May 17, 2016 – Canadian Music Week is one of our favourite times of year. With so much going on all over the city, some serious planning is always required to make sure you don’t end up at the wrong venue, or stay put too long when it’s time to be moving on. This year was no exception, we hopped from one bar to another, hitting Cadillac Lounge, the Dakota Tavern, Lee’s Palace, the Hideout, the Underground Garage, the Hard Luck Bar, Smiling Buddha, the Garrison and Cherry Cola’s over the course of four great nights of music.
While the offical beginning is Monday, for us it kicked off Tuesday night and was a relatively easy schedule to start off. First call was out at Cadillac Lounge on Queen West at Dufferin to see Ozone Mama from Budapest Hungary. They played a great set of blues rock and set a high bar for those that followed. It was a long way to travel to play small clubs but it’s not just CMW, it’s part of a broader Canadian tour.
Back in the downtown core at 10, Iconoclast was killing it at the Underground Garage. The audience was a bit sparse but it was a Tuesday night and many people were at home watching Kyle Lowry sink miracle half court buzzer beaters, but then ultimately fall short to the Miami Heat.
A quick run up to the Hideout to check out what was happening there saw the end of The Falling’s show. It was another sparse crowd. Canvas took over at 11 but really neither band was T-Mak World style so it was time to move on to Smiling Buddha for The K. from Waremme, Belgium. They are described as Post Rock Noise and we’d agree. It was. But when it ended the Gig of the Night was definitely put on by Bloody Diamonds, who we’ve seen a few times before. Bloody Diamonds provided exactly what what we needed, a heavy groove goth blues rock. Without question, the Gig of Tuesday night.
On Wednesday we stayed at Lee’s Palace for 94.9’s presentation of the Julian Taylor Band. It was the single best showcase of CMW since every band was worth checking out. SATE kicked off the night. We saw SATE at two recent private shows (OMDC showcase and CBC FirstPlay) but this one was for the public and while it was an early set, the club was far from empty. SATE, as always, killed it and rocked the enthusiastic crowd. SATE is one of the up and coming stars of the local scene. As I’ve said before, there are Junos in SATE’s future, there’s no doubt about it. I look forward to linking back to this article and my tweet from last year when that comes to pass. Bleeker was up at 9 and was the most pleasant surprise on the night. This is a solid band that got a great reception from the crowd. There was a buzz afterwards, many were overheard talking about how much they liked the show. This is a band worth checking out again.
Poor Young Things was up at 10. We last saw Poor Young Things a couple years ago at the Horseshoe Tavern. It was a good show back then and while their Lee’s performance was polished and quite good, it was impossible to distinguish one song from another. The set was one forty minute song broken up with brief periodic pauses. They all sounded exactly the same with the same dynamics and tempo. This band has way more talent than this set conveyed. We’d hope they change their set list up a little. It would make each song more memorable.
The highlight of the night was definitely the Julian Taylor Band. This 8 member band features a couple horns and a couple keyboardists. It was the exact opposite of the preceding band. Each songs had its own strong character and ended too soon for the liking of the crowd. Their music is a soulful modern R&B played with sublime skill and feeling. Absolutely the Gig of the Night.
The Standstills followed at 12 and interestingly led off with their new hit Orleans. The Standstills is just drums and guitar but their sound is anything but small. We’ve seen The Standstills many times and always look forward to their shows. They play heavy blues rock.
The Dead Projectionists were up next but, with lots more CMW still to come, we’d already called it a night. It’s too bad because they’re another great band.
Had the Raptors not needed overtime to beat the Heat on Thursday, a trip would have been made to Bovine to see WAXY, a band we last caught at Cherry Cola’s a few years ago. Unfortunately when the game ended, the WAXY set was already missed and energy was lacking. Sadly also missed was Open Air from Calgary who played at 1 at the Underground Garage. Open Air is one of the greatest blues rock bands Canada has to offer, so let’s just pretend that these pictures from Open Air’s May 12th show at The Hideout where actually from CMW… k?
