*reviews by Angie Valente
*photos by Myles Herod
My most memorable Canadian Music Week festival experiences over the years have to be highlighted by what these music festivals have always been about for me, the bar hop and musical buffet that each night serves up. If the shows you plan to catch fall on the main drag of venues, you’re laughing. It’s almost like a game, trying to cram in as much music as possible each night. And of course, there will always be overlap and you’re forced to pick and choose where you’ll make an appearance.
@ Horseshoe Tavern
Wednesday, May 8
Local alternative/indie sweethearts Monowhales (formerly Gingerale and the Monowhales) played to a large, mixed bag crowd of music fans. Some were swaying, some were singing, but all of us were definitely sweating. As per usual, The Horseshoe was a crazy hot temperature, making it almost impossible to fully concentrate on the show. Monowhales cover of Blur’s Song 2 was met with positive response and got the crowd moving.
Monowhales put on a solid set affording plenty of Instagram captures. The front row was consumed by several photographers all vying for the perfect shot. Not hard to land with a charismatic frontwoman like Sally Shaar, who is literally a moving target when she’s slithering across the stage.
With a strong social media presence, and regular radio rotation, Monowhales have been plugging away surely and steadily for a few years, with added momentum. This APA showcase felt similar. This is a local Toronto band on the rise and you’d never know it was only a mere mid-week Wednesday night. Monowhales had me feeling like this was a weekend show.
Wednesday, May 8
As a member of Burlington, ON indie pop band Walk off the Earth, I was curious to see how (Ryan) Marshall would present himself in a solo venture. His debut solo album Layers drops in June and this was a solid way to test the waters and re-introduce himself for what was his first gig as a solo artist. Not to worry WOTElings, he hasn’t left the band, this is a side project.
Marshall undoubtedly has a strong stage presence and his band was the cherry on top, filling out the Rivoli stage. He was accompanied by bassist/keyboardist Lisa Jacobs and drummer Jess Bowen, and was joined by artist/songwriter Jocelyn Alice for a duet called Mr. Parachute.
The collective gave me a 3rd Eye Girl vibe (the band who also backed up Prince for a few years) and coupled with the smoke machine and laser sharp lighting, made for a chill vibe and atmospheric music.
@ Bovine Sex Club
Friday, May 10, 2019
Vancouver, B.C. punk rock darlings The Black Halos made dreams come true for a sea of ecstatic, die-hard fans at this one-off reunion CMW performance. Stating there’s nowhere else they’d rather play than the Bovine, the gig triumphantly marks the first time in 18 years since (original members) vocalist Billy Hopeless and guitarists Jay Millette and Rich Jones have set foot on the same stage. And it was well worth the wait.
The sweaty punk rock venue was alive and on fire, as rabid fans sang along and captured the highly anticipated nostalgia through their phones. Joining the re-united line-up were bassist John Kerns (Age of Electric) and drummer Danni Action (Midnight Towers). Harmonies were on point and raw excitement wafted through the air.
Not even a broken guitar could stop the momentum or kill the high energy vibe of the Halos that night. After nearly two decades of waiting, what’s five more minutes? A call of desperation hit the crowd after Millette’s tuning peg popped up (a guitar he’s had since 1991 and has never had a problem with until now-irony at its finest.) These songs were clearly on fire. Miraculously saving the rest of the show, was guitarist KT Lamond (Like a Motorcycle/Dearly Beloved) who from the front row, generously offered up her SG. The show must go on, and it did. Thanks KT, Millette owes you a drink!
Leave it to Hopeless who continues to provide comedic relief with his timely stage banter. He kicked off the show wearing a Mister Universe beauty pageant ribbon, because as he stated, Toronto thinks it’s the centre of the universe. Clad in silver metallic space pants, his signature microphone cord moves remained intact even after all these years, just how I remembered from the days of their Canadian tours.
The set we all wished would never end included fan favs like the infectious sing-a-long Some Things Never Fall, 3 Sheets to the Wind and No Class Reunion. A complete set list can be found on the Bovine Instagram.
Friday, May 10, 2019
When you roll into a festival venue during the wee hours of the night you never really know what to expect. Kate Boothman did the 1:30 am Rivoli time slot justice with her rootsy, psych folk tunes.
There was a small but tentative crowd who sat throughout the entire performance. Props to Boothman and her stellar band who still managed to seem like they were into it even though the audience wasn’t exactly doling out copious amounts of energy to work off of. The vibe was intimate and low-key while Boothman held our attention.
A standout track was “God Willing”, a driving yet poppy ‘90s tinged rocker. The song came towards the end of the set and left a lasting impression, which also left me yearning for some new merch to take home. I will be chasing her down at her future gigs for some ear candy.
Boothman’s comical and confident demeanor kept the show rolling (sidebar: high waisted corduroy pants goals) and it was refreshing to see her backed up by young female talent in sought after bassist Anna Ruddick and keyboardist Kelsey McNulty (both of whom took part in Terra Lightfoot’s recent all female revue The Longest Roadshow.)
