night with “River By The Garden,” their epic cover of Genesis’ “That’s All,” “Love In A Game,” and of course their current single, the infectious “Are You Gonna Waste My Time?” Unfortunately, because of time restraints they ended up not playing the setlist as I saw it, and my heart sank when it appeared they had skipped over “Hello Tender Love,” but towards the end of their set Carlin asked the audience what we wanted them to play, and I immediately seized the opportunity to call out for it (along with many others, I’m sure) and sure enough, he said “We heard ‘Hello Tender Love,’ we weren’t gonna play that one, but we will.” It’s rare I will scream for anything at a show as I usually find those people obnoxious, but this was a situation that warranted it, and thankfully it paid off. It’s very likely I won’t get the chance to see them play again until Osheaga in August, so I had to have it.
The set was super short which had to be disappointing for a lot of people that seemed to be here just for them, with the crowd calling out for an encore after they left the stage (but again, CMW doesn’t allow for encores). It was kind of awkward when they came back to strike their gear and the crowd cheered, thinking they were gonna play again.
Dan Mangan was the unsurprising (he was playing at The Indies the next night) surprise guest at the showcase, and he certainly didn’t disappoint. I’ll admit I was only a casual fan of his for a long time, knowing he was beloved by basically everyone with the same taste as me, but never really feeling connected to his albums in the intense way I usually require to really back a musician (Oh Fortune didn’t make my top 10). Turns out, like many bands, I just needed to finally see him live to fully understand what he was all about.
Although some of the guys in his band sort of turned me off for some reason, he was charming and adorable, thanking all the bands, the label, the audience, and just seeming genuinely grateful that everyone was there for him so late. He played probably the longest set I saw during CMW, and unlike The Dears the night before, it didn’t feel too long or sink into boring territory. As the performance went on, he started to have even more fun with it, making it impossible for me to leave despite being exhausted and in physical pain from standing for so many hours at shows every day.
He even seemed slightly drunk, in that way that makes singer songwriter types throw all inhibitions to the floor and do things like this:
Someone’s phone caught a video of the unexpected moment:
The best songs of the night were definitely that performance of “Robots” that had the crowd jubilantly singing along, and what is undeniably the best song off of Oh Fortune, “Rows of Houses” which he took the time to point out is about Gordie – a character from one of my favorite movies of all time, Stand by Me – who was told he would never be able to make a living as a writer (but then of course he did <3).
It seems Dan and I share a similar affinity for darker stories, which was all the more obvious when he brought out Neil from Zeus to join him on a cover of my all time favorite singer-songwriter Elliott Smith‘s “Waltz #2”. It was a weird moment, wherein I realized I was an Elliott Smith fan among Dan Mangan fans. It made me feel old. I never had the chance to experience Elliott’s music live, so hearing an incredibly talented musician (who is obviously very influenced by the man) perform the song to perfection was an unreal moment that had me attempting to hold back tears. From that point on there was no going back to casual fan, he is probably the number one person I’d like to sit down and have a conversation about music/art/life with at this point, and I will never skip out on his shows again.
The new generation of Arts & Crafts stars have been ushered in, and it’s no surprise I’m in love with all of them given the influential bands I’ve mentioned in this post. A new Radiohead, Beatles, Joy Division and Elliott Smith? Yes, yes please. There really is no other label that unquestionably gets it this right, this often.
Day two at Canadian Music Festival was kind of a fail in that everyone seemed to be scheduled for a different time than they were actually playing, and this led to me only being able to see three bands perform. I could have stayed up til 4am to see a fourth, but the busy first day and having to work in the morning prevented me from having that kind of energy. The good part is I still saw two incredible shows, and one decent one.
The first show of the night was one I had been anticipating for weeks. As you may have noticed, I think Al Spx has what it takes to save Canadian music from this awful wave of female performers who seem to think flailing your arms in front of your face and acting eccentric makes you an interesting musician. It’s an epidemic that seems to be growing in this city especially, so watching a Toronto girl get onstage and command it, with a real voice, singing incredible songs, was refreshing.
