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CMW 2016: easing into Canadian Music Week Tuesday night with Canadians, Irish and Welsh acts – 3rd May 2016

By on Monday, 16th May 2016 at 2:00 pm

Now that you’ve read my introduction to Canadian Music Week (CMW) 2016, away we go with the showcase reviews. Because that’s really what you’re here on TGTF for, am I right? Tuesday night was what I considered my easy night, as I only had a handful of bands on my schedule. As far apart as venues are as I mentioned in my intro, it’s a good idea to arrive at least a day before you jump into CMW so you can get the lay of the land, identify where on the street to wait and board a streetcar so you don’t get killed, and start recognising useful landmarks.

After pretty much inhaling an amazing vegetarian dragon bowl at Fresh on Spadina, I headed over to The Hideout on Queen Street, not far from the restaurant. The venue turned out to be one of the best places to catch rock on the harder side of the spectrum for the week. Where I could, I wanted to fit in Canadian acts within my otherwise UK and Irish act-heavy schedule, so my first band were local Torontonians Last Bullet. What I heard and saw on their YouTube prior to coming out to Canada indicated to me that these were guys that liked to rock out hard.

The fans who turned up to see them play songs like recent single ‘Sin’ were more than happy to headbang to their music. As one might expect, there’s a definite cock rock element to their music, so much that Last Bullet frontman Bryan Fontez’s insistence that one of their songs was about sex had me blushing so bad, I left for my next stop of the evening. Still, I’d say they made a lasting impression on me and they’re a perfectly reasonable alternative to AC/DC now that Axl Rose is fronting the Aussie band. Also, who knew the Canadians loved basketball so much?

Last Bullet Tuesday CMW 2016 at the Hideout

We here at TGTF enjoy the live spectacle of Meltybrains? so much, I put them at the top of this post. Well, I think I like them more musically than Carrie does, but she was certainly entertained when she interviewed them last year at SXSW 2015. We’d both seen them that time in Austin, and I think I had the better show of our two, watching the group from Dublin start a conga line at Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room Wednesday night at the Music from Ireland showcase.

Meltybrains? Tuesday CMW 2016 at the Handlebar 1

Even though they were playing several times during the week, the only time I could fit them in was on Tuesday at Handlebar, a venue with an actual bicycle hanging on the wall by the stage. As predicted, they were totally mental, bringing out the conga line again, jumping up on the bar and generally creating havoc. All in the good name of fun! Meltybrains?, never change, please.

HMS Morris CMW 2016 at the Silver Dollar Room

I popped outside and over to the Silver Dollar Room to catch an act that I’d been recommended to see. HMS Morris isn’t the name of a boat, they’re a Welsh band, and a psych rock / pop one at that. Their songs are catchy and just weird enough to feel unique but not so weird that new fans can’t catch on. I felt it was too bad that there weren’t as many people in town for CMW on Tuesday night, as I imagined a full-up venue for a band like this at SXSW. Have a taste of their performance at the BBC Introducing stage Glastonbury 2015 below.

Tigerwing Tuesday CMW 2016 at the Handlebar

I returned to Handlebar for their final act, Windsor’s Tigerwing, aka avant-garde musician Sarah Kelly. While her reliance on electronics puts her firmly and nicely in today’s popular music scene, her style is decidedly not mainstream. Spare, dark, mechanical beats bump in the background as Kelly’s strong voice – bouncing in a non-linear way, mind – soars over the music. My feeling is the purpose of the Tigerwing project is not to stun or shock, but to prove that there are other, far more interesting avenues artistically one can go down when it comes to electronic. More power to her. Imagine EMA, but in her far less poppy modes.

Stay tuned for more of my coverage of CMW 2016 coming soon to TGTF.


CMW 2016: what you need to know about Toronto’s city music festival

By on Friday, 13th May 2016 at 11:00 am

This year at Canadian Music Week (CMW) 2016, there was a special Spotlight on the UK, as well as a Focus on Ireland. So how could we here at TGTF say no? As it was the first time for TGTF to cover the event, I thought I’d start my coverage of CMW 2016 by setting the stage for you, if you will. I want to explain to you what Toronto is like and how Canadian Music Week is different from other events you may have heard about or attended yourself. That way, you’ll have a better idea about whether you’d like to attend next year.

Distance / transport
1. The venues participating in CMW are far apart. I mean, seriously, this is no joking matter. If you decide to hoof it entirely because you’re tight or you have too much confidence that you’re built like a triathlete, you’re going to get sore feet. Even with those sensible shoes we’re always telling you to wear to festivals. I should know. I wore trainers for the most of the week, and even I got tired!

CMW 2016 Google Map
venue map taken from the CMW Web site

2. Toronto has a great network of public transit, allowing you to traverse the city via subway, streetcar or bus. So why wouldn’t you want to take advantage of it and let your tootsies get some rest? Pick up some tokens from the local store, convenience store, or subway station to save some change per ride. And don’t forget to grab a transfer from within the subway station or from your friendly streetcar or bus driver so you can make a free transfer to another mode of transit within an hour of the first fare being paid. (Yes, you read that right!) If you’re really a masochist – or a tree hugger, I guess – you can also rent a bike in this cycling-friendly city.

