Saturday, May 07, 2016

Tommy Stinson and New Swears top off CMW Friday

My Canadian Music Week festival got off to a late start on Friday due to another commitment, but it was far from a lost night.

The Vidos
Things began at Cherry Cola's at midnight with The Vidos, an energetic teenage rawk and roll trio that adds some boogie, funk and classic rock elements to its sound. The band is still developing, but the musicianship is already there and there's good growth potential. The Vidos played their single "Horseshoes," but my favourite song was "Sex Potion."

From there, I took advantage of a nice evening with a drink at the Bovine Sex Club's rooftop tiki bar with Cam Carpenter. Tommy Stinson was there with owner Daryl Fine, who he's apparently been friends with for 18 years. I shook Tommy's hand but didn't ask if he remembered buying me a beer before a Replacements show at London, England's Town and Country Club in the summer of 1987. I went downstairs to the main bar where a woman promptly spilled a beer down my back while watching We Are Monroe.

We Are Monroe
We Are Monroe were a somewhat commercial sounding modern rock band that I thought was proficient but certainly nothing special. The lead singer/guitarist had a decent voice that at times was vaguely reminiscent of Joy Division's Ian Curtis and at others like Franz Ferdinand's Alex Kapranos. I was essentially using the band as a time-filler before Stinson, and I guess it played that role OK.

Tommy Stinson
Stinson and his three-piece band started 20 minutes late and I was surprised that the Bovine wasn't more packed, but perhaps the 2:20 a.m. start time and the fact he had played the Horseshoe Tavern the night before were contributing factors. Stinson played favourites including "It's A Drag" and "Making of an Asshole" (which he dedicated to Donald Trump) as well as several new and unreleased songs that I wasn't familiar with. There was an acoustic interlude for a handful of numbers before things got electrified again for a short run to close out the set.

Aside from two Replacements shows, this was my fourth time seeing Stinson. He's good, but nowhere near the songwriter that Paul Westerberg is. He's not a great singer or guitarist, but he's imbued with the spirit of rock and roll and that shines through in his songs and stage presence.

New Swears
Collective Concerts booker Craig Laskey told me that I would love Ottawa's New Swears, and since he seldom steers me wrong I continued east on Queen Street to the Horseshoe after 3 a.m. The quartet was playing a Billy Joel cover when I walked in and the group later covered the Allman Brothers Band's "Ramblin' Man." The originals reminded me of The Black Lips, as did the on- (and off-) stage antics. The members paraded through the small but appreciative audience, climbed on tables, formed human pyramids, pulled off contortionist moves and engaged in some wrestling -- all while still playing. Confetti cannons and cans of Silly String were going off regularly while all of this was going on. New Swears are the most fun band I've seen at CMW so far this week and I doubt anyone will top them on Saturday.

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