Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Canadian Musicfest Picks (2013)



Another edition of Canadian Musicfest (the music showcase component of Canadian Music Week) quietly kicked off yesterday evening but it gets into full gear tonight. I've gone through the list of artists, skimming bios, listening to audio, checking out videos, what-have-you, and have cobbled together a long list of artists that I found interesting, both from abroad, and from our own fair country / city. On a side note, I must mention that the whole process of 'researching' who I might be interested in seeing is an entirely un-fun experience - it's long, boring, and tiring - but in the end it pays off. Like the Boy Scouts motto goes - be prepared. I've also learned there's an inordinate amount of folk / roots acts taking part in the festival, so many that I almost want to strangle someone, but that's another story. There is no way in heck I'm going to catch all of these artists - I haven't even gotten around to laying out an actual schedule, and I already know there's some overlap with some of my picks. Most of the picks below are artists I've never even heard, and the buzz-factor of bands playing this festival is much lower compared to Toronto's own North By Northeast (which happens in June) but traditionally I've taken this as an opportunity to try to discover new music and hopefully keep the stink quotient to a minimum. Be sure to check out my picks below as well as the individual artist sites where there are audio / video samples:

Aidan Knight (Victoria, BC)
Friday March 22, 2013 @ 1:30PM, Church of the Holy Trinity
Saturday March 23, 2013 @ 10:10PM, Horseshoe Tavern


A singer-songwriter and also namesake of a experimental folk band.

Alba Lua (paris, france)
Wednesday March 20, 2013 @ 8:00PM, Czehoski
Thursday March 21, 2013 @ 9:00PM, Silver Dollar


Favourably reviewed on Pitchfork, the band's helium-voiced lead singer leads the trio in their supple brand of warm, hazy pop music.

badbadnotgood (Toronto, ON)
Saturday March 23, 2013 @ 12:10AM, Horseshoe Tavern

The young free-jazz, hip-hop influenced, groove trio can almost be classified as festival veterans having played Coachella, NXNE and others and have collobarated with Tyler, The Creator and Frank Ocean. I've always meant to check them out.

Ballroom Jacks (New York City, New York)
Friday March 22, 2013 @ 10:00PM, Annex Live

Scruffy trio from the streets of New York City (Queens that is) playing music that medls "1960's American girl groups, Phil Spector's Wall of Sound, and the aesthetic of new wave 80's music" in a not so unappealing way.

Beams (Toronto, ON)
Saturday March 23, 2013 @ 9:00 PM, Silver Dollar

Multi-harmony, banjo-laden, musical saw twinged, folk and bluegrass.

Boats (Winnipeg, MB)
Saturday March 23, 2013 @ 12:00AM, Rancho Relaxo

Comparisons to The New Pornographers, the band's third album of 'hooky pop songs' entitled "A Fairway Full Of Miners" just came out through Kill Rock Stars recently.

Boy (Hamburg, Germany) Updated
Saturday March 23, 2013 @ 4:30 PM, HMV (333 Yonge St.), acoustic performance and autograph session
Saturday March 23, 2013 @ 11:00PM, El Mocambo (Upstairs)
Sunday March 24, 2013 @ 10:00PM, The Dakota Tavern

Female pop duo founded in 2007, comparisons to Feist, yadda yadda, yadda yadda. That said, what I've heard from them is sunny and charming. And they're cute to boot.

The Breezes (Montreal, QC)
Thursday March 21, 2013 @ 8:30 PM, Horseshoe Tavern

Psych-pop goodness, the band's debut album self-titled album was released independently this past December.

Castle-if/Cell Memory (Toronto, ON)
Saturday March 23, 2013 @ 10:00PM, Comfort Zone

These locals might just be too cool for school to me, but I might perhaps satiate my more experimental tastes by taking in their set. What I've heard is sort of trippy.

Charlotte Church (Wales, United Kingdom)
Saturday March 23, 2013 @ :PM, El Mocambo (Downstairs)

Yes, that Charlotte Church. The girl's grown up, still has amazing vocals but now is backed by a band with a much edgier musical approach than you've heard her or ever imagined. Quite spectacular actually.

CHVRCHES (Glasgow, Scotland)
Wednesday March 20, 2013 @ 10:00 PM, Virgin Mobile Mod Club

Electro-pop trio with guitars and synths, reviews on Pitchfork, you know you want to see them. Advanced tickets to their set are sold out but there'll be tickets, and presumably limited wristbands/passes, let in at the door.

Decades (Toronto, ON)
Saturday March 23, 2013 @ 9:00 PM, Lee's Palace

I've seen the band a few times recently in an opening slot and was somewhat invigorated from what I'd heard - a lead singer with maybe just a little bit of a Morrissey influence, fronting a band whose music takes an ethereal, post-punk yet melodic direction.

Diana (Toronto, ON)
Wednesday March 20 @ 9:00 PM, Virgin Mobile Mod Club

Apparently a band I should check out according to sites like BlogTo. The band consists of Carmen Elle (Army Girls), Kieran Adams (Warm Myth and Bonjay), Joseph Shabason (Destroyer), and Paul Mathew (Hidden Cameras).

Fine Times (Vancouver, BC)
Friday March 22 @ 9:00 PM, Supermarket
Saturday March 23 @ 2:00 AM, Sneaky Dee's


The duo, their name perhaps a take on the New Order LP "Fine Time", play synth-infused, melodic rock.