Remember that bit about careful planning, yeah, that’s important. It’s also important to read one’s own schedule carefully. We were highly looking forward to catching Redsteps at Dakota early Friday night. Running late and misreading the schedule killed and ending up at Hard Luck instead of Dakota any chance of that. With time to kill, a short walk down Dundas from the Hard Luck to Ossington to check out the Dakota at 8pm was rewarded with an incredible show by Jesper Munk from Germany. It felt like the White Stripes meets Van Morrison meets Massive Attack under the musical direction of the Thin White Duke. Diverse musical influences abounded. At times a moody jazzy minor chord fest, at others, heavy blues. The lucky audience at the Dakota saw one of the real treats of CMW.
After the short walk back to Hard Luck, it was time for Darkbird from Austin Texas. Due to difficulties at the border, Darkbird’s bassist Chris Spencer was filling in for drummer Chris Young. Keyboardist Michael Martinez played the bass parts on keys. The effect was incredible, while it was the first and only experience seeing the band, one would never have known it wasn’t the usual lineup. The band’s songs are highly arranged and their drum parts are anything but simple, so serious props to Spencer for pulling it off. Kelly Barnes’ is a dynamic frontwoman but unfortunately the room was nearly empty although it began to fill up a little by the end of the show.
Next up was Return For Refund at Cherry Cola’s. Return For Refund has quickly become one of our favourite bands since we first saw them at Cherry Cola’s last year. They put on an incredible show as we have now become accustomed. Unfortunately the lighting that night was particularly uncooperative so the photos aren’t usable, except for this one, which is okay.
No Sinner at The Garrison followed The Commoners at Cadillac Lounge. No Sinner had been on our radar for a number of years. Sadly, it was an underwhelming experience but the crowd thoroughly enjoyed it and that’s all that matters. Enjoyed the guitar work though. After No Sinner, the car started drifting towards home and we were powerless to fight it.
Saturday’s plans revolved around the secret guest at Cherry Cola’s. Sadly that meant missing Public Animal’s set at the Velvet Underground, but having just seen Public Animal at their Silver Dollar show in April, it was a sacrifice that had to be made. It wasn’t just the secret guest though, Sumo Cyco, Jay Macedo and Waxy were also big draws.
First up was Dr. Vena from Santiago, Chile, followed by Moon Tan from Winnipeg. Moon Tan’s costumes were a put off during the initial research so initially there was no plan to see them but this band has serious prog chops and sounded like a Rush tribute band, so it was no surprise when they covered Spirit of Radio, as well as Zeppelin’s Black Dog. This is a band definitely worth seeing, in spite of the costumes.
Dorian Gray followed. The band is from Italy and was out of place on this bill, they reminded us of Leonard Cohen.
Sumo Cyco knocked our socks off. It was the first time we’d seen the band since CMW of several years ago. It was a spectacular high energy show. There was no doubt that Sumo Cyco’s incendiary performance was our Gig of the Night.
Jay Macedo, former bassist of Stone River, and his band, including Charlie McKittrick, former drummer of TimeGiant, played great blues rock to the capacity crowd. For us, based purely on personal musical tastes, Macedo’s set was the Gig of the Night, although both Moon Tan and of course the mighty Sumo Cyco put on great shows. After they wrapped up, the stage was broken down and cleared in preparation for the secret guest and the wait began. Eventually, after a very long wait, word began to spread that due to a radius clause associated with their show earlier that night at The Opera House, The Eagles of Death Metal would not be allowed to perform. It was a huge disappointment because seeing EODM at that tiny venue might have been the all-time greatest show ever. May 7th was the 6th anniversary of Cherry Cola’s opening night in 2010, and who played that opening night? None other than Eagles of Death Metal.
A blast from the past… thanks to whoever recorded this video.
Finally, it was great to see Waxy again as it had been a few years. But due to the late hour and lingering disappointment, we didn’t catch all of their set.
All in all, it was a great week of music, highlighted by the shows of Bloody Diamonds, Julian Taylor Band, Jesper Munk, Jay Macedo and Sumo Cyco.
Review and photos by Steve Mallinson