Sunday, April 23, 2017

The best of 2017’s Canadian Music Week Festival

This was my 27th Canadian Music Week Festival, and I thought the 2016 edition was the best in several years. While this year’s event didn’t quite measure up to that level, I still managed to see 31 acts over five nights. Here were my 10 favourites:

Ferraro
Saturday, 2 a.m. at The Cameron House

Ferraro’s Losing Sleep was my ninth favourite album of 2016 and I’ve seen this Toronto-based, brother-fronted band more than any other over the past year. Their ’50s and ’60s-influenced pop songs are full of ear worms and their whip-smart cover choices reflect their love and knowledge of vintage music that’s rare in young musicians. I have a great time at every Ferraro show I attend.


Ferraro

The Velveteins
Thursday, 1 a.m. at Cherry Cola’s Rock ’n’ Rolla Cabaret & Lounge

A Hot Second With The Velveteins was one of my favourite EPs of 2016, and the Edmonton trio lived up to my high expectations on stage. There are some throwbacks to ‘50s doo-wop and ‘60s pop, but the hook-filled songs carry a harder and more rock-oriented edge. A closing cover of Bad Company’s “I Feel Like Making Love” didn’t really fit with what came before it, but it still worked.


The Velveteins

KOLARS
Tuesday, 11 p.m. at The Rivoli

This husband and wife duo features Rob Kolar on guitar and lead vocals and Lauren Brown wearing tap shoes while standing on top of a bass drum and pounding on three other drums. It was danceable but still raw and minimalist as it mixed glam, indie and art rock ingredients that made for a very tasty meal. I had a good conversation with the Los Angeles musicians and artist manager/former Canadian Idol judge Jake Gold in The Rivoli’s front bar at the end of the night. Kolar and Brown were very nice and even bought me a beer, which I swear had no bearing on this high ranking.


KOLARS
KOLARS

Bueller
Friday, 11 p.m. at The Silver Dollar

This Toronto quartet has male and female lead singers and a sound that mixes bratty, nasally vocals with large dashes of power pop and garage, punk and indie rock. It’s eclectic, but the common denominator through most songs is the presence of immediate hooks. I would like to hear a longer set.


Bueller

Casper Skulls
Saturday, 11 p.m. at Lee’s Palace

If I hear elements of Wire, The Fall, Joy Division and The Streets in your set, I’m almost assured of liking you. That was the case with this Toronto band that has a lot of British post-punk influences in its music. It was loud, dynamic and in your face.


Casper Skulls

Punchline 13
Thursday, midnight at Bovine Sex Club

I first became aware of Punchline 13 when the pop-punk group entertained me at the Bovine for last year’s CMW. If Simple Plan was able to make it big (which I predicted very early in its career), I’m not sure why this Montreal quintet is languishing in relative obscurity.

Sly Rawk is a great frontman.

Punchline 13
Punchline 13

 
Early Hours
Wednesday, 1 a.m. at Nightowl and Friday, 1 a.m. at The Cameron House

This very young South African band has a knack for writing smart and catchy indie pop songs that are delivered in an upbeat and energetic manner. There’s an element of highlife in a few songs that helps set the group apart, since it’s something you don’t often hear in Canada. I liked the band enough that I saw it twice and spent time in engaging conversations with the four members and manager Sarah Jane Nicholson, a tireless promoter who was dancing, taking photos from the stage and making new friends at each show. Early Hours gets bonus points for covering David Bowie’s “Heroes” and Lou Reed’s “Walk On The Wild Side,” selections which belie the group’s youth.


Early Hours
Early Hours

Twist
Saturday, 9 p.m. at Lee’s Palace

I enjoyed an earlier incarnation of Twist during the North By Northeast Music Festival in 2015, and the Laura Hermiston-fronted Toronto quartet has improved since then. You can hear the pop heart beating within the dense body of guitars and a rumbling bass that I could feel in my stool near the stage. With Hermiston’s dreamy vocals floating over the top, it makes for an experience drenched in moody but not depressing atmospherics.


Twist
Twist

Devin Cuddy Band
Friday, 2 a.m. at The Cameron House

The son of Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy has made a name for himself in recent years as a piano-playing country rock artist. There were large doses of both those styles on display at this late night set that included a mix of Cuddy originals and classic covers, including Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart.”


Devin Cuddy Band

Dentist
Wednesday, 10:45 p.m. at Monarch Tavern

This Asbury Park, N.J. quartet played several CMW sets and I’m quite happy I caught this one. Singer/guitarist Emily Bornemann’s ethereal vocals present an effective counterpoint to the band's melodic but fuzzed-out sounds of punk, surf and indie rock. I was reminded of The Pixies a couple of times during the set.


Dentist
Dentist

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