As I sit here listening to yet another stellar Alan Cross Weekly Top 11 (feel free to fire it up using the tuner at the top of this page while you read this post), I stand mightily challenged with the task of attempting not only to re-cap but to come down from Canadian Music Week, that orgiastic overload of the musical senses that takes place near the end of every Toronto winter. How to put in words this annually-recurring addiction, to encapsulate all that glorious madness into readable fodder for our collective and infamously short attention span for all things digital? Woe is me. It could be worse, I guess - I could have been one of those poor (?) souls who'd just come from SXSW. What sick joke of the Muses put two such awesome but exhausting music-focused events so close together?
Let's get the venue change out of the way first. Reviews that I heard comparing this year's choice of the Toronto Marriott Downtown Eaton Centre Hotel over the perennial Fairmont Royal York were mixed. People liked the element that funnelled people into a central location, making it easier to find people and perhaps a bit better for chance encounters, but missed the much more spacious Fairmont Royal York's nooks and crannies to slink into for quick meetings, to catch up on a bit of work, or even just to find somewhere to sit down. I sympathize with both views, but my take is that it's not the venue that makes Canadian Music Week, it's the people and the music, and because of the music, the people would find a way to have a good time wherever the event was held. So, love the new place or hate it, kudos to Neill Dixon and his incredible team for once again pulling together such an incredible gathering of like-minded souls.
The festivities kicked off in earnest for me at the Ticketfly Canadian launch party at the Horseshoe Tavern. If you're one of the few who hasn't yet heard of Ticketfly, they are a remarkable social ticketing company, whose burgeoning success is no doubt sending waves of panic emanating through the hallowed halls of that bigger ticketing company whose name we all know. Thanks to the generous hosts, drinks and good cheer were flowing, so naturally Mediazoic was out in full force. Much fun was to be had, but the clincher for me was the smoked meat and turkey station courtesy of Caplansky's Deli, complete with Silverstein's rye, pickles, and house-made mustards. Savoury heaven. The venue was of course the logical choice for this shindig, with Horseshoe-spawned Collective Concerts as Ticketfly's highest profile early Canadian client - the beginning, it would seem, of a potentially very successful partnership. Both Ticketfly and Collective have benefited from incredible press around the Canadian launch of the service - wonder if Joanne Smale and her brilliant band of babes and beaus over at Planet 3 had anything to do with that?
From there for me it was a Rocket ride down to Kool Haus to meet Mediazoic's two CMW photo-journalists, one of whom happened to be my daughter, and join our "resident sweetheart" Noah Siegel and our good friends Barnaby Marshall and David Farrell from NewCanadianMusic.ca in the Artist Lounge of the Canadian Radio Music Awards. Our mission? To show off this uber-cool site and the amazing tools on it for Canadian artists and bands. Mediazoic is of course particularly proud of the site's audio element, but the site's biggest hook from an artist perspective on this night seemed to be the detailed level of information about the progress of the music of Canadian artists in digital realm, including charts that track online music engagement with great precision and easy-to-read graphs charting social uptake of each artist's music following a new release. An absolutely indispensable tool for artists, bands and managers savvy enough to use it, and a welcome addition to the great general artist-supportive vibe backstage.
From the personal side, it turned out to be quite a party, giving me a chance to catch up with a whole bunch of super-cool local music folks that I hadn't seen in ages, including but not limited to Darryl Ballantine from Lyricfind, Simon Plashkes from Art Battle, Producer/Songwriter/Musician Jules Lynch, and Singer/Songwriter/Gibson Dude Brad Fillatre.
And that was just backstage. There was a much bigger celebration raging in the Kool Haus proper, the highlights of which, according to our three Canadian Radio Music Awards attendees, were as follows:
- BEST NEW GROUP OR SOLO ARTIST (CHR) Victoria Duffield's energetic opening and impressive dancing
- USS turntablist/hype man Jason "Human Kebab" Parsons careening around the stage up to hijinx and hand-stands
- Lebanese-Canadian hip hopper Massari tossing roses, glow sticks and confetti to welcoming admirers and revellers
- FAN'S CHOICE AWARD winners Mariana's Trench's hour-plus performance, with great lighting, phenomenal energy, excellent song choices, rapt crowd involvement, and a crowd-surfing Josh Ramsey
Rather than the massive logistical undertaking of our Studio Sessions from CMW and NXNE last year in which we opened our studio to artists and bands, this year saw us invite in instead a bunch of craft beer afficionados, with lots of help from the fine folks at Cameron's Brewing. Canadian Music Week just happened to coincide with the launch of my personal favourite Cameron's brew, Rye Pale Ale, in the 650mL bottle, so we put our creative caps on and created a fun heist story, entitled Cameron's RPA Like Catnip for Creatives that managed to draw in an interesting collection of folks from all over the GTA to kick back in the studio while sipping on this nectar of the gods.
