Tag Archives: CMW

CMW reviews: Television @ Phoenix Concert Theatre – May 10, 2014

Television's Tom Verlaine at Phoenix Concert Theatre on May 10 for Canadian Music Week. Photo: Tom Beedham

Television’s Tom Verlaine at Phoenix Concert Theatre on May 10 for Canadian Music Week. Photo: Tom Beedham

By Tom Beedham

Granting a performance attracting a crowd perhaps a little too ready to strike it from its bucket list, Television rolled into town on Saturday to give a concert I hope I’ll never forget. Minus the hecklers, that is.

It only took one song (an 11-minute-long “1880 Or So,” sure) before one of those particularly entitled folks yelled for “Marquee Moon.” With $30 t-shirts bearing the title track’s album art on sale at the back of the venue, these guys set the bar kind of low, didn’t they?

What we got was so much more.

While mostly unembellished cuts from that album did account for the bulk of their set (they played all of them but “Friction” and “Torn Curtain”), Television’s CMW appearance was far from a night devoted to producing an uncanny valley. Beginning with the swirling two minutes of cosmic arpeggios and china dings they tacked onto the beginning of set opener “1880 Or So,” Television established from the get-go that this would be a night spent balancing preservation of their fan-favoured debut against less complimentary experimentation. There was their 1975 anti-single “Little Johnny Jewel,” an 18-minute rendition of that burning middle-eastern folk epic “Persia” they’ve been shopping around at recent gigs, and – although Verlaine insisted that he and the rest of the band “don’t really know it” – Television even played a six-minute version of “I’m Gonna Find You,” a commercially unavailable song from the band’s days with Richard Hell.

Fans also got some insight into the group’s influences. Verlaine dedicated Marquee Moon to “our favourite singer in the world,” Wong Fei (or “Faye Wong,” as he accurately allowed she’s “probably” recognized by here), and when the band returned to the stage after closing their set proper with “Marquee Moon,” they dug into a cover of ’60s garage act the Count Five’s “Psychotic Reaction.”

This concert was as nostalgic as it was incendiary. But it was also sobering.

As much as the band’s tight, characteristically interlocking jams (as well as the buzz about a new album) impart hope for a long future, I can’t get one particular moment out of my head: in the middle of a short but particularly twinkling ambient track the band transitioned into a close with right when “Psychotic Reaction” usually gets to be its noisiest, Tom Verlaine started shaking and massaging his left hand.

Television is back. But how long?

“1880 or So”
“Prove It”
“Little Johnny Jewel”
“See No Evil”
“I’m Gonna Find You”
“Guiding Light”
“Marquee Moon”

“Psychotic Reaction” (Count Five)
Unknown (new?) track


CMW reviews: The first night of DIANA’s “DIG DEEP/GET HIGH” was the Anti-CMW – DIANA with Jennifer Castle, ASMR Buds, and Matthew “Doc” Dunn @ Drake Underground – May 8, 2014

A “band” spent an entire set making tea onstage and I assure you it was awesome
By Tom Beedham
DIANA performing improvised interpretations of their 'Perpetual Surrender' LP at the Drake Underground for the first of their curated performances for CMW, "DIG DEEP." Photo: Tom Beedham
Canadian Music Week is a large-scale, heavily sponsored music industry event that could best be summed up by a philosophy toward reliable metrics – think “much dollars, very hashtag.” So it goes without saying that more than a few were surprised by the news that, this year, the Toronto-based festival was allowing not one, but two nights of programming curated around community representation and distinct artistic visions from local buzz band DIANA: “DIG DEEP/GET HIGH.”

The first of those events – DIG DEEP – took place last night at the Drake Underground. Promised as an evening that would mine the benefits of “solitude/looking inward,” it was host to performances that were entirely antithetical to the trending topic CMW strives to be: hard left turn improv renderings of pop songs, a minimalist ASMR-catered iced tea instructional, raga drones, and stream of consciousness folk songs. That the first two of the four avant-creative performances given here were categorized as “rock” on CMW’s website is all the more telling of the festival’s conservative values and an operating vocabulary entirely lacking compatibility with what was going on here.