First Rate People (Toronto, ON)
Thursday March 21 @ 9:00 PM, Annex Live

The band's first single was reviewed by Pitchfork back in 2010, garnering a favourable review. Been meaning to check them out. They released a new single entitled "You Won't Get This Joke At All" just recently.

Ginger and the Ghost (Sydney, Australia)
Wednesday March 20 @ 10:30 PM, El Mocambo (Upstairs)

I hear traces of Kate Bush in this male/female duo's music, while lead singer Missy has a penchance for visual flamboyance and colourfulness similar to Alison Goldfrapp of Goldfrapp.

Heidi Happy (Lucerne, Switzerland)
Wednesday March 20, 2013 @ 8:00PM, Supermarket
Saturday March 23, 2013 @ 10:00PM, Cameron House - Backroom


The Scandinavian singer-songwriter I believe played last year's festival (or was it NXNE?) and has returned, presumably because she likes Toronto. What I've heard falls in line with breezy Scandinavian pop like The Cardigans, good stuff if you're into that.

Jesuslesfilles (Montreal, QC)
Saturday March 23 @ 1:00 AM, Silver Dollar

Franco-phone garage rock, featuring co-lead, male / female vocals. I liked this much better than I expected.

Let's Build Machines (Toronto, ON)
Friday March 22 @ 9:00 PM, Revival

Acoustic folk outfit The Wilderness of Manitoba's Will Whitwham, gets off his electro-pop cajones with this side project, with decent results.

Lowell (Toronto, ON)
Friday March 22, 2013 @ 9:30PM, Lee's Palace
Saturday March 23, 2013 @ 12:30PM, Church of the Holy Trinity
Saturday March 23, 2013 @ :PM, The Danforth Music Hall


The GridTO recently named the 21 year old as one to watch, already a fast-rising star in much of Europe at the same time never having even performed at home. The dates above will be her first proper live performances at home. She's a classicaly-trained pianist and her music has drawn comparisons to Lykke Li.

Maica Mia (Toronto, ON)
Friday March 22 @ 9:00 PM, Silver Dollar

Desolate, atmospheric, mood rock comes to mind as a description.

Mount Moriah (Durham, North Carolina)
Wednesday March 20 @ 11:00 PM, Drake Underground

I caught the female-led trio at last year's CMJ festival in New York City where they played a Merge Records showcase.The band's self-titled debut was re-released on Merge last October. The band's music merges American folk & rock music in a very appealing way.

Mozart's Sister (Montreal,QC)
Saturday March 23 @ 1:00 AM, Comfort Zone

From the Pop Montreal site, Mozart's sister are described as the "electro-pop solo project of Shapes & Sizes’s Caila Thompson of indie rock, new wave, 80s pop and a little R&B ting".

Mise En Scene (Winnipeg, MB) Updated
Thursday March 21 @ 11:00 PM, Bovine Sex Club
Friday March 22 @ 5:00 PM, Sonic Boom (782 Bathurst St), in-store (info)
Friday March 22 @ 8:15 PM, Model Citizen (279 Augusta Ave), in-store
Saturday March 23 @ 3:30-6PM, Goorin Bro’s Hat Shop (320 Queen St. West), in-store (info)

Not nearly as surfy as Best Coast nor indebted to 60's girl groups as Dum Dum Girls but yes this female guitar / drums duo will probably appeal to you if you're fans of those bands.

Ocean City Defender (Thunder Bay, ON Canada)
Wednesday March 20 @ 1:00 AM, Cabin 5

Comparisons to M83, and from Thunder Bay of all places. The outfit is the work of multi-instrumentalist K. Preston Merkley, his debut EP The Golden Hour was released in January of 2012.

Persian Rugs (Toronto, ON)
Friday March 22 @ 10:00 PM, Rancho Relaxo

Guitarist Ian Jackson of the defunct Toronto indie band The Diableros, took his guitar chops and formed Persian Rugs, a band whose love for C86 / Sarah Records-influenced indie pop is quite apparent.

Savages (London, England United Kingdom)
Friday March 22 @ 11:10 PM, Horseshoe Tavern
Saturday March 23 @ 12:00 AM, Lee's Palace


British all-female post-punk rock band who were one of the buzz bands of last year's CMJ festival in New York City, who I didn't get a chance to see when I was there. The band's debut album Silence Yourself is due out on Matador Records on May 7. (via Pitchfork)

Un (Montreal, QC)
Thursday March 21 @ 12:00 AM, Drake Underground

The female duo, consisting of Jen Reimer on drums and Kara Keith on vocals and 'other stuff', released their self-titled debut disc this past Valentines Day. Their icy, post-punk synth tunes remind me a little of Ladytron.

Valleys (Montreal,QC)
Saturday March 23 @ 10:00 PM, Lee's Palace

Elements of ambient, dreampop and electropop, they're hard to pin down, but quite interesting overall.

Vimes (Cologne, Germany)
Wednesday March 20, 2013 @ 10:00PM, Gladstone Hotel, (North Ballroom)
Thursday March 21, 2013 @ 10:00PM, Annex Live


Duo consisting of Azhar Syed and Julian Stetter specializing in electro-house music. Chilly Gonzales and Hot Chip are fans. (via Noisey)

Unlike last year's festival and the mild temperatures that the city got, this year looks to be a chilly one, so bundle up, don't forget your earplugs, grab your schedules and have a good festival!

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