An important part of the Friday studio hang, and one of the centrepieces later that evening in the Artists Lounge at the Sirius XM Indies, was the uber-cool, power-toy known as the Dual View Screen. A product of the brilliant and extremely musical folks at Smithson Martin, this giant, transparent iPad, with touch sensitivity and connections to enable Internet, audio and video connectivity, was first created for high-end deejays to enable the crowd to see exactly what the maestro of the digital turntable is doing. Paired with Smithson Martin's Emulator Pro software, everyone from deejays to VJs and Lighting Programmers to Laser Show Controllers have an entirely new way to take control of any MIDI capable software and make magic through this multi-touch screen device.
Among the artists on hand for the Indies who dropped by to lay their hands on some DVS/NCM action were Cold Specks, Canailles, Dirty Radio, Stuck on Planet Earth, and Derelict. The highlight of the evening for me, once I had boldly declared my high regard for Canailles as the "acoustic Fucked Up", was a fascinating (and long) conversation with Richard Glasser, head Music Supervisor for the Weinstein Company. With all the rock stars in the room, it was perhaps a bit ironic that I reserved my most deferential fanboy routine for him, telling him I wanted his job (ie. choosing the music to backdrop the scenes of major motion pictures) and fawning as he recounted the great story (already referenced by David Farrell here) about how, for his most recent success story, Silver Linings Playbook, he'd secured the rights against all odds to Led Zep's "What Is And What Should Never Be", the one song that the film's creative captains absolutely could not do without.
For a full list of winners, once again from our friends at NewCanadianMusic, click here. For coverage of the Indies from Mediazoic's Nerese Richter, click here. For our curated collection of incredible Indies photos, click here.
For Saturday, our friends at Audioblood alerted us to two interesting events, and not surprisingly we ended up hearing amazing music at both. First was the Aussie BBQ, put on by Sounds Australia at the Horseshoe. Apart from the glaring lack of any actual Aussie BBQ equipment and the wonderful things that usually go on it (perhaps because I showed up late?), this turned out to be time quite well spent, due in large part to an engaging and electrifying performance by hip hop purveyor and MC Seth Sentry. Those who know my music tastes know that my love for the best hip hop runs deep and strong, so when I heard the last act of the show might be yet another pasty-faced ghetto wannabe, I very nearly left, but man am I ever glad I didn't. It was the perfect mix of showmanship, musicianship, and street cred, with crisp, brilliant onstage interplay between the act's two principals and a very cool Bran Van 3000 vibe coursing through the beats and rhymes. Proud to officially proclaim myself a convert.
Stopping for a chat with one of my favourite local legends Cameron Carpenter outside the Rivoli and promising to return shortly, I then headed for the afternoon's second Audioblood co-production, the Pledge Music launch party in a loft on Adelaide. Pledge Music is direct-to-fan platform that provides artists and labels with the tools needed to get fans to engage early - basically a very artist-friendly crowdfunding platform, having great early word-of-mouth success in Canada and spreading quickly. The party was packed, with tacos and sliders flying off the assembly line in the kitchen near the entrance, and space in the back of the loft's main room cleared for performances. My timing was good enough to catch Ben Caplan, whose performance was nothing short of transformative. Can you imagine the kind of performer you'd need to be to be able to warm a crowd significantly enough in a couple songs that you could then make a roomful of complete strangers rage in unison with a great mad yell at the top of their lungs at the universe and all its inherent struggles, without looking around and worrying you were going to be the only one yelling? Only the most brilliant and engaging showman. That is Ben Caplan.
Both because Cameron Carpenter is one of my music industry mentors and because I had to see Old Man Luedecke, whose music we've been playing on Mediazoic for ages now and whom I'd never seen live, I then headed back to the Rivoli for the annual Music Nova Scotia Tiki Lounge. If there is anyone in this town in the music business who doesn't love Cam Carpenter and respect how expertly he has walked the line between making a living in music and selling out, and coming away with street cred completely intact, I'd like to meet that person, if for no other reason than to smack him/her upside the head. So what if Cam's pronunciation of Luedecke was no better than mine? And, oh yes, speaking of the Old Man (Luedecke, not Cam ), with a box of jokes and quips as dry as tinder and a banjo to ignite them, it was a simple pleasure to rest my wearying bones on a comfortable stool and watch a true craftsman ply his trade. A fitting window into the depths of musical immersion and heritage underlying virtually every kitchen, pub, town and city in Eastern Canada. Right after the set, I was very pleased to run into the lads from Gloryhound, whose star, in case you haven't heard, has been very much on the rise. Anyone at the Mediazoic launch party at Revival way back in the mists of time (April 1, 2011 - two years ago today!) will remember that Gloryhound threw down a memorable set for the small but very keen group that stuck around until our party's 7th hour. After a quick reminisce and catch-up, lead guitarist Dave Casey reminded me of Gloryhound's upcoming release of their new single, "Let You Down Again", and I, of course, promised that we'd be playing it.
I was planning more story-worthy shenanigans well into Saturday night, but at around 10pm on Saturday night, after returning for a final schmooze at the Marriott and watching the Leafs weather a frenetic final few minutes to beat the Bruins, my body served reminder that I was not in fact an energetic twentysomething but rather a considerably seasoned fortysomething, and I was coaxed into the wiser but almost certainly lamer decision to bring my CMW celebrations to a whimpering close.
I am now officially in post-CMW recovery. I figure I'll be good to go just in time for NXNE...