This was Cold Specks first headlining show, so rather than bunch her in their Friday night showcase where her bluesy soul music wouldn’t have meshed well with their rock band line up, Arts & Crafts booked her a fitting venue all to herself. The Music Gallery is an old church they now use for shows (I’d only ever been there to see Smog play once, years ago), and hers is the kind of music rooted in gospel tradition, so it was the perfect place for her debut.
Though the building was grotesquely hot from the weird heat wave we were having in the city, and the show started later than I had been told when I was invited, this didn’t take away from the performance in any way.
As she took her place in front of the audience, her immediate discomfort at the pressure this show held was obvious. She made shy comments between songs, but eventually relaxed into it, accepting the warm reception she received from the room, telling jokes, and even doing an epic rendition of the theme song from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. You haven’t heard that song until you’ve heard a real singer perform it.
The highlights of the set were “Holland,” the gorgeous first single from the album, and the epic “Lay Me Down” which she noted was the first song she ever wrote as a teenager – something that continues to blow my mind.
There is a sadness and depth to her music that some may call depressing, and I think she made a conscious choice to be warm, funny and friendly, in order to dispel any potential sad-sack reputation that comes with exposing the darkest part of ones emotions. There is something unique to what she is doing, but it is not depressing in any way, instead it is inspiring in its rawness. I think Cold Specks will be another big Arts & Crafts success story in the tradition of Feist, and I can’t wait for the album to be released.
My love for Wildlife is no secret. I raved about their NXNE performance last June after stumbling upon them in May and being blow away by their talent, energy and sheer songwriting abilities. And they were just as strong for their showcase at Lee’s for CMW. Unfortunately, this was another set that was scheduled for the wrong time, so in a rush I cabbed to the venue right after Cold Specks, but when I arrived the sign said midnight, so I was stuck up at Bloor and Bathurst nowhere near another venue, and my plan to see Topanga play at midnight was ruined. My group didn’t want to check out Tribes (which I now regret) so we killed the hour before their set at Paupers.
When we headed back to Lee’s they were already onstage, and the keyboardist said “this will be our last song” which made my heart stop, thinking the venue had got the time wrong, not the schedule. I was about to flip out thinking I’d missed their set, but when they kept playing I realized it was a joke, thankfully.
The set was short but as praiseworthy as always. I had brought along some friends who had yet to see them, and by the end of their show they were completely blown away, even saying Wildlife was the best band they saw that week by the end of the festival. They do have that effect. I have taken many people to see Wildlife since I came across them, and each one has came out as in love with them as I was after the first time I inadvertently witnessed their magic.
Their new music video might be a rip off of Dan Mangan’s adorable video for “Robots,” that doesn’t quite work for me with the intensity of the song, but live they never ever fail. They played my two absolute favorites from Strike Hard, Young Diamond, “Killing for Fun” and “Drunken Heart” which was all I could ask for, along with their staples “Stand In The Water,” “Sea Dreamer,” and a new song that I can’t wait to get my hands on. I am eagerly anticipating a new release from these guys.
Despite The Dears decade long career that began as a huge part of the Montreal explosion of the early aughts, I’ve never really found their music particularly engaging. And unfortunately, seeing them live at the El Mocambo at this showcase didn’t serve to change that. By the time we arrived after Wildlife, they were already on, and they played quite a long set, closing out the bar for the night. After hanging around the back for a drink I decided to move up, hoping being closer to the performance might increase my interest.
Although following the intense energy of the guys in Wildlife isn’t easy, there were still a few highlights. One I mentioned in my last post (singer Murray Lightburn showing his disdain for the industry types hanging out at the back ignoring the set), another being his hilarious quoting of Kardinal Official’s “The Anthem” (which I’m gonna quote all the time now) engaging the TO pride in the room, and the biggest being a singalong performance of the lullaby-ish “We Can Have It”, that had the room singing in unison “Someone somewhere says they’ve got it all, but that’s not even what we want, not even close , not even close, it won’t ever be what we want…” There couldn’t be a more accurate statement representing the attitude of CMW types.
As the set dragged on, my exhaustion started to kick in and I joined my friends who were already falling asleep on the back couches. We stayed until the end of the show, but no one was up for heading to Silver Dollar mere seconds away for Sandman Viper Command, who are an excellent live band that I would have loved to catch.
