I had the pleasure of attending the inaugural CBC Music Festival two years ago. It was an incredibly well put together festival featuring some of Canada’s musical greats, while also giving an opportunity for emerging talent to play for a huge music loving audience. The fest returned to Toronto at the end of May, and I as well as multitudes of music lovers were in attendance.
I arrived at TD Echo beach along Toronto’s waterfront just as celebrated singer/songwriter Joel Plaskett was taking the stage. His airy and opened hearted tunes were the perfect soundtrack to the breezy, late spring day. Not only were we treated to lovely Plaskett classics like « Through and Through », but the East Coast songsmith had some entertaining surprises up his sleeve. He launched into a rootsy cover of Lorde’s hit single « Royals » that he executed perfectly, before regaling us with the classic « Do Wa Ditty », proving that not only can Joel Plaskett rock a kitchen party, but a decades spanning pop cover set as well.
From established talents to a group of ingénues, I left the main stage to check out famed Toronto musical collective Choir! Choir! Choir ! This is literally a band that anyone with a modicum of talent, time and dedication can be a part of, if they want (and it’s actually awesome!). Choir! Choir! Choir! Is an open choir based out of Toronto. Formed by Daveed Goldman and Nobu Adilman (AKA “DaBu”), the collective started as a weekly drop in, no-commitment singing event back in early 2011. The intention was to bring together adults who loved to sing, and to have a lot of musical fun along the way. The group, now meeting twice a weekly, is now known for putting together creative and interesting arrangements of well known pop songs, and showcasing them in happy, high energy performances. The group has taken the stage with legends like Patti Smith at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Tegan and Sara on the Juno Awards and now they were bringing their lively show to CBC Music Fest. The charm of C!C!C! is that it takes you a moment to realize what the song is, and once you do the wave of delight that washes over you is just wonderful. I threw myself a little dance party when I relaized they were launching into Rihanna’s “We found Love”, and I wasn’t the only one.
I must admit, the one artist I was so excited to see was Coeur de Pirate. I’ve been loving her music ever since I heard it on CBC, but had never gotten the chance. It was the perfect time as well, as her english language album Roses will be coming out later this summer, and it was time for a new audience to fall in love with her. And fall in love they did. She charmed the crowd as she poked fun at the anglophone pronunciation of her name (« Coor de pirate »), smiling all the way through. She took us through a tour of her discography, both french and english, her songbird vocals and sweet folk pop sound ringing through the air. She closed her set with her new single « Carry On» , the new english song that is to be her breakthrough into English Canada. And based on the reaction the crowd gave her, it’s clear that breakthrough is well underway.
Folk crooner Bahamas took the stage next, serenading the crowd with his low, honey soaked voice and seducing them with his quiet confidence and witty charm. Interesting arrangments of his tried and tasted hits meant that even die hard fans had something new to enjoy, while newcomers were easily won over by the captivating performance. While Bahamas (known as as Alfie Juvarenen) was clearly the star of the show, Felicity Williams was a wonderful surprise, her voice positively angelic as she harmonized with Alfie and took over the vocal duties herself on some songs. They brought members of C!C!C! out for “In the night”, redefining the concept of a singalong.
While the sweet sounds of Bahamas were lovely to sway to, it was the hip hop stylings of Buck 65 that saved my ass from actually freezing off. By the time the CBC R2Drive host took to the ones and twos chill of the night had come over all of us in earnest, but the dancing inspired by his sick beats kept us happy, moving and eventually warm enough to stick around for the night’s headliner. My only complaint? We didn’t get to hear Mr. Terfry’s smokey sweet voice come over the mic before he left the stage. I guess that’s what drives home turned to 94.1 are for!
The chill was noticeable by the time Patrick Watson came on stage, but that didn’t deter anyone from crowding around the stage to take in his cinematic pop stylings. Eccentric in the most adorable way, Watson had the crowd eating out of the palm of hand. He dazzled with his multi-instrumentalist skill, and with his band put on an absolutely mesmerizing performance. Watson and company played songs from his latest album Love Songs for Robots, the ethereal sounds emanated from the stage, over the lake and into the night. As I left Echo beach, the music became the perfect accompaniment to my bikeride home, and the perfect end to a beautiful night of Canadian music.