Thursday, May 12, 2016

Great music from noon to 3 a.m. on CMW Saturday

It was bed at 6 a.m. and bands at noon for my Saturday at the Canadian Music Week festival. Luckily, the two acts I got up and out for at The Garrison's front bar were worth it.

I bought a coffee at the bakery across the street and Windsor, Ont. power pop trio Huttch were preparing to go on when I brought it in and planted myself on a stool. The personable young band played its "Gimme Some More" single, "White Sheets," "Fake Conversation" and several other melodic and rocking guitar-driven songs that were interspersed by calls from the drummer out the club's open windows for passersby to come in and watch instead of shopping. I was given a download code for some songs and enjoyed them on my computer almost as much as I did in person.

The Spook School
By this time I was ready for a French Press Vanilla Stout, which I figured was a good breakfast beer, as Edinburgh, Scotland's The Spook School set up. The quartet shares the wealth on vocals and plays quirky, punky and sometimes jangly pop songs, many of them with thought-provoking LGBT themes. "I Want To Kiss You," "Burn Masculinity" and "Binary" were among the most infectiously catchy songs played to a too-small crowd. By the end of the set, the drummer had taken his shirt off to reveal a large tattoo and nipple tassels.

I returned home to work for three hours before venturing out again at 5:30 p.m. for the annual Music Nova Scotia Tiki party hosted by Mike Campbell at The Rivoli. Cam Carpenter had a couple of beer tickets waiting for me, and I filled myself on free seafood chowder, scallops, oysters and wraps.

Reeny Smith
Reeny Smith -- along with a bassist, keyboard player and two female backing singers -- delivered a soulful and funky three-song set.

Smith was followed by The Mike Bochoff Band, which reminded me somewhat of Frank Turner on one song and The Weakerthans on set-closer "Distractions."

I moved to The Rivoli's front bar to watch the second half of the Toronto Raptors-Miami Heat basketball game, and more and more people kept joining me to cheer the local team on to a hard-fought win.

Forever Distracted
It was time for more music as 8 p.m. rolled around, so I moved on to Cherry Cola's for a young Hamilton pop-punk quartet called Forever Distracted, which opened up promisingly with "Pay Day." A cover of The Police's "Message In A Bottle," with a different singer, wasn't nearly as successful. There were about 15 people in the audience, largely parents and girlfriends, when one of the guitarists picked up a trumpet to add a ska-punk element to a song. "Charlotte" had a reggae rhythm, the lead singer's girlfriend came on stage to sing a cover of Cee Lo Green's "Fuck You," and the band also covered Eiffel 65's "Blue (Da Ba De)." More and better original songs are needed, but there's potential here.

No Stories didn't show up for its 9 p.m. slot at Cherry Cola's so I went to  Velvet Underground for the first time since its recent renovations to see England's The Orielles, which I had really enjoyed on Thursday. A more ethereal Best Coast is one way I'd describe the group, but it's quite difficult to pigeonhole. Unlike two nights earlier, the band ended with a Sonic Youth-like instrumental extro that showed yet another side of a very promising young band. I had spoken with the trio's manager, Damian Morgan, outside The Rivoli and talked to him again at Velvet Underground. He's an interesting bloke who also manages The Specials' Terry Hall, whose shirt he was wearing.

Sam Cash and the Romantic Dogs
I'd seen Sam Cash and the Romantic Dogs a couple of times before and liked it, but the group's 10 p.m. set at the Horseshoe Tavern seemed to take things to a higher level than I remembered. There was a fine mix of roots rock and power pop at play, and I was impressed by songs from the new Tongue-In-Cheek Vows album, including lead single "Tossing & Turning," "That Was The Summer" and "You Can't Hurt Me."

I returned to The Rivoli for another Nova Scotia band called Walrus. The quartet played some new songs that it had only performed for the first time the previous night. When the band was in '60s psychedelic/garage rock mode it was quite effective. When it wasn't, the songs suffered despite consistently good musicianship throughout the set.

Attica Riots
I returned to the Horseshoe at 11:30 p.m. to hear the last song from Modern Space and then stuck around for a few numbers from Attica Riots, which I enjoyed. But I had bigger fish to fry.

Fat White Family
Fat White Family was one of the buzz bands at the beginning of the week, and the British band didn't disappoint. The sextet struck me as a mix of The Black Lips, Jesus and Mary Chain and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, with brooding songs that often somehow managed to maintain an uplifting underbelly. A dark surf song stood out in an exceptional and loud extended set that I still loved even after singer Lias Saoudi dumped part of his beer on me. I wasn't alone in my adulation as the packed front of the house was also totally digging things.

Ferraro's Losing Sleep is one of my favourite albums of the year thus far and the group played a late-night set on its home turf at The Cameron House that filled the front bar -- and deservingly so. From opening with its own "Shake It Off" and following it with a cover of The White Stripes' "Hotel Yorba," it was evident that good times (and several bottles of Collective Arts' Rhyme and Reason) were in store for me as I alternated between taking notes and dancing at the foot of the stage.

The quintet continued to mix great original songs like "My Girl For You," "Losing Sleep" and "Coffee Smokes" with well-chosen covers of The Crew Cuts' "Sh-Boom," The Beatles' "When I Saw Her Standing There," Bruce Springsteen's "Hungry Heart" (with guest vocalist Sam Cash), Barrett Strong's "Money (That's What I Want)," Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti," Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Born On The Bayou," Dion's "Runaround Sue" and The Band's "Up On Cripple Creek."

The choice of covers is reflective of Ferraro's overall sound. Losing Sleep is a blissful listen full of pop hooks and a healthy reverence for music from the 1950s and '60s that's at least twice as old as the band members. And the group pulls it off live while creating a fun party atmosphere.

By this time it was after 3 a.m. and, while it may have been possible to catch one more act at a nearby club, I was happy to end things on a high note that capped off what was probably my favourite Canadian Music Week festival of the past several years.


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