Very few things compare to being in Toronto during Canadian Music Week. Now in its 33rd year, Canadian Music Week is one of the largest conventions for the music business in North America. It brings together entertainment industry professionals in music, media, comedy, and film. With 10 nights jam packed with concerts, Canadian Music Week showcases hundreds of acts at more than 60 live music venues in downtown Toronto. For only $75, CMW wristbands provide access to most of the shows over the 10-day festival – a steal for most Concert Addicts.
Canadian Music Week 2015 offered an impressive selection of live shows to choose from. This year’s lineup consisted of a mix of on trend acts like Tuxedo and Alvvays, as well as notable Canadian fixtures (Ron Sexsmith, LIGHTS, Billy Talent). And with legends and heavyweights like Jesus and Mary Chain headlining CMW, it was difficult deciding which shows to attend. One of the best things about music festivals is making new musical discoveries, so we caught a number of smaller indie showcases during Canadian Music Week in order to get a glimpse of Toronto’s vibrant live music scene.
With a wristband and a seemingly limitless concert guide, the best thing about CMW was being a detective and scoping out artists on the rise. The first few gems I found were at a local R&B showcase at Tattoo Rock Parlour. The showcase featured beloved local act Unbuttoned (who played a mean cover of Aaliyah’s “One In A Million”), the breezy stylings of MC-turned-singer Adria Kain, and the effervescently soulful singer Faiza. The show was followed with a DJ set by Bambii, which filled the venue with the sounds of trap and dancehall. At Studio Bar, a hip-hop showcase featured visiting Chicago artists Saba and Lucki Eck$, as well as local rapper Wolf J McFarlane, whose rhymes and performance communicated nothing but intense passion and sincere feeling. Steven Joseph’s eclectic stylings filled Sneaky Dee’s, along with an enthusiastic performance from electronic dance duo Cugini. Other worthy CMW mentions include: Toronto’s own DJ Hustlegrl, Sam Weber’s country-tinged alt-rock, and Dead Soft from Vancouver.
Although most of CMW was spent checking out indie music, I did see some of the buzzed-about happenings. King Tuff played an energized garage rock set at Lee’s Palace with rock and roll youngsters Twin Peaks. Also at Lee’s Palace, Cloud Nothings played an intensely angst-ridden set, which was packed with fans of the bitter bedroom rockers.
CMW champions and celebrates all kinds of music. It’s a “mixed bag” of offerings, which sometimes led to showcases that did not seem well curated. In one instance, I saw a hip-hop act play in between confessional emo bands. Still, the mixing of musical genres and variety of artists playing at CMW allowed for an intermingling between Toronto’s various music communities, and a long list of musical discoveries.