Monday, March 16, 2009

Canadian Music Week

Editor's Note: Guest blogger and indie-rock savant Matt Brown occasionally checks in with his rare take on The Guyland Adventures in the world of music and debauchery. He's here to weigh in on this past weekend in Toronto, as the A&C Crew took in all that Canadian Music Week had to offer. And for the record, the Thursday night, 4:00 am Lincoln encounter could very well have been an entire blog entry of it's own. That is one of the greatest lines I have ever heard.

If you're a fan of beer and music in Toronto then there are two weeks on your calendar that are consistently more debaucherous than the rest: Canadian Music Week and North by Northeast.

This last week was the former. Here's how it played out for me:

Warning: This summary contains extreme biases and blatant propaganda


Things started with Zeus (a band recently signed to the label I work for) opening up for Sloan at the Mod Club. This was a match made in heaven as Zeus are also a Beatles-influenced band that uses a lot of harmonies. The crowd was large and attentive and the band was in fine form. A solid start. Next my co-workers and I rushed over to The Music Gallery to see Charles Spearin presenting his album The Happiness Project. For those of you not familiar with it, Charles' latest project involved him recording conversations about happiness with his neighbours and then building songs around what they said. It is a really unique and artistic project and it makes for an interesting listen on record, but it is truly something to behold live and The Music Gallery was the ideal venue.


It was not a good sign that I was already exhausted on Thursday morning (owing in no small part to trivia night at Fionn Maccool's on Tuesday). Having to write a midterm between the end of work and the beginning of the CMW festivities didn't help, but being a veteran of this week I knew that these minor glitches would not be cause enough for me to bow out. So I soldiered on and made my way down to The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern to take in a magnificent performance by Arts and Crafts' own Gentleman Reg. It seemed like a good way to cap a night where we successfully defended our title as Independent Record Label of the Year.

From there I made a quick run up to Supermarket to indulge my curiousity about a singer-songwriter from BC named Dan Mangan. He did not disappoint and I will bestow upon him the award for Best New Discovery of CMW 2009. Next I headed back down to Queen Street to catch Inward Eye at the Rivoli. It was here that I made a critical switch from beer to white lightning. This is a tricky maneouver and should not be attempted by amateurs, but when done properly it can lead to a cleaner, less bloated hangover- important on a weekday. The boys in Inward Eye were signed to Sony BMG as teenagers a few years ago (when it was still Sony BMG) and they've been waiting patiently for the label to put out their record. They are amazing performers with some great tunes, but it seemed to me that the waiting game had (unsurprisingly) not helped their creative process. Here's hoping the wheels grind back into motion and the band gets a chance to properly mine their talents soon.

It was at this point that my boss recalled that he had a new Drake Hotel credit card with a $1500 credit on it and the Drake had extended bar hours. So naturally we were headed west to put the fresh plastic to good use. I'm a little hazy on the details of what happened at the Drake. I do remember that there was a rotating cast of characters, multiple transitions from the main level to the basement and back again, and a slow procession of people quietly going MIA. We would later discover that a co-worker who shall remain nameless passed out on another co-worker's floor (the victim of an electrical storm) having failed to call his girlfriend and tell her that he wasn't coming home. They say you win some and you lose some. I'm calling this one a no decision.

My night ended as I hopped out of a cab on Roncesvalles Ave. A black man in a Lincoln who looked like he could play linebacker for the Argos pulled up as I was waiting to cross the street and engaged me in a conversation that went like this:

Man: Hey, do you know a good place to get a drink at this hour?
Me: The Drake is open till 4
Man: That means it closes in 4 minutes. There aren't any good after hours clubs?
Me: Hmm... Since the Matador closed I really don't know of any. Sorry.
Man: Do you know if there are any bisexual clubs?
Me: There probably are, but I don't know where. Sorry. Good luck.
Man: OK, thanks anyway.

*I cross the street*

Man (after pulling a u-turn): Just to be clear- you aren't into the bisexual thing, are you?
Me: I'm not. Sorry. Good luck man.
Man: Damn, tough to get a blowjob in this town.

Yeah, it was time to go to bed. Alone.


