Saturday, March 8th, 2008
CMW 2008 Day 1
Photo by Frank Yang
In past years, my Canadian Music Week excursions have been mainly stationary affairs – that is, pick a showcase, head out, catch a few acts, go home. I eschewed the club-hopping aspect of things mainly because with a few exceptions, Toronto is a bit too spread out to do that efficiently – particularly in Winter when you’re at the mercy of the TTC. But this year, there was enough of interest at different venues around town that I elected to bounce from club to club, hour to hour, at least for the first couple nights.
Thursday started off at Lee’s Palace where things were filling up early for Jason Collett’s headlining performance but I was there to see the first act on the bill – Halifax’s Rebekah Higgs. The atmosphere was considerably different from the industry showcase-type deal I saw her at last November and considering that performance didn’t really deliver on the promise of her self-titled debut, that could only be taken as a good thing. Leading a band of Torontonian hired guns (all Newfoundland expats, apparently), she played with considerably more confidence and energy than last time and demonstrated how effective her blend of folk, rock and electronic elements could be. Consider the disappointment of that November show completely erased.
Next on the agenda was The Details, in town from Winnipeg en route to Austin, and the scouting report on them is that they sound like The Weakerthans. This has been stated in the context of both praise and complaint but either way, there’s far worse things than being compared to a great band, particularly one that casts such a long shadow on one’s hometown. And the influence is definitely detectable on their debut full-length Draw A Distance Draw A Border, particularly in the marriage of Jon Plett’s wordy lyricism and the energetic rock accompaniment, but the delivery – particularly live – drifts into a emo-esque whinge that doesn’t do much for me. Points for energy, however. Two-Way Monologues had an interview with the band in advance of their show.
Jane Vain & The Dark Matter are a band I’ve encouraged others to go see in the past, but have never myself made it out to see for myriad reasons, so it was nice to be able to pop around the corner from Rancho Relaxo to The Silver Dollar to catch their set. Midway through their set, frontwoman Jamie Fooks told the crowd that they had copies of their debut CD Love Is Where The Smoke Is available for sale and that it was different from the live show, and while a seemingly obvious statement, it was also very correct. The record has a very studio-y feel to it, as well as a prevailingly dark and rather anxious mood, while the touring band – an unexpectedly large six-piece outfit – had a great, tight chemistry and did a fine job of translating the songs live while injecting a dose of… well, not happiness – the material is still too dark for that – but non-depression. I’ll go with that.
Despite a Thursday night lineup that, if I didn’t have to be up for work in the morning, could have kept me out till the wee hours of the night, I closed things off with the CBC Radio 3/Bande A Part showcase of Montreal artists, in particular The Besnard Lakes. Having seen them a few times and moderately crushed on The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse last year, they were the most known quantity on the night – and probably the whole weekend – but still managed to impress. With the more compacted festival timeslot they had to rein in their more sprawling tendencies – and leave the smoke machines at home – but still effectively conveyed the epic scope of their musical vision. Grand stuff.
Photos: The Besnard Lakes @ The El Mocambo – March 6, 2007
MP3: The Besnard Lakes – “And You Lied To Me”
MP3: The Besnard Lakes – “For Agent 13″
Video: The Besnard Lakes – “For Agent 13″
MySpace: The Besnard Lakes