Boothman plays the Horseshoe for NXNE in June. Here’s hoping for a well-deserved prime time slot and a packed house to really showcase her singer/songwriter talent to a larger and more enthusiastic crowd.
@ Paddock Tavern
Saturday, May 11
Pop rock singer-songwriter Sam Louis kicked off his 8 song set with a cover of Childish Gambino’s Sober, setting the tone for the night while establishing an interactive relationship with the hungry crowd. A prime time slot of 10pm on a Saturday night had The Paddock Tavern grooving. While quite a different live music setup than some of the venues partaking in CMW, the energetic crowd was a mix of supportive hometown smiling Thunder Bay, ON faces mixed with fellow Humber music alumni and random live music supporters.
A handful of the songs played can be found on Louis’ latest album Hallelujah Nights but there were two brand new un-released tracks performed that the crowd got to taste. They were well received and just as catchy and hook-laden as the rest of the tunes Louis has been known to write, leaning a bit more towards the R&B realm.
A standout moment was Louis’ version of the TLC smash Waterfalls, which was a hit among the festival goers. He even nailed the Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes rap portion of the tune with conviction and grace. The show ended with an unplanned one song encore.
Saturday, May 11
Lolaa transported me to a glittery indie dream-like galaxy where this multi-cultural nuevo pop duo create songs with a clear and proud latinx (Latin gender neutral) perspective.
Lolaa is the shiny new project from sisters vocalist Lex Valentine and bassist Nadia King (formerly Magneta Lane) where they embrace their Mexican-Canadian roots via dancey, bilingual pop songs. Stage veterans since their early teens, this CMW showcase marks the sisters first time gracing the Bovine stage. Lighting the way was their signature neon pink sign setting the ambiance. Joining Lolaa was live drummer and EP/upcoming full length producer Jon Drew.
Sisters making sonidos (sounds), Lolaa found their groove and played within in. Each member individually yet cohesively seemed lost in the rhythm. Valentine couldn’t stand still even if she tried and she sings with passion and fire, whether in English or Spanish and it’s hauntingly beautiful either way. King didn’t even break a sweat and probably writes those back-end rumbles in her sleep. For fans of their former band, they played a re-styled version of the infectious single Burn, a homage to the past. A cover of their own original, clever.
Song inspiration is pulled from a healthy dose of discotheque meets Latin American music. This vibe is ever present sonically, as well as visually too, and quite refreshing. Lolaa’s music has been released in both Spanish and English, but they managed to play one song that is currently not on a record. A cultural collide of sounds, Lolaa’s dream to reach global audiences is already becoming their reality. World domination? Si.
Other latinx artists on the bill included Mint Field and Verdor and it was refreshing to see diversity in cultural genre and a fair share of female musicians on stage.
Like a Motorcycle
@ Cherry Cola’s
Saturday, May 11
If your aspiring musician kids/friends grow up to play with even half the piss and vinegar and punk rock attitude that Like a Motorcycle possess, they’ll be just fine. These Halifax, NS rockers drove 18 hours to play a few CMW dates and by the sights and sounds of it, it was definitely worth the trek.
LAM blazed through a fiery, no holds-barred set at Cherry Cola’s to a crowd of attentive live music lovers. Witnessing LAM live is a promise to buy the ticket and take the ride on this raucous punk rock roller coaster. Throw your hands in the air and scream or you’ll be down below dodging the puke that could splatter on your head from above at any given moment. This band only knows one speed–fast.
The powerful four piece lock it down with raw energy and hypnotizing vocals. Once again, refreshing to see some badass female musicians giver on their instruments. Who doesn’t love a drummer who also sings (equally just as well too) in Michelle Skelding.
I stumbled upon this band for the first time many moons ago at a local music festival and they’ve never disappointed. That is the true beauty of a city wide music festival. Discovering and supporting your new favorite band. It’s a saving grace for the music community and punk rock scene that LAM continue to dedicate themselves to our local festival scene.
Explosive best describes this festival showcase and they are truly an act not to be missed, leaving an imprint on your eyes, ears and brain. I’d say they’re a hard act to follow and impossible to forget. Like a Motorcycle ride hard and fast without a helmet. Buckle up.
Festivals like CMW are all about going with the flow and seeing where it takes you. Sometimes you get out to support your friends and other times you discover new music either by accident or on purpose. Sometimes it buzzes and other times it flops. You run into old friends, make new pals and spot that musician you met on tour that one time. Sometimes your band gets signed (does this actually ever happen?) but most times they don’t, and that’s OK, because it’s 4am last call, so you support your local music city and watch the sun rise. And props to all sound people involved for the quick turn-overs in between acts, and to the volunteers, organizers, bar staff, artists and fans of this diverse annual music festival, that is so much better in May than it was in the shitty month of March.