Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Booze Bombs are best of Canadian Music Fest's opening night

The Booze Bombs
Canadian Music Fest got underway on Tuesday night and got off to a relatively slow start in terms of participating venues, audience size and quality of talent I caught.

I don't have populist music tastes, but the small crowd numbers showed that either: a) people don't go out to see live music on a Tuesday night; b) the musical options weren't inspiring; or c) my music tastes are even less populist than I thought, and I'm definitely not a snobby, Pitchfork-worshipping hipster.

The evening began at The Cameron House with nattily attired Toronto singer Buddy Black and his four-piece backing band, The Ghost Umbrellas. Black's voice showed a raspy quality in the opening number and he spoke-sung other songs in the set, which offered a difficult to pigeonhole mix of roots, blues, rock, punk, rockabilly and country. Black added harmonica to the ensemble for one song and seemed to be going for a bit of a Nick Cave meets Tom Waits vibe, but the performance seemed a bit forced (particularly by guitarist Dayne Polny, who jumped into the small audience and writhed around at the end of the gig). Buddy Black? Colour me not impressed.

The band I was most looking forward to was a German rockabilly outfit called The Booze Bombs, which took the stage at the Bovine Sex Club. Singer Annie Leopardo fronted the group, comprised of guitarist/vocalist Lucky Steve, upright bassist King Eric and drummer Rockin' Bende. Leopardo's voice was well-suited to the material, complete with the genre's requisite yips, and she was comfortable with both singing and addressing folks between songs in English. The band didn't live up to its name drinking-wise, though it played the title track from its Hangover Blues album as well as "Rooster in the Hen House," "Midnight Train," "If You're Gonna Shake It," "Gone Away," "All Night Long," "I Still Cry" and "I'm In The Mood." The set was very enjoyable, but not over the top great like I was hoping for.


It was then on to The Hideout for Niagara Falls quintet Barbudos, which showcased songs from its self-titled debut LP. The band was generally at its best when dabbling with '60s psych and garage rock sounds, though forays into '70s power pop and roots country territories weren't unsuccessful. I'd consider seeing Barbudos again and, even though there were less than 100 people in the room, that made it the most popular act I saw all night.

I planned on staying put to see Clumsy, and had purchased another pint to pass the time during what is normally a short transition between acts. But as the scheduled 11 p.m. start time turned into 11:30 and there was still no sign of the band, I asked a crew member what was happening and he said that the London, Ont. punk band was a no-show. An announcement from the stage stating that much earlier would have been appreciated. There was no other act that I wanted to see within a short walking distance during the time slot, but it was still frustrating.

We Were Heads

I closed off my night at Cherry Cola's Rock N Rolla Cabaret, and was instantly disappointed when told that it no longer serves draft beer. I bought a tin of Strongbow cider and settled in for a midnight set by We Were Heads, an experimental rock trio from Toronto that drew maybe 50 people. That number decreased as the group's math rock and noise displayed lots of rock and roll spirit, but a lack of musical talent.

Here's hoping for better things on night two.