By Aaron Epp
Deep down in your heart, you know it’s true, Toronto: All the best Canadian bands not from your city are from Winnipeg. From highly-respected, established acts like The Weakerthans, Propagandhi and Comeback Kid, to newer bands like Imaginary Cities and Royal Canoe, Winnipeg has more great bands than Rob Ford has flaws. (Rob Ford has a lot of flaws, right? That’s what I’ve heard anyway. I’m just trying to endear myself to you, Toronto readers!)
Fifteen musical acts from Manitoba are scheduled to perform at NXNE this week. In no particular order, here’s a list of five you definitely need to check out.
Rancho Relaxo – Friday, June 15. 9 p.m.
What started off as a shoegaze project has morphed into a great rock band that draws influences from the likes of classic ‘90s bands such as Pavement and the Pixies. Any band that has the blessing of both Bry Webb and Greg MacPherson has to be doing something right. This summer, the five-piece will release a full-length on MacPherson’s label, Disintegration Records. Rumored to be titled Rivers & Rust, the disc was recorded with Cam Loeppky (The Weakerthans) and features contributions by members of Cannon Bros. and Imaginary Cities, two of the most acclaimed bands to come out of Winnipeg in the past two years.
The Crawford – Wednesday, June 13. 10 p.m.
“If it’s authentic and it’s good, people will listen to it and enjoy it,” one of the members of The Lytics once told me. Imagine if Shad had four cousins from Winnipeg and you’ll have an idea of what the group is like – positive hip-hop that appeals to pretty much everyone. Made up of brothers Anthony, Andrew and Alex Sannie, their adopted brother Mungala Londe and DJ Lonnie Ce, the Lytics took Winnipeg by storm in 2008 with the release of their debut EP. Known for their addictive melodies and fun live shows, they recently finished recording their first full-length, a release Winnipeg music fans have been anticipating for at least two years. The Lytics are authentic and good. You’ll enjoy it.
The Vibrating Beds
The Rochester – Friday, June 15. 10 p.m.
The name Transistor 66 Records is synonymous with quality, and everything the Winnipeg-based label releases (Scott Nolan, Hot Live Guys) is worth checking out. The Vibrating Beds are one of the newer bands on the label’s roster and they’ve released two 7-inches so far, including this year’s Sing the Blues. Featuring the powerful, soulful vocals of singer-guitarist Jenna Dangerous and the tight rhythm section of bassist Leif Gobeil and drummer Ryan Filteau, The Vibrating Beds play scrappy garage rock that really wails. Inspired by the Sonics, the Stooges, New York Dolls, “Freddie Mercury’s sequined cape and Lemmy’s facial warts,” The Vibrating Beds are the perfect band to listen to while you’re two-fisting beers at the bar.
The Rochester – Saturday, June 16. 8 p.m.
This Hisses drummer JP Perron (ex-Mahogany Frog) attacks his kit like he’s the spawn of Keith Moon and Animal from the Muppets. An entertaining timekeeper isn’t enough to make a band great though, and luckily Perron and his bandmates – lead singer-bassist Julia Ryckman (Slattern, The Gorgon) and guitarist Pat Short (Electric Candles, Under Pressure) – have solid material. With a modus operandi of writing dramatic songs that are heavy and loud without being abrasive, this two-and-a-half-year-old band’s sound is best described by the title of its debut album: Surf Noir. Come for the drummer, stay for the awesome songs and captivating frontwoman.
C’est What – Saturday, June 16. 9 p.m.
JP Hoe has played in Toronto on a number of occasions, but what makes this performance different is that it comes in support of his most fully-realized album yet, Mannequin. Released last month, Hoe recorded Mannequin with John Paul Peters, who is pretty much Winnipeg’s Rick Rubin. Hoe has always crafted great pop songs, but Mannequin – the follow-up to a studio disc, an EP and a live recording – is his first great album. With songs that straddle the line between pop and alt-country, Hoe’s sound is reminiscent of Ryan Adams. Don’t miss it.
Aaron Epp is a writer and editor in Winnipeg who has been covering the city’s music scene for six years. Follow him on Twitter at @aaronepp.