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Monday, March 12th, 2007

Canadian Music Week(End)

The last couple years, Canadian Music Week has been sort of like a speed bump on my way to SxSW – under other circumstances, I’d have spent more time taking in the music on offer but given the tight timelines, I usually had to either take it in in passing or not at all. This year, however, I ended up going three nights straight, starting with the Under Byen show on Thursday. Friday night I spent what was, for me at least, a record six and a half hours at the Horseshoe taking in the Chart showcase. Quite a grab bag of acts on the bill, half of which looked an awful lot like this showcase from NxNE last year. Hmm.

The first act I caught was Peter Elkas, whom I apparently saw some 12 years ago with his old act The Local Rabbits. These days he’s sporting the shaggy hair and beard that’s a uniform of sorts for Canadian roots rockers but looks can be deceiving. His bag is smooth, soul music now, and he’s pretty dang good at it. He and his band (affectionately named “Elkoholics”) found their groove early and worked it for the duration, previewing tracks from their new album Wall Of Fire, out March 20. Chart previewed the show via a Q&A with Elkas.

MP3: Peter Elkas – “Wall Of Fire”
MySpace: Peter Elkas

BC’s You Say Party! We Say Die! trade in the sort of hepped up dance-punk that whether you particularly enjoy the style or not, is always a blast to watch live… assuming the band is good at it. And YSP!WSD! are good at it. Frontwoman Becky Ninkovic was a grinning whirlwind of energy, pogoing around the stage while her band impressively managed to keep up. Sound-wise, it could have been a dozen songs or just one song played for forty minutes – it was loud, fast and all kind of blended together for me – but was a good time either way. Their new record Lose All Time is out March 20 and they’re back in town April 4 as part of the Spring Fling tour put on by Exclaim!, who also put the band on the cover of their west coast editions this month. Chart had a pre-game chat with the band.

MP3: You Say Party! We Say Die! – “Monster”
MP3: You Say Party! We Say Die! – “Opportunity”
MySpace: You Say Party! We Say Die!

Like dance-punk, hip-hop isn’t something I listen to but do enjoy seeing in person, again providing it’s done well. And Edmonton’s Cadence Weapon, probably the biggest draw on the bill this night, also delivered. With DJ Weasel manning the turntables, Cadence Weapon came out amped up and sustained the energy level through his whole intense and unpretentious set and brought the crowd’s up to match (though grabbing the people in the front row and physically shaking them helps there). There was a definite electricity in the room from his performance that lingered after much of the audience up-front cleared out with its conclusion. His Breaking Kayfabe album, nominated for a Polaris last year in Canada, is out March 13 in the US, just in time for his arrival at SxSW this week. Chart also talked to him before the festival.

MP3: Cadence Weapon – “Sharks”
MP3: Cadence Weapon – “Black Hand”
MySpace: Cadence Weapon

Personal faves Land Of Talk from Montreal drew the midnight slot and sadly got off to a bit of a rough start, thanks in no small part to an extremely drunk and pushy patron who decided then and there would be the best time to try and pick up frontwoman Liz Powell. Loudly and persistently. They (and we up front) did our best to ignore him – not an easy task – and the band eventually did find their footing about midway through the set and finished strongly. Overall not their best performance (their set opening for The Dears back in October was fierce and set the standard from my POV) but still enjoyable and it was great to hear new material that will appear on their next record, hopefully out by the Fall. Their current EP/mini-album, Applause Cheer Boo Hiss will be out on March 20 in the US. Canadians have no excuse to not already own it.

MP3: Land Of Talk – “Speak To Me Bones”
MySpace: Land Of Talk

Unintentionally, I missed the whole of Kill The Lights’ set on account of, well, talking to other people. But I can say that they were very loud. Their debut album Buffalo Of Love is out tomorrow and they’ll be on MTV Canada to celebrate.

MySpace: Kill The Lights

By this point, it was way past my bedtime and while I was doing alright, wakefulness-wise, all things considered, I needed a pick-me-up to make it through the night and The Adam Brown (definite article mandatory) provided just the rock injection necessary. They may come from Montreal but they live in a world where the language spoken is Marshall Stack and “yeah yeah yeah” is as profound a lyric as anything Dylan could have written. No frills, no fuss, no muss, just arrow-straight old school rock’n’roll and loads of fun. They didn’t care that there was but a fraction of the audience left over from earlier in the night – it just meant there was more room for dancing. My second wind lasted about exactly as long as their set… and then I went home and collapsed. Chart chatted with the band before the show.

