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Canadian Music Week: A Broken and Incomplete Guide
Natalie Zina Walschots: "Last calls will be later. Curbs will be puked on. Wristbands will be lost”

 

While everyone in the entire universe is at SXSW but me, I decided to comfort myself by examining the lineup for Canadian Music Week, which will be taking place in Toronto from March 19th to the 24th.  While it’s no South-by, CMW has expanded greatly in the last few years, having grown to include a comedy festival and film fest, industry awards like the Radio Music Awards and the Indies, and a hue conference component. However, despite all this expansion, from different mediums to interactive media panels, the core of CMW is still the music festival. Canadian Music Fest now encompasses 60 venues and sees over 1000 artists and bands, some local but many imports, descend on the city and cause a week of noisy chaos. Last calls will be later. Curbs will be puked on. Wristbands will be lost.

My usual plan for CMW is almost always the same: on any given night I’ll either seek out the smallest, dankest metal showcase and soak up the cacophony, or hide in my basement apartment with a bottle of wine nursing a headache. This year, however, the lineup has more richness and depth than ever before, which means that I’m stocking up on Five Hour Energy and planning to actually attend as much as I can for the full five days. To share my pain with you, I’ve also assembled a guide.

For each of the five days of the festival, I’ve chosen two events that I recommend, one big ticket item as well as a smaller, more low-key showcase that might just be a gem. I’ve also added, where available, ticket availability (including your likelihood of being able to actually get into the show). Here and there, I have added some after-hours choices for everyone truly committed to utterly destroying their circadian rhythm. My recommendations are likely to be skewed towards the loud and the strange, so be forewarned.

Rihanna

Tuesday, March 19th

The Event: Rihanna w/ A$AP Rocky

Presented By: Live Nation

The Venue: The Air Canada Centre

Lineup: A$AP Rocky/ Rihanna

Ticket Availability: Tickets still available, VIP wristbands accepted

While the vibe is CMW is mostly centred around smaller, downtown venues and intimate shows, this year even the Air Canada Centre in getting involved. The only huge-scale arena show of CMW is taking place on opening night, when many of the venues haven’t yet started their programming. If you’re feeling like the week needs to be kicked off with a go-big-or-go-home show, this is the one.

The Event: Nu Music Night

Presented By: Collective Concerts

The Venue: The Horseshoe Tavern

Lineup: The Nature Boys/ Silver Creek/ Inlet Sound/ Artful Vandelays/ The Bloody Five

Ticket Availability: All wristbands accepted

This show offers a sampling from a broad palate of indie rock styles, from the folk-oriented winsomeness of Inlet Sound to the more aggressive and raucous rock and roll of The Bloody Five.

Rococode

Wednesday, March 20th

The Event: Soilwork

Presented by: Inertia Entertainment

The Venue: The Opera House

Lineup: Jeff Loomis/ Blackguard/ Bonded by Blood/ Hatchet/ Soilwork

Ticket Availability: Tickets available, Limited wristbands accepted

Swedish melodic death metallers Soilwork headline this show, with Nevermore’s lead guitarist Jeff Loomis on a rare solo tour providing direct support. Thrash metal acts Bonded by Blood and Hatchet, along with Canadian “epic metal” warriors Blackguard will get the party started.

The Event: Crunchy Frog Showcase

Presented by: Crunchy Frog Records

The Venue: The Garrison

Lineup: Foam Lake/ Thee Attacks/ Shiny Darkly/ Apparat Organ Quartet/ Rococode

Ticket Availability: All wristbands accepted

Anything called the Crunchy Frog Showcase has to be worth at least some of your time. Plus, the lineup is pretty rad, considering is features Rococode’s squirrely indie exuberance, Shiny Darkly’s gloomy luminosity and Foam Lake’s effervescent, hopeful brand of rock.

Heart

Thursday, March 21st

By far the most challenging night of CMW to figure out where to go and what to do, with the most fractures lineups, I say we all just throw in the towel and go see Heart at Massey Hall.

Diamond Rings

Friday, March 22nd 

The Event: The SiriusXM Indies

Presented by: SiriusXM Radio

The Venue: Kool Haus

Lineup: Cadence Weapon/ 360/ Canailles/ The Wooden Sky/ Cold Specks/ Yukon Blonde/ Diamond Rings/Matt Mays/ Metric

Ticket Availability: Tickets Available/ all wristbands accepted

While there is no way this show is not going to be a zoo, the stacked lineup may mean that fighting through the crowds is worthwhile. Even if headliners Metric aren’t your thing, the soul-rending voice of dark Western singer Cold Specks and the impeccable songwriting of The Wooden Sky make this show worth it.

The Event: Iceland Airwaves Showcase

The Venue: Drake Underground

Lineup: Endless Dark/ Aesgir Trausti/ Soley/ Apparat Organ Quartet

Ticket Availability: Tickets available/ all wristbands accepted

From sparking tones crisp as the steam from a thermal vent catching the light, to dark and spiky as the dimmu borgir, the sounds in this showcase are varied but all magical. A highlight is sure to be the set by 20-year-old folk and electronic artist Aesgir Trausti.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Saturday, March 23rd

If you can, go see Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, with Sharon Van Etten at Massey Hall. While a limited number of VIP wristbands will be let in, getting into this show is going to be mighty tricky if you weren’t one of the lucky few to snag seats in the opening moments of ticket sales. Here are a couple of options for anyone not quick enough on the draw.

The Event: Long Winter, Volume 5

Presented by: Fucked Up

The Venue: The Great Hall

Lineup: The Skeletones Four/ Burning Love/ Petra Glynt/ Emma McKenna/ Andre Ethier/ Kool Thing/ Elsa/ Solo Piano by Tim McCready/ Special Guests

Ticket Availability: Limited wristbands accepted

Organized by the members of Fucked Up, the most cheerfully ferocious aggressive band Toronto has to offer, the Long Winter series has been a smashingly successful suite of events running throughout the colder months. This instalment features an eclectic musical lineup (including hardcore noise-mongers Burning Love) as well DJs, films, art installations, and even video games. Plus, 4am last call.

The Event: Austra

Presented by: Dambuie

The Venue: The Danforth Music Hall

Lineup: Lowell/ Blood Ceremony/ Austra

Ticket Availability: Tickets available/ Limited wristbands accepted

As exciting as the seething, spooky electronica of Austra are, not to mention radical and experimental indie artist Lowell, I suspect it is going to be metallic occult rock warlocks Blood Ceremony who steal this show.

Untimely Demise

Sunday, March 24th (Hangover Edition)

The Event: CMW Closing Party & Metal Showcase

Presented by: Blacktooth Entertainment/ The Heavy Metal Music Association of Canada/

The Venue: The Bovine Sex Club

Lineup: Razorwire/ Untimely Demise/ Mastery/ Douglas Carter/ Sean Roman/ Faryl/ Fathom/ On Vacay

Ticket Availability: All wristbands accepted

At the very end of the week, when most people have called it quits due to the sheer pain of ear fatigue, why not abuse yourself further? After Razorwire, Untimely Demise and Mastery inflict three blazing sets of thrash and death metal on your ear drums, then the official CMW after party will carry you over the edge into sheer exhaustion into the week hours of Monday morning.

____

Natalie Zina Walschots is a poet and music writer based in Toronto, Ontario. Her second book of poetry, DOOM: Love Poems for Supervillains, was published by Insomniac Press this spring. You can follow her on Twitter at @NatalieZed.

For more, follow us on Twitter at @torontostandard, and subscribe to our newsletter.

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