Audiences only had to look to the start of the night for reification of the latter. Before kicking off the show with a short but spiritually arresting 25-minute set, Matthew “Doc” Dunn had to entertain a festival stage manager following him around like a lost puppy, repeatedly asking if he was going to start playing as people were still filtering in.

CMW events are often toted for their ability to launch artists’ careers, but in reality, wristband holders are encouraged to embrace the festival’s gamification and venue hop to skip out on opening bands they’ve never heard of so they can (maybe) catch another band they #love halfway across the city. To wit, the liberty to jump from a performance at one venue to another elsewhere is a big appeal to obtaining a festival wristband. In these cases it can be endlessly irksome to arrive at a venue only to wait for band x to come onstage, especially if you left another performance early to do so. Stage managers that keep bands on time are essential to preventing this from happening. But it’s also expected that opening bands will delay their start time to allow greater audiences a chance to catch their sets, and waiting between bands is a reality of concert attendance. At a festival like CMW, where all performances are given equal hour-long blocks in which to do their thing, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the next scheduled performance, there’s little harm done (even less so at a presentation like DIG DEEP, where the acts performing are all peers – in some cases appearing onstage together that night – that are sympathetic to each others’ needs).

In effect, the rushed production felt from CMW just translated to a failure on the festival’s part to register the immersive community experience the event aspired to be.

Some time after Dunn had finished delivering his audience to another plane of being with his juxtaposition of raga-affected slide guitars and bendy bleeps and bloops, ASMR Buds took the stage. Consisting of Bernice members Robin Dann, Felicity Williams, and Colin Fisher (also of Caribou and Not the Wind, Not the Flag) as well as Matthew Pencer (LOOM), ASMR Buds provided what was probably the most peculiarly adventurous set delivered under the CMW banner this year. In a performance that spoke to the experience of the autonomous sensory meridian response phenomenon from which the group borrowed its name (read about it), the “band” brought the room to a murmuring silence as it asked the audience to consider the relieving powers some of the lifeworld’s most subtle stimuli possess.

Bracketing a whispered performance that saw them document the making, herbal effects, and consumption of different iced teas, all the while tapping the process with some sensitive mics, Dann and Williams sat seated on a pillow before an assortment of tea candles. On either side of them, Fisher elicited hushed tones and peculiar textures from the electric guitar and arsenal of effect pedals he brought in tow while Pencer played with the vocals and layered the sounds on a laptop, turning it all into a live stereo collage.

Then it was time for DIANA to take its own turn at helming this big, weird, droney beast it spirited into fruition. They kept Dann, Fisher, and Williams all on stage, also cramming sound processor Dafydd Hughes into the space for a set that promised to be their “most opiated performance ever” and aimed “to melt you into yr seats.” They dug into (see what I did there?) extended studies of Perpetual Surrender’s title track, “Curtains,” “New House,” and a loose cover of Brian Eno’s “Here Come the Warm Jets” that bled into a reworking of “Born Again,” but the crowd that crushed towards the stage to get a close look at their performance dissipated significantly as the set went on. You can guess why. Folks directed here from the festival schedule expected the tropical pop grooves DIANA committed to wax. What they got was (relatively) indulgent experimentation and exploration.

Then broody folk songwriter Jennifer Castle took the stage to follow them. Singing and playing her electric guitar with closed eyes from her seated position on the stage floor, she had been playing to a room about as populated as (but a little less shy than) the one that came out early for Doc Dunn. But then she was told she only had one song left.

What followed was an exchange that emphasized the commitment to art that had been under the dim blue spotlights all night.

“Really? It’s like one in the morning oh my god,” Castle said. (To the stage manager and CMW’s credit, it was actually just before midnight, when a separate CMW event was about to begin in the same space. They probably needed the time to clear people out so they could charge a second cover, which isn’t ethically questionable at all.)

