Wednesday, March 16th, 2011
Canadian Musicfest Day Three
Janelle Monáe, Shad, Bombay Bicycle Club and more at Canadian Musicfest
Frank YangFor as many years as I’ve been attending and covering Canadian Music Week and/or Canadian Musicfest, which is now quite a few, I’ve never hit up what is ostensibly it’s big gala show, the Independent Music Awards or, more unfortunately, the INDIES. Usually this was because the lineup of performers wasn’t as interesting as hitting up the clubs and because the awards themselves, being fan-voted, seemed odd and arbitrary. But this year, the combination of a weaker-than-normal Saturday night schedule and a very appealing one-two finale of Janelle Monáe and Shad convinced me that the ballroom at the Royal York hotel was the place to finish the festival off.
Due to some logistics and the fact that their sets were maybe ten minutes long, I missed the first couple performers but arrived in time to see London’s Bombay Bicycle Club, who despite being only moderately successful back home were treated as nigh on royalty over here across their several festival appearances. And it’s not that they’re unlikeable – they ply a sort of scrappy but earnest Brit-rock that’s thankfully not of the snotty post-Libertines/Arctic Monkeys variety, but isn’t especially memorable, either. Though from the cheers that met them and the stories that I’ve heard from the rabid fans at their other shows, I’m in the minority with that opinion, and that’s fine. The Brit-kids need their fix and this week, Bombay Bicycle Club was it.
Photos: Bombay Bicycle Club @ The Fairmont Royal York – March 12, 2011
Video: Bombay Bicycle Club – “My God”
Video: Bombay Bicycle Club – “Always Like This”
Video: Bombay Bicycle Club – “Evening/Morning”
Video: Bombay Bicycle Club – “Dust On The Ground”
Video: Bombay Bicycle Club – “Magnet”
Similar can be said for the next act, Ottawa-area natives Hollerado. There’s no doubt the band has earned all the success they’ve achieved so far, what with touring constantly, giving away their album Record In A Bag for free (grab it off their website), making creative videos and generally working their asses off – but while I find their collegiate riff-rock material decent enough from a melodic/catchiness perspective, it just doesn’t come off as all that interesting to me. But even so, they do put on an entertaining show and elicit a tremendous response from their fanbase who were out on this evening in force and by way of saying hello and thanks for their support, frontman Menno Versteeg lept into the crowd for their set’s finale.
The National Post has a Q&A with Versteeg.
Photos: Hollerado @ The Fairmont Royal York – March 12, 2011
MP3: Hollerado – “Juliette”
MP3: Hollerado – “Fake Drugs”
MP3: Hollerado – “Americanarama”
Video: Hollerado – “Juliette”
Video: Hollerado – “Americanarama”
At this point, I’ll talk a bit about the awards themselves which were kind of fascinating to behold. First, there was a disconnect between the performers and the nominees in that half of the former had nothing to do with the awards being given out, they were just there to play a show and accordingly, much of the audience seemed indifferent to the ceremonies being held on the side stage. And since the Indies don’t really rate as a major award, many/most of the winners didn’t show up or send a representative, resulting in a stretch where a bunch of ostensibly big winners were announced in rapid fire succession with the audience cheering a name and an image on the video screen for a second or two. Just odd.
But back to the show. Even though Shad was himself an Indie winner (for Favourite Urban Artist), his set seemed less a part of the awards show and more the start of a separate event altogether, where he was the warm up, Janelle Monáe the headliner and that was it. Now I have never seen Shad in the context of his own headlining show – festivals, in-stores and awards ceremonies yes, and now as support, but his own show? Not yet. But considering that none of the above are what you’d call ideal circumstances for a performer, that he’s been fantastic in every one makes me think that there’s no way Shad ever puts on a bad show. Goodness knows he didn’t on this evening, with a compact but totally entertaining set drawing from his two Polaris shortlisted records TSOL and The Old Prince while backed by a DJ and bassist/keyboardist while he delivered smart, snappy rhymes overtop. He might be a perpetual Polaris bridesmaid, at least so far, but there’s no denying he’s one of if not the top hip-hop artist in the country right now.
Photos: Shad @ The Fairmont Royal York – March 12, 2011
MP3: Shad – “Rose Garden”
MP3: Shad – “Yaa I Get It”
Video: Shad – “Keep Shining”
Video: Shad – “We Myself & I”
Video: Shad – “Rose Garden”
Video: Shad – “Yaa I Get It”
Video: Shad – “The Old Prince Still Lives At Home”
Video: Shad – “I Don’t Really Like To”
Video: Shad – “Brother (Watching)”
Ultimately, though, the night was about Janelle Monáe. If you were able to exact spot where the best of R&B, soul, funk, rock, pop, singer, songwriter, dancer and out-and-out visionary artistry intersected, it would be in the shape of a tiny pompadoured woman in a tuxedo. Though only on the scene for a few years, her live shows are already legendary spectacles, and not in the all flash no substance way of many pop stars, but in the jaw-dropping musicianship and entertainer sense. Toronto got their first taste of Monáe last Summer when she opened up for Arcade Fire on the Islands, and while for many she nearly stole the show, it was still very much not her audience.
This evening, however, it was and though some might have wished that she’d played a normal show unattached to any awards or festivals, she still delivered a full-length set that bore out her reputation as one of the most electrifying performers going today. Using the futuristic concepts laid out in her ArchAndroid album as a framing device, she and her ridiculously tight band put on a dazzling hour-long show replete with costume changes, extraordinary dancing and just great songs that refuse to be pigeonholed into any specific genre. And unlike the Island show, which curiously put show-stoppers “Cold War” and “Tightrope” mid-set, this time they saved them for a perfect one-two punch finale, and yet still managed to top it with an extended “Come Alive (War of the Roses)” where the stage was first invaded by dancers cast as androids and then the audience was invaded by Monáe, who went for a venue-spanning crowd surf. Awards? What awards? All I know is that Janelle Monáe won. At everything.
Spinner has a wrap up of the entire night, start to finish.
Spinner talks to TV On The Radio’s Kyp Malone about their new record Nine Types Of Light, due out April 12. They’ll be at the Sound Academy on April 18 but Pitchfork reports that bassist/keyboardist Gerard Smith won’t be joining them on the road as he’s being treated for lung cancer – best wishes to Smith for a speedy recovery.
MP3: The Kills – “DNA”
A week before its release, The Strokes have posted their new record Angles on their website for all to stream, and you can follow along with the song-by-song commentary Julian Casablancas has give to NME.
Stream: The Strokes / Angles
A couple of ladies for whom one name is enough – Thao & Mirah – have teamed up for an album they’ve called Thao & Mirah and will be in town for a show at Lee’s Palace on June 5. That’s just short of a year after their last visit was cancelled on account of a little incident we locals like to call the G20 clusterfuck.
NXNE is still a ways off but some of the performers at this year’s fest are getting out – the Thursday night, June 16, will find Deerhoof and The Dodos at The Phoenix. Both acts have new records out, Deerhoof Vs Evil and No Color, respectively. Paste talks to The Dodos about their new record.