I think if I were more of a Dears fan going in, or not already exhausted, or had not just seen the always incredible Wildlife, I may have been a lot more into their set than I was, but as it was, it was a long set with too few stand out tracks to make me want to go home and give them another try, in the way that both Joel Plaskett and Dan Mangan successfully did.
I feel as though I massively lucked out for my first trip inside the CN Tower. Yes, I’ve lived in Toronto for eight years now, but the tower has always been one of those things that tourists blow money on – looking at buildings for a few minutes from a high vantage point was not something I considered worthy of $40.
When I heard the Canadian Music Week opening gala was at the CN Tower’s restaurant, I was intrigued. If I was ever gonna go up there, this would be the best time to do it. A landmark that shoots gaudy fluorescent lights over the city all night somehow becomes a lot more interesting when musicians are performing at the top of it.
The opening performance was scheduled for 5pm, so I finished up my work for the day as fast as I could, determined to catch at least some of Ben Caplan’s set. Sari from Audio Blood had been inviting me to his shows for some time now, but for one reason or another he was never playing at a time I could make it, so this was finally my chance. I arrived probably halfway through his performance, to a fairly thin but captivated audience. There were a lot of people in attendance – but the majority were industry folks there to network – showing little to no interest in the actual music and completely talking over him.
The fact that this didn’t appear to bother him or take away from his performance one bit was astonishing to me. Most musicians seem easily annoyed in these situations (as they should be – why even come to a show if you’re not there to see the bands? You can network anywhere else in the city) – one of the highlights of CMW for me was the lead singer of the Dears making a joke about all the industry douchebags that come to these shows just to talk over the bands – so Ben’s complete joy onstage and ability to pull in the small audience that was paying attention, was wonderful.
He is usually backed by his band The Casual Smokers, but this was a solo showcase, and as far as I was concerned he didn’t need a band to back him. His gravelly voice and commanding demeanor showed the chops of a true performer. More than just a musician, he exhibits all the charming characteristics of a great storyteller – someone you would want to hang out with in a dive bar all night, just listening to all the stories someone with a beard that epic must have to tell.
The biggest highlight of his set was definitely the inclusion of the sailor-esque “Conduit” – a call and response singaling song that had the audience captivated. It is easily my favorite song on In The Time Of Great Remembering and although he didn’t have the vocal distortion effect featured on the record, the song was note perfect and the audience loved every second of it – eagerly calling back “La da daa da da da daa da daa da daa” after he belted it out. It’s songs like this gem that get him the well deserved comparison to the master of ambiance Tom Waits.
Next up was the biggest name playing the fest (though he only played this little exclusive industry/media/win tickets show which was kinda lame to his fans) Joel Plaskett, promoting his latest album Scrappy Happines – which, after hearing those songs live – could possibly be one of the best Canadian albums of 2012.
I’ll admit this was my first time seeing the Joel Plaskett Emergency play, as I never really went very deep into his catalog post Thrush Hermit (of which I’m quite obviously obsessed with Clayton Park). What I had heard in the past always seemed a bit too cutesy rock for me, so I brushed it off – he also seemed to be the reason Thrush Hermit broke up because his ego wouldn’t let Rob sing on many of the songs – and when I think an artists ego is out of control it completely turns me off of their music, unfortunately.
So maybe i’m just getting older and softer pop rock is suddenly more interesting to me, or maybe it just took hearing him live, or maybe it’s the new material – but I was completely taken away by his set. Despite the high altitude and the unforgiving sound setting – they gave an incredible show. Joel is a funny, engaging, and adorable performer who obviously knows how to keep an audience on his every word after almost two decades of making music.
He told reporters how tough it is to play at such a high altitude:
The air up there is a little bit sort of airplane air. And it’s like a glass room so soundwise it’s not the nicest on stage, low ceilings. So it wasn’t designed with a rock venue in mind. But it was fun. And it was cool, an experience, to have an audience come up there. At soundcheck, I was like, this going to be tough. I was tired, my back was bothering me, the air was weird. It’s glassy sound so it’s not the sweetest sounding room. On stage it was fighting the acoustics of a place that’s not designed for music so that can be a little bit unforgiving as a singer and stuff, where you’re just like, ‘Whoa, my ears hurt.’ But it comes with the gig, and you fight against it and sometimes it makes the show better. Come gig-time, it was really, really fun.
