The next two weekends are pretty big for live music fans in Ontario. Tomorrow marks the start of Canadian Music Week, five days full of live music in venues (both common and not-so-common) across downtown Toronto. And of course, next weekend is JUNOfest in Ottawa, where artists from across the country meet up with some of our favourite hometown heroes to put on some incredible shows on March 30th and 31st. But more on JUNOfest and its must-see acts next week — right now, it’s time to wrap your head around the sheer madness that is the CMW schedule.
If you’re like me, you’re probably wanting to pack in every possible show you can see from tomorrow (Wednesday the 21st) through to Sunday (the 25th). And if you’re like me, you want to get strategic about it. Try to predict in advance which shows will be closer to or further from capacity. Maybe support some of the smaller bands who rarely tour and catch some of the bigger acts another time, as you know they’ll be swinging through town again soon (or heck, maybe you’ve even seen ’em already in the last few months). Perhaps you’d even like to plan your nights (and days – so many daytime showcases!) around certain neighbourhoods, sticking to venues that are within blocks of each other. No matter how you hope to tackle these next few jam-packed nights, we’ve got your back.
So over the next few days, you’ll be treated to a day-by-day breakdown of some suggested “show routes,” grouped by location. Each of these artists are Now Playing Radio-approved, which means they’ve been featured on the show, and/or they’ve put on an excellent live show previously, and/or they’ve put out such great music recently that you just have to give ’em a shot. To see where each venue is precisely located, head over to the CMW website for a great map. They’ve also got their entire schedule posted online for your perusing/pleasure.
(A note: these listings were pulled together with fellow die-hard, TTC-pass-holding wristbanders in mind. Most of these “routes” feature venues that are within walking distance from each other, but if you’re hoping to jump between many shows throughout the week, you might want to pick up a TTC weekly pass, as I just did the other day. I think it’ll be worth it. Same thing with the wristband — I didn’t add individual ticket prices below, as they often vary — but it’s only $75 for access to just about every show for the entire festival. More details on the CMW site and more info on individual ticket prices can be found on the official schedule.)
To kick things off, we’ll start at the very beginning. Here are some Now Playing Radio-approved recommendations for WEDNESDAY, MARCH 21ST:
Route 1: Retro rock on the Ossington strip
Start out with PAINT, 8pm, Painted Lady (218 Ossington at Dundas). Honest, easy TO-based rock that’ll remind you of listening to the radio in the early naughts — and hey, they’ll be on the April 4th episode of Now Playing. Listen to “End of the Reel.”
From there, walk south or jump on the 63 Ossington bus to see MICHAEL RAULT, 9:30pm, Great Hall Basement (1087 Queen West, a little bit west of Ossington). Upbeat, retro jukebox jams from a young Edmontonian. Listen to “Lay Right Down and Die” below:
Next, pop back up to Dundas and Ossington to see THE BRITISH COLUMBIANS, 10:30pm, The Garrison (1197 Dundas West, just west of Ossington). Slightly gritter blues-rock from Vancouver, even reminiscent of the Black Keys at times. Listen to “Gasoline Handshake.”
And you can stick around at The Garrison to catch AMOS THE TRANSPARENT at 11:15pm. Folk-soaked alt-rock wrapped in layers of lap steep, violin and banjo. We love this Ottawa group so much, they’re our SONG OF THE WEEK this week. Listen to “Sure As The Weather.”
Route 2: Grooves on Bloor
Kick off your night with sweet beats from Ottawa’s ZOO LEGACY, 9pm, The Piston (937 Bloor St. West, just west of Ossington). A genre-bending mix of hip hop and R&B so enthralling that even those who normally wouldn’t give it a try will want to give them a listen. Listen to “How Much Love.”
Stick around at The Piston to catch smooth tunes from SOUND OF LIONS, 10pm. Killer lady-fronted trip-hop with full band and fierce beats from the nation’s capital. Great friends of the show who performed a terrific in-studio acoustic set for us back in December (which has yet to be uploaded — travesty, and totally my fault). Listen to”Enders.”
Zip down to Queen on that trusty 63 Ossington bus to see YOUNG EMPIRES, 11:30pm, Great Hall Basement (1087 Queen West, a little bit west of Ossington). Synth- and guitar-driven dance beats are what these Torontonians do best — they’ve even been selected to play the Indies on Saturday night, but why pass up a chance to see ’em in a more intimate space? Listen to “White Doves.”
Head back north to Bloor and return to The Piston for DREAM JEFFERSON, 1am. These Ottawa ex-pats — now based in Toronto — take the best parts of electro-pop and hip hop, smack it with rap, and come out with a unique indie creation that’s energetic and accessible. They’ve visited Now Playing at the CHUO studios previously, and have just about turned me into a rap fan, which I never thought possible. Listen to “Westminster Abbey” below:
Route 3: Indie off Spadina
Start things off with LOOM, 8pm, Cameron House Backroom (408 Queen West, just west of Spadina). The Toronto-based songstress crafts hypnotizing tracks that pull you in with delicate strums and keep you gripped with a wall of heavy guitar, all matched with an ethereal voice throughout. Listen to “Around Again.”
From there, take your time sauntering or streetcarring over to see MICHAEL BERNARD FITZGERALD, 10pm, Gladstone Hotel North Ballroom (1214 Queen West, at Gladstone). The guitar-toting Calgarian’s upbeat soul-folk sound will definitely keep your head bopping and toes tapping. Listen to “Brand New Spaces.”
Work your way back toward Spadina to see WILL CURRIE AND THE COUNTRY FRENCH, 11pm, The Rivoli (334 Queen West, just east of Spadina). These Waterloo folk-rockers make piano-driven music even your parents will love — but with their added brass section and Canadiana lyrics, you’ll be falling in love with them soon yourself. These guys appeared on the show a couple of months ago, before a terrific set at the Horseshoe. Listen to “Railroad.”
And hang back at the Rivoli for KALLE MATTSON, 12am. The Ottawa group has been enjoying an immense amount of buzz following their hookup with Winnipeg label Parliament of Trees and a music video that went viral, and now they’re just about to release a new EP and head out to tour the Maritimes. Their folk-rock sound has been likened to Wilco and definitely roped me in well over a year ago when they visited the CHUO studios for a live session at the end of 2010. They’re continuing to explore their sound as they’ve mixed in more horns and even sometimes taken a lo-fi approach in some of their new work — definitely a set not to be missed. Listen to Thick as Thieves (the music video that went viral!) below:
Other shows that we fully recommend:
JORDAN KLASSEN, 9pm, The Dakota Tavern (218 Ossington, at Dundas)
LOUISE BURNS, 10pm, Drake Underground (1150 Queen West, at Beaconsfield)
LAURENT BOURQUE, 11pm, The Central (603 Markham, near Bloor and Bathurst)
SAMANTHA SAVAGE SMITH, 11pm, Hard Luck (812 Dundas St. West, near Bathurst)
And don’t forget — many of the above artists are playing more shows later on, too, so don’t fret! You can also search artists individually here on the CMW site to see when they’ll play next. Check back tomorrow when we’ll have your guide to THURSDAY night shows (and daytime sessions!).