While we’re on the subject of transport, let’s say you’re a real daredevil and have decided to drive to Toronto. Or rent a car upon arrival. My host for the week reminded me how often Toronto is used as a film set. She described a hellish incident when she got stuck in her car for hours because the city decided to shut the road she was on down for a film crew and it was a major artery into and out of town. So don’t be foolish. If you really must drive to Toronto, park your four wheels somewhere for the week and utilise mass transit. Bonus: you won’t need a designated driver! Note: TGTF urges all music event goers to drink responsibly. Everywhere! Let’s stay safe.

3. Uber may or may not work for you, so have a backup plan. Toronto does not currently participate with Lyft, one of SXSW 2016‘s sponsors, so I had dutifully downloaded the Uber app, expecting to use it in the wee hours of the morning. Stationed by the bar at the Smiling Buddha at close to 3 AM, I tried for a half-hour to hail a taxi from the app, only for it to go into a continuous loop, claiming it didn’t recognise my *Canadian* phone number. I thought I was going to beat my head into a wall. This was after Broken Hands had successfully hailed two Uber taxis and had departed long before. My host reported similar issues in the past with the app, and she’s a Toronto native.

Finally, my new friend and bartender at the club Gabe, along with Brian and Tadhg from Meltybrains?, helped me the conventional way, flagging down a passing taxi driver to get me home. I did some calculations after the fact, and I think I would have only saved at most CAN $3 using Uber. Though Toronto is by and large a safe city, I tell this story because I think I might have started crying if as a single woman, I didn’t know anyone there and had been stuck there as long as I had been.

Electronics / safety
4. Related to that and as we have suggested in past survival kit features for SXSW including Carrie’s post-SXSW 2016 article here, be sure to bring your phone charger or better yet, a spare, charged up battery pack in case you need to consult a map on your smartphone when you’re half-asleep. Bizarrely and amazingly, some of the buses and streetcars run 24 hours in Toronto, so figuring out a way back on what mass transit was still running would have been my plan C.

5. Yes, cannabis is legal in Toronto. There’s shops on Queen Street and in the Kensington Market area that brazenly advertise their wares, but I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised that they do so now that current Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called for the legalisation of its use. That said, if you’re visiting from another country and wish to partake, I’d err on the side of caution so you don’t find yourself doing something that will get you into trouble, so you find yourself on the wrong side of the law. Which is true of all things and all places, yeah?

Venues / shows / do I really need a badge or wristband?
6. Unless you’re going to the biggest shows in town during CMW – and these will be obvious because you will need separate tickets to attend in addition to your badge or wristband, and you’ll see they will sell out quickly too – chances are when you turn up at a venue, there won’t be a queue greeting you. Even though I’d been clued in on this at the start of the week, I was pleasantly surprised by this, as Toronto is *the* music city of Canada and all bands who are anybody tour there when they come to North America. So if you hate queueing at city festivals, this one’s for you.

7. You can buy tickets for some venues ahead of time. However, for many other places, there are perfectly reasonable cover fees at the door that won’t break the bank. CMW offers a good bargain per night if you have specific bands or bills you already know you want to see. In that respect, CMW is less like SXSW and more like CMJ, which takes place in New York City in October. To give you some financial context, our friend Mar on Music put on a showcase on Wednesday at The 300 Club that I will be reviewing as part of my CMW coverage, and the cover at the door was CAN$5 if you didn’t have a badge or wristband. That’s less than a drink in most pubs, isn’t it? Many others I saw, including the Handlebar where I saw Meltybrains? Tuesday night, were only charging CAN$10. So in essence, it’s a music festival that’s highly affordable, if you plan ahead.

Tuesday night Handlebar sign

While I didn’t have time to check out cover charges at all the venues, the cost to get into the UK Trade and Investment showcase Saturday night at Velvet Underground is a good contrast. The bill included The Orielles (England), The People the Poet (Wales), The Undivided (Wales) and headliners Fat White Family (England; artsy photo of them at the showcase at top) had a cover charge of CAN$20. That seemed entirely reasonable to me if you decided to have a night out in any major city in the UK or Ireland and wanted to see a band like Fat White Family headline at a good club.

8. Toronto is cold. Even in May. I have no idea how anyone survived CMW when it took place in March, the week after SXSW. I don’t know if this was a fluke, and perhaps all of you in the UK, Ireland and mainland Europe are shaking your heads and laughing at me for being a wimp. But most times, I was absolutely freezing outside. The natives laughed at me and my coat and hat, but at least I was warm!