And it was really, really fun. He opened with the fabulous “Nothing More To Say” which caught my attention purely because he screamed the lyrics “I don’t give a fuck” about two seconds into his set, making the crowd and myself very happy. There’s something wonderful about watching someone as endearingly sweet as Joel scream such a word – it just feels out of character in the best possible way.
There were a few epic moments no one will forget from this show, one where he sang a song off the new album called “Time Flies” right after pointing out how there was a plane taking off from the airport behind us, and another where he played “Work Out Fine” engaging our city pride on the line “all my friends, where’d they go? To Montreal, TORONTO!”
If I recall correctly he also played the wonderful “Come On, Teacher” which has to be my favorite of his older songs. Throughout the set he was super comfortable on stage, providing lots of friendly banter in his adorable east coast accent, going on about laying by a tree in front of the tower before his set, and how odd it was to be playing a show that many feet above the ground.
Towards the end of the show he played the best song he has ever wrote, which immediately grabbed my attention though I had never heard it before, called “Lightning Bolt.” The new track is the last song on Scrappy Happiness, and happens to be the song he pulled the albums title from – and I’ve played it about 500 times since hearing it that day. I was immediately into it when I heard the line “Beyond the palisades, your solo record plays, a lonely pine tree sways, somewhere out in the sticks,” but then it just got better with “I do not have a doubt that beauty loves the beat.”
The throbbing guitar it features is unreal, and he really seemed to be into the set at this point, almost being theatrical with the story he was painting. And of course, the whole chorus is just the most fun and reassuring song about the brevity of life, ever. It makes me want to roam the streets of Toronto grabbing people to tell them “It’s not your fault, this life’s a lightening bolt!” It’s like that scene in Good Will Hunting, but with more joy and less crying. Joel is the Robin William’s to our Matt Damon everyman.
Don’t let it bring you down, you get one go around, come walk a while with me, we’ll stand beneath a tree. Baby, that’s all she wrote, my life’s a lightning bolt, all that we get for free is electricity.
Once his set was over I took the opportunity to walk around the room, looking out all the restaurant windows for the view. There was a moment where my heart stopped when I passed by my first musical crush ever, Andrew Scott of Sloan, aka the hottest silver fox of all time. Pretty sure I stared at him in a way that must have creeped him out before I snapped out of it. I eventually found my way to the observation deck and the glass floors, which many little children were running on. I made an attempt to do the same, but immediately felt like I was gonna fall to my death, so that was a fail. Oh to be a fearless child again.
After I finished with my CN Tower experience it was time for my beloved Teenage Kicks at the Phoenix, where they secured the opening spot right before Treble Charger. They had a very short 30 minute set, but they completely rocked it, clearly still buzzing off their recent epic Be On My Side EP release show at the Horseshoe that saw them at the top of their game, packing the place, with a crowd that was moshing and going absolutely insane.
There’s not much more I can say about them that I haven’t already, but my last live review was when they were still a four piece. The addition of incredibly skilled guitarist Christian Turner to their line up has proved to be one of the best decisions the band ever made, freeing up Peter – allowing him to channel the best of Eddie Vedder and Jim Morrison in his performance – completely dominating the stage. His confidence seems to triple when he doesn’t have guitar duties holding him back. The balls to the wall attitude they have during their live show is now is a force to be reckoned with, and there are definitely big things in store for this band. I’m excited to be able to say “I told you so” when it all finally breaks.
Stay tuned for a full interview with Peter and Jeff about Be On My Side on the blog next week.
Since we would be seeing Treble Charger at the Indies days later we decided not to stay for their set, which in retrospect was a mistake because they only got two songs at the Indies, and the bands we saw instead that night were pretty forgettable.
The one exception was Die Mannequin, who, although I’m not super familiar with their catalog, gave a great performance, and I’m always happy to see a lady who actually rocks on stage during these very male dominated festivals. They’ve been around for a long time now, and their fuzzed out grungey punk rock sound remains accessible and solid live. The small but active crowd bounced around during every song, calling out for an encore they weren’t able to give them when all was said and done (CMF doesn’t allow encores because of the tight schedule between bands).