Video: The Adam Brown – “Big Roker” (YouTube)
MySpace: The Adam Brown

ACT TWO. Or three. Anyways, I was undecided on what, if anything, I was going to do for Saturday night. Sleep was an option, as was playing Guitar Hero 2 at Graig’s (probably as close as I’m going to get to fulfilling my dream of covering “Tonight I’m Going To Rock You Tonight”). I thought about trying to catch The Pipettes but decided (correctly) that that would be folly. And so it happened that I ended up at the Whipper Snapper Gallery for Paper Bag’s showcase.

I arrived a bit late for The Hot Springs’ set, but still in time to be impressed. I arrived a bit late for The Hot Springs’ set, but still in time to be impressed. Fronted by the intense, entertaining and probably a little unhinged Giselle Webber and her distinctive warble, the Montrealers take equal parts of ’70s punk and classic rock (and metal) and mash them together into something unnatural, unholy and bilingual. I had intended to catch them last October at Pop Montreal but was sidetracked. But hey – better late than never.

MP3: The Hot Springs – “Bacteria”
MP3: The Hot Springs – “Caco Disco”
MySpace: The Hot Springs

And what better way to wrap up Canadian Music Week (for me) than with a band I’ve called “quintessentially Canadian”, Ottawa’s The Acorn. They seemed to be feeding off the cozy, informal environment of the Gallery and were extra loose and jovial, shrugging off technical difficulties and malfunctioning amps to still turn in a sweet and upbeat set of shimmering pop. My love for any band that not only utilizes the ukulele – but swaps it between band members – continues unabated. If you’ve not discovered the joys of the Acorn yet, keep April 12 open as they play the Drake Underground that night.

MP3: The Acorn – “Blankets”
MP3: The Acorn – “Plates & Saucers”
MySpace: The Acorn

And that was my weekend. Like the recipe promised, a healthy dollop of Canadian talent from across the country covering a range of sounds and styles. The Toronto Star has their best picks from the fest and Chart is still compiling all their showcase report cards. And, as usual, here’s the photographic evidence that I’m not just making this all up.

Photos: The Adam Brown, Land Of Talk, Cadence Weapon, You Say Party! We Say Die! Peter Elkas @ The Horseshoe – March 9, 2007
Photos: The Acorn, The Hot Springs @ The Whipper Snapper Gallery – March 10, 2007

Dean & Britta tonight! I’ll be putting the review together en route to Austin so with luck I’ll have it up by late afternoon/early evening. Before SxSW devours everything, anyway.

Update: Almost two days before someone told me I forgot to put up the link to the Of Montreal cover of The Who. Geez people, you have to help me to help you. Anyway, it’s there now.

By : Frank Yang at 8:18 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. Alan says:

    At the Acorn show in Ottawa last night Rolf commented that the sound at the Toronto venue was "like thousands of daggers assaulting your ears;" in other words, no good at all. Glad people could still get something out of the performance, especially if the sound was as bad as he thought.

    Good hometown show in Ottawa last night. Love the Acorn!

  2. Frank says:

    yeah, the whipper snapper isn’t a proper venue so the PA isn’t anything to write home about (though apparently it is to go home and complain about) – but cheers to the band for not getting ticked off and just rolling with it and having a good time. I thought they sounded good, considering.

  3. Jeff says:

    Hey Frank, good call on skipping the Pipettes. The show was great (my fav. of the weekend), but without a ticket you weren’t getting in. Also the with all the scheduling SNAFUs, we didn’t get into the venue ’til around 1AM.

    I tip my hat to you for making it through to The Adam Brown. I had to leave for my bed after a couple of songs from Kill the Lights (who I liked, but I was just so tired).

  4. ryan says:

    Frank,

    A big thank-you for the MTL Dean & Britta passes!

    Saturday night’s show was great, not to mention my first time seeing Dean Wareham perform live. Everyone seemed to be in pretty good spirits and Dean didn’t disappoint by playing selections from all 3 bands. Kind of made me wish I’d made more of an effort to see Luna back in the day. Oh and the songs from the first D&B album were especially memorable!

    Anyway, it more than lived up to my expectations – thanks again!

  5. Alan says:

    I don’t think they were complaining about the toronto sound – I think it was more of a backhanded compliment to the Ottawa soundman; familiarity must be nice once in a while for a touring band. they definitely have their live sound figured out though, they pull it off very well considering how nice their discs sound.

    hope the Acorn blows up huge this year, they deserve it.

  6. Jad says:

    Check out Tokyo Police Club, you might like them. :)

    Jad (from Ottawa)
    http://threepints.blogspot.com

  7. Frank says:

    I’ve seen TPC a number of times. Thanks, though.