“I, for the record, never, ever, need anybody to tell me it’s the last song,” said Castle (her emphasis). “People are always like, ‘Why the fuck do you play for five minutes? You suuuuck.’”

As much as Castle was speaking to her own situation, her response also conveyed the complicated relationship felt between festivals like CMW and the tightknit communities they interrupt. It was a terrific night of challenging performances, but it also came packaged with the trappings of a machine that refused compatibility.

DIANA returns to the Drake Underground tonight with the second part of its CMW showcase, “GET HIGH”: a night of dance music promising to mine the benefits of extroversion and giving outward. Joined by performances from House of Monroe, Ice Cream, and Pacific High DJs, DIANA will play house interpretations of songs from Perpetual Surrender.

CMW reviews: Brody Dalle @ the Horseshoe Tavern – May 7, 2014

Brody Dalle performing at The Horseshoe Tavern on May 7, 2014 for Canadian Music Week. Photo: Tom Beedham

Brody Dalle performing at The Horseshoe Tavern on May 7, 2014 for Canadian Music Week. Photo: Tom Beedham

It’s always been The Brody Dalle Show
By Tom Beedham

“Another year has passed and I’m alright/ I lick the salt from my wounds and run into the night.” As they appeared on their 2002 album Sing Sing Death House, these were the words that opened the Distillers’ “I Am A Revenant.” But when the Los Angeles punk band performed that song at the gigs leading up to its dissolution in 2006, its message never could have carried the import it has resonated with at the performances lead singer Brody Dalle has given in support of her April 28 solo album, Diploid Love.

For sure, Dalle has long played the title part of that 2002 song. In 2004, the same year in which the Distillers’ Coral Fang exploded and the band embarked on a two-year tour, Dalle was dealing with the fallout of her divorce from Rancid frontman Tim Armstrong. All throughout, Dalle was addicted to crystal meth – something she wouldn’t kick until learning she was pregnant with the first of two children with now-husband Josh Homme. Then Dalle started, fronted, and released an album through new band Spinnerette. But that group never really found the traction it needed.

Still, Dalle marches on, and now the defiant zeal of “I Am A Revenant” has entirely new connotations.

With a voice famous for a rasp that seems as though cultivated on a steady intake of cigarettes and liquor, you’d expect it to have degraded over time, but that was far from the case. Swaying and spitting across the stage, Dalle was at the top of her form.

Her newest album labeled a solo undertaking, it’s encouraging to see that Dalle is now comfortable performing without the posturing of a more democratic body. The truth is, it’s always been The Brody Dalle Show.

Everybody at her Canadian Music Week gig at Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern embraced that as they packed into the sold out performance.

Dalle seemed to acknowledge it, too.

Backed by a touring band including Spinnerette and Coral Fang-era Distillers guitarist Tony Bevoilacqua, Geddy Lee-endorsed bassist Cosmo Sylvan, and Diploid Love drummer Hayden Scott, after just two songs from her new album, Dalle & co. dove unannounced into a three-song block of Distillers tunes (“I Am A Revenant,” “Die on a Rope,” and “Dismantle Me”) and carried on with an hour-long set that balanced Distillers songs equally against new material mixed with Spinnerette’s “Ghetto Love” (dedicated to Rob Ford) and a Misfits cover (“Hybrid Moments”) for good measure.

“Rat Race”
“Don’t Mess with Me”
“I Am a Revanant” (The Distillers)
“Die on a Rope” (The Distillers)
“Dismantle Me” (The Distillers)
“Meet the Foetus/Oh the Joy”
“Sick of it All” (The Distillers)
“Sing Sing Death House” (The Distillers)
“Ghetto Love” (Spinnerette)
“Hybrid Moments” (Misfits)
“Parties For Prostitutes”
“Coral Fang” (The Distillers)
“Blackest Years” (The Distillers)