The emcee that night made sure to mention how Care Failure stars in the new sequel to Bruce McDonald’s epic Hard Core Logo.
I don’t even want to mention the cheesy performance that happened after their set, but lets just say it involved a cowbell, a grinder, and sparks. Seriously.
Canadian Music Week is upon us yet again, and although some may feel it pales in comparison to some of the other festivals (check out the varying opinions from a bunch of music writers including myself in this Torontoist write up) I still think it’s a great time of year for music. There are a ton of bands worth checking out each night (and day – if you have the time off!), so here are my choices for who is worthy of your time this week (I’ve bolded what I will be attempting to see over the next five days):
Wednesday March 21
Opening Gala @ 4pm at the CN Tower with Ben Caplan and Joel Plaskett
Bella Clava @ 9:30pm, The Ascot Royals @ 11:45pm, Bright Lights Social Hour @ 12:30am at The Horseshoe
Teenage Kicks @10pm, Treble Charger @11pm at The Phoenix
Carleton Stone 11pm @ Cadillac Lounge
Will Currie & The Country French @11pm at the Rivoli
Amos the Transparent @ 11:15pm at the Garrison
Thursday March 22
Teenage Kicks @ 4:30pm at the Toronto Institute for the Enjoyment of Music
The Dirty Nil @ 8pm at Cherry Colas
Cold Specks @ 9pm at the Music Gallery
Army Girls @ 10:30pm at Parts & Labour
Martha Wainwright 12am, The Dears 1am, Lifestory Monologue (upstairs) @ 11:30pm at El Mocambo
Brett Caswell @ 8:30pm, Joseph Arthur @ 9:30pm , The Pack A.D @ 11:30pm the Horseshoe
Wildlife @11pm at Lee’s Palace
The Balconies @11pm, secret guest at 12am at Cabin 5
Janes Party @11pm, Parks and Rec @10pm, HONHEEHONHEE @12am at Rancho Relaxo
Topanga @12am, Sandman Viper Command @2am, at Silver Dollar
Audio Blood Showcase featuring Ben Caplan, Hands and Teeth, The Love Machine starting @ 8pm at Sneaky Dees
Dinosaur Bones @8:30pm, I Mother Earth @10:30pm at Sound Academy
Shotgun Jimmie @ 9pm at The Great Hall
Bright Light Social Hour @11pm at Supermarket
Teenage Kicks @11:35pm at The Hideout
Friday March 23
Army Girls @ 2:00pm at The Toronto Institute For The Enjoyment Of Music
Audioblood/Spincount Showcase @ 2pm at Sneaky Dees
CATL @ 8pm, ATTAGIRL @ 9pm at Comfort Zone
Dine Alone Showcase @ 8pm featuring Great Bloomers, Dinosaur Bones, Parlovr, Monster Truck, Doldrums at the El Mocambo (both floors)
Poor Young Things and The Trews @ 8pm at Queen Elisabeth Theatre
Pat Wright @ 11:15pm at Underground Garage
Arts and Crafts Showcase @ 11pm featuring Eight and a Half, The Darcys, Zeus & Dan Mangan at the Horseshoe
Young Lions Music Club Showcase @ 12am at Sneaky Dees featuring Dinosaur Bones, Rouge, Sheezer
Time Giant @ 1am at Supermarket
Saturday March 24th
The Indies @ 7-11pm at the Canadian Room in the Royal York Hotel featuring Dan Mangan, The Sheepdogs, The Pack A.D, Rich Aucoin
Fade Chromatic @ 9pm at Duffys
Papermaps @ 10pm at Hard Luck
Little City @ 11pm at the Silver Dollar
Bravestation @ 8:30pm, Wintersleep @ 12:40am, Poor Young Things@ 2am at the Horseshoe
Sandman Viper Command @ 10pm, Whale Tooth @ 11pm, The Inbreds @ 12am at Lee’s Palace
Poor Young Things and the Trews @ 8pm at Queen Elisabeth Theatre
The Sweet Mack @ 2am at Rancho Relaxo
The Dirty Nil @ 2am at Bovine Sex Club
Teenage Kicks @ 2am at the Garrison
Sunday March 25
Pat Wright @ 11pm at the Hideout
Elwins @ 11pm Topanga @ 12am at Rancho Relaxo
It’s gonna be a crazy week, remember bars are open until 4am! Let me know who you’re looking forward to seeing.
