Sunday, July 29, 2007

March 2006 - Canadian Music Week (part 1 of 2)

© March 2006 - Canadian Music Week Festival (part 1 of 2) By Bryen Dunn, Toronto -

Canadian Music Week blew through town once again last weekend, and just like a hurricane it wreaked some havoc. There was the usual confusion, cancellations and disappointment amongst the highlights of the Festival. I’m not going to give you the typical band reviews, but more a CMW critique.

The “week” began on Wednesday with “The Indie Awards” which could be an excellent venue for promoting “indie” bands, but it’s more a who’s hot right now sort of event. This year they even honoured a couple of old school Canuck bands, Parachute Club and Pursuit of Happiness, into the “Indie Hall of Fame”.

Back in the 80’s the sound was known as “alternative” until mainstream took over that word. Now it appears “indie” is about to be morphed into the corporate world of music as well. What next? “Underground” seems to be still valid as an all encompassing homage to the undiscovered talents out there.

There were performances by The Stars and Magnet that were not really much to drool over. Overall winners sounded like a top 40 play list with Arcade Fire, Bedouin Sound Clash, Broken Social Scene, Metric, DFA1979 and even Sum 41. If this is “indie” then I would say suggest all bands out there sign up to a (major) label quick if you want to be recognized.

Seriously though, something a bit more “underground” is The Galaxie Rising Stars Award of the CBC, which helps new artists promote their name in the Canadian music industry. This year the Award was determined by Critics' Choice where music journalists across Canada voted to determine the winner.

The shortlist for the 2006 Galaxie Rising Stars Award of the CBC was as follows, with Elliott Brood being chosen the overall winner with most votes.All Purpose Voltage Heroes "Already Haunted" (Rectangle) Black Mountain "Black Mountain" (Jagjaguwar/Scratch) Elliott Brood "Ambassador" (Six Shooter) Comeback Kid "Wake The Dead" (Smallman) The Diableros "You Can't Break The Strings In Our Olympic Hearts" (Independent) Final Fantasy "Has A Good Home" (Blocks) Holy Fuck "Holy Fuck" (Dependent) Jon-Rae and The River "New Songs For The Old Town" (Permafrost) Republic of Safety "Passport" (Independent)

So the “week” continues the following evening, which is the first night you can use your wristband for anyone who actually purchased one of these. At $35 a pop, it’s hard to get full value over the three nights (Thursday to Saturday) of the “week”. Don’t forget to add on cab fares if you actually want to catch bands in various venues, but if you stuck to one venue for the night at $8, you’d be paying $24 for all 3 nights – a savings of $11 right off the top.

But the purpose of CMW is to bop around club hopping, perhaps getting somewhere to encounter a line up, or they are at “wristband capacity”, then it’s another decision to be made.So in order to see the bands you want you have to be pretty slick and on the ball.

The CMW website isn’t any help as it seems the format hasn’t been updated in years, and navigating around is very cumbersome.

As for the tradeshows, these are actually quite valuable to those in the industry. It’s great for networking and learning tricks of the trade for new musicians. There are tons of seminars with guest speakers, not all of which are sales pitches.

These are industry-only events so no need to flash your wristband here.I didn’t actually notice many line ups this year, except for the show piece event on Saturday at Lee’s, with current darlings Mstrkrft. These cover boys (on NOW Magazine) packed the place and evidently this was a known fact long before the Saturday performance as NOW had the show listed as “sold out”. Another loss for those with wristbands, but they are pretty though and likely reusable for something.

Then over at Social and Spin Gallery, the owners decided to cancel the showcase that evening due to poor turnout the previous nights. The owners didn’t feel like taking a loss when they could generate more revenue from their regular Saturday night DJ crowd. How could CMW let this happen? Are there not any contracts in place with venues? Will Social be allowed as a participating venue next year? So the cancellation sucks, not only for people heading there to catch some bands of interest, but also to the bands that came in specifically to play CMW.

Luckily some quick thinking and the show went on as a “house party” just up the street. Now that’s the “indie” spirit of a true music festival.

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