9. Toronto is actually not as cheap as you might have thought. Each Canadian dollar is about US$0.80 at the time of this writing. It led me to believe that eating out, drinking and shopping would have been cheaper than if I had holidayed somewhere else in America. Because there are the GST and HST tax schemes in the province of Ontario where Toronto lies, unless you’re buying produce from a stand (counted as basic groceries and exempt from GST), the final price will be higher quoted on a menu, bar chalkboard or clothing shop sign. Also factor in a 13% alcohol tax when dining in, and your eyes will water when the bill for your Caesar arrives.

Caesar at George Street Diner

10. Toronto is vegetarian and vegan friendly. I feel really bad for bands with veggie members when they come for SXSW and barbecue is constantly in your face. I was surprised by the amazing wealth of options for those who follow any sort of vegetarian or vegan diets or those who are just curious about what’s out there beyond huge hunks of meat. There is some truly inventive cuisine in the city, for omnivores and vegetarians alike, some of which can be seen on my Instagram. Also, being in a country where there is a strong French influence, there’s cheese seemingly everywhere. Sorry, vegans.

Alex Farm Adventure in Cheese at St. Lawrence Market


CMW 2016 Interview: NINA

By on Wednesday, 11th May 2016 at 11:00 am

Across Europe and the UK, electronic music has become a mainstay. Electropop in particular has become part of the fabric, if you will, of the music landscape and history for that part of the world. Originally from Berlin, musician NINA now calls London home. She’s working hard to make her mark as an up-and-coming electropop artist in this always busy part of the music market. She showcased last week at Canadian Music Week (CMW) 2016, playing two shows in Toronto during the festival. Ahead of the event in the Great White North, NINA kindly answered our Quickfire Questions tailored just for this year’s CMW, and you can read her answers back here.

In the below interview, she tells me about the supportive synthwave community she finds herself in and whose fans have kept her going. We also chat about a tour in North America she went on as support for Erasure. She’s maintained a friendship with them and managed a very useful connection production-wise that will likely prove priceless in the future of her music. Have a listen to our conversation and be a fly on the wall below. I’ve also embedded below the interview a stream of her self-described dream pop cover of Blondie’s ‘Heart of Glass’. She performed it at The (Dance) Cave Thursday night during CMW and it blew me away, so I wanted to share it with all of you.


CMW 2016 Interview: Cut Ribbons

By on Tuesday, 10th May 2016 at 11:00 am

Canadian Music Week (CMW) 2016 turned out to be the location of, or at least played a part in facilitating many firsts of the artists coming out for the week of activities. Cut Ribbons from Llanelli, South Wales, played their first North American shows during their time in the Great White North when they were here on our continent last week. Prior to coming out to Toronto, they played two warm up shows in Guelph, another town in the Province of Ontario. The morning of this interview, the band also made it out to Niagara Falls, which along with the CN Tower, proved to be one of the most popular tourist sightseeing spots that bands I ran into during CMW reported as wanting to visit.

Listen below to my interview with the entire group – Aled on vocals and acoustic guitar, Lluan on vocals and synth, Chloe on bass, Christian on lead guitar and Ray on drums – in which we talk about the Canadian acts they find inspiring, as well as what sounds like a new direction for the band in new material they’re working on as we speak for their next Cut Ribbons album. Also included under the embedded interview stream is their promo video for ‘In the Rain’, one of the tracks they did play at the Studio Bar show I managed to catch during CMW.


CMW 2016 Interview: Jack Kaye and Angus Taylor of The Magic Gang

By on Monday, 9th May 2016 at 11:00 am

The Magic Gang have steadily been increasing their profile – not to mention their UK fan base – since we caught them live at Live at Leeds 2015. They self-released an EP in December 2015 (appropriately titled ‘EP’) and have been most recently selling out venues on a recent UK tour in support of the new available material.

The Brighton band’s relative success has come as a bit of a shock to bespectacled co-frontman Jack Kaye, who related a story to me about selling out a venue in Newcastle and having all the young kids singing along to every word of their songs. (Kaye kindly answered our back here.) After their first North American live show ever at The 300 Club in Toronto last Wednesday, I was pleased to be joined by Kaye and bassist Angus Young (second from the far right and far right, respectively) for a nice chat. Being from Brighton, it seemed natural to ask The Magic Gang for hints on how to survive – and win! – The Great Escape 2016 (it’s next weekend, folks, so step lively!) and we chat about pop songwriting. Have a listen below.


CMW 2016 Interview: Daithi

By on Friday, 6th May 2016 at 11:00 am

Irish musician Daithí (pronounced inexplicably as “DAUGH-hee”) can’t be put in one box musically, and that’s perfectly fine with him. From the west coast of Ireland and the famed city of Galway, it isn’t hard to conjure up Daithí’s backyard as huge tracts of land that are beautifully desolate and emerald green, hearing the roar of the Atlantic Ocean. (If you follow him on Facebook, you will be treated to photos of such scenes that he’s taken himself, such as this one from Monday.) But what kind of music does a storybook