Wednesday was a rough day for me. The weather in Toronto had been that snow sludgy rain that absolutely makes me hate being outside at all. The TTC was having a meltdown (because apparently it is even more useless when it rains) when an electrical line busted at Spadina and King making me very late for work that morning and come 5pm the problem still hadn’t been solved. I spent over an hour after work on a detouring streetcar that decided to head into rush hour commuter traffic towards the Expressway instead of diverting north to Queen Street like it should have – trying to get to the Royal York hotel to pick up my CMW pass. Pick up closed at 6pm and my streetcar ride finally reached my destination at 6:20pm instead of 5:40pm like it should have. The media girl said she couldn’t give me my pass and I’d have to come back tomorrow.
At this point I was frozen from waiting in the rain for the streetcar in the first place and sitting in my wet clothes on the car for so long, and ready to give up on the night. I thought fuck it, I’m just gonna go home, curl up in a ball in bed and curse the the TTC, Rob Ford, the shitty weather and all the little things that can make a city like Toronto frustrating. But I was really looking forward to the Cadillac Lounge Rock Series show so I sucked it up and headed back into the rain.
If there is anything that can cure an absolutely shitty day, it is seeing a great band do what they do best. My day from hell turned into an awesome night as soon as Poor Young Things took the stage.
These guys have yet to release a full length album but they definitely have enough solid material to record one very soon. They opened with Get Right, a song recorded with the help of Trews member Jeff Hiesholt whom they met while opening a Thunder Bay show for the band a few years back.
I think everyone in the room realized what a well oiled machine Poor Young Things are early on with this song because people immediately pulled away from their little bubble of private conversations and started to pay attention. Playing to a crowd of people sitting at tables and eating has to be a little disheartening for any band, but you wouldn’t notice when you watch Poor Young Things perform, which is why they were able to grab the audiences attention so easily. The same energy they brought to the small crowd at the Horseshoe in February was back for this Canadian Music Festival performance. I suspect they could play alone in their basement and have just as much fun as they do on stage.
I was happy to hear Easy soon into the set as well. A song that sounds like something Bruce Springsteen could have wrote in his early days were he from the South rather than Jersey, I can’t help but wonder if the line “she ain’t got empty days to sit around listening to poor young things reminisce and get their story straight” came before or after they chose the name. Previously recording under the name Money Honey, they ditched it for something more SEO friendly, which was a smart move since rhyme names can get a little cheesy.
Chicago Road also received a positive crowd reaction, it being the only song they still play from their days under the Money Honey name. I can see why they have kept it around. The super catchy chorus is made for singing along and getting people on their feet. But the best part of the night came when they played Trophy Kids, a radio worthy 20something anthem in the making. I want to blast it from my car speakers and shout along while taking an inevitable road trip to escape the routine, because like most people my age just beginning to grasp the weight of the real world, growing up has indeed been getting me down.
Poor Young Things could easily be compared to Kings Of Leon and they obviously recognize this fact, playing a cover of California Waiting, a classic from before KOL was singing about burning genitals and statutory rape to make it into the mainstream fold, towards the end of their set. Matt Fratpietro’s vocals will no doubt be compared to Caleb Followill for a long time to come, but I think PYT has a little more substance to offer in both their sound and lyrics, which will help set them apart.
All in all it was a great set and they were easily my favorite band of the night. The only thing that could have made it better would have been the addition of Heavy Sound to the setlist, which has been on repeat in my apartment for weeks now. Lyrically it far exceeds my expectations for musicians so early into their career and there is a soul to its sound that most musicians strive for, but rarely achieve. Also, I’m a sucker for Dylan references and “when I write my masterpiece, this whole room will weep” has to be the best I’ve come across yet.
I’m eagerly awaiting the masterpiece album they have in them.