Friday was an exercise in perseverance. The Friday of CMW is always the most trying night. The people with a normal day job and a rational mind stay home on Thursday and many of the out-of-towners and networking industry weasels are gone by Saturday. But Friday it's all hands on deck. If you want to see well known bands you're well-advised to pick a venue, get there early, and stay put. Even though I knew this to be the best strategy I didn't get to the Horseshoe early enough and there was a long line by the time I arrived. Sometimes if you know the right people, have the right business cards, and/or are able to lie through your teeth you can still weasel your way in. But in the early part of Friday night my game was a lot like a guy who shows up 30 pounds overweight for spring training.

After getting rejected at the Horseshoe I met up with my co-worker Patrick and a couple of guys from The Waking Eyes and we went to Sneaky Dees where The Waking Eyes guys and I got denied once again. Undeterred we continued on to Rancho Relaxo to warm up, hear some tunes, plan our next move, and grab a few white lightnings. That next move, it turned out was to head to Central (a great little bar that noone seemed to know existed) and see former Waking Eye Bucky's new band The Liptonians and generally celebrate the town that the Weakerthans hate.

With the Liptonians set over and last call in our rearview mirror it was clear the only thing left to do was head... back to the Drake. In a stunning reversal of fortune from only four hours prior, we were ushered past a large lineup and escorted by the hostess downstairs through an employees only stairway to a loud party featuring remixed hip hop that was admittedly far trendier than yours truly. But, I appreciate talent as much as the next guy so we lingered just long enough to take in the view before heading upstairs for a quick drink. As we left the Drake we quickly paid a local entrepreneur $5 NOT to sell us some coke and then retreated to the Rock Castle of my friend David where we coached him through a heated text message exchange with his landlord. As the clock struck 5 I decided that going to bed when it was light out on the SECOND last night of CMW was not a wise idea and beat a hasty retreat.


The last night of CMW began at the place that feels more like home to me than any other with a set by Young Galaxy. From there it was a quick walk and a short streetcar ride to C'est What to see Fred. One problem- it turns out that there was an administrative error on the part of the person who put together my schedule for the week (that would be me) and I had missed the Fred show by about 24 hours. As Demetri Martin put it: "Timing is everything- that's a". So I quickly pounded back a hemp ale and hopped a cab to Lee's Palace.

I stood in line for a while at Lee's Palace until my boss and Jian Ghomeshi showed up and I became cool enough to skip the line and catch the last couple of songs by Elliott Brood. The 12:45 set belonged to Wayne Petti and the crew that make up Cuff the Duke. Wayne and his girlfriend Kim are two of the nicest people you will ever meet and CTD are extremely adept at bringing the country tinged rock, making this show a no brainer. The added bonus on this particular evening was that Holly Andreychuk and the Brothers Elliott (also known as 60% of The Buffalo Builders) were rounding out the evening with a 2:15 set. They deserve a lot of credit for givin 'er despite a noticeably depleted crowd and Holly managed to inspire at least one girl crush in the process.

With the live music portion of the evening now complete I stopped in for a slice of pizza before heading over to my boss' place for a nightcap. It would likely be a career limiting move to discuss much of what happened at this particular party so I will only divulge that it turns out even super cool indie rockers love their guilty pleasures from the '80's. Eventually people started to fade (or pass out on the couch of people they had just met) and so it was that the 2009 version of CMW came to a close for me some time just after 6:00 a.m.

The final (very unofficial) tally: 14 bands, 10 venues, 2 house parties, hundreds of dollars in cab fare, countless white lightning, dozens of bottles of 50, a few pints of Keiths, a couple tall cans of Moosehead, and a polish beer I'd never seen before and wouldn't be able to identify in a police lineup. And only one massive infusion of caffeine- a new CMW record in the red bull era. Good times as always, but I need a break. I'm not going to drink again till... St. Patty's day on Tuesday.... and I won't be going back to the Horseshoe anytime soon... except Julian Taylor's set on Thursday...


Sean McCallum said...

"Damn, tough to get a blowjob in this town."

Maybe the understatement of the year. But... Just to be clear: you aren't into the whole bisexual thing, are you?

That's the greatest exchange I've ever heard.

Anonymous said...

That was absolute genius. My belly laugh just echoed across the trading floor. Say it with me now, phe-nominal.

Mike said...

This post would be a good example of why I generally introduce my older brother (the author) as "Like me, but cooler." Definitely need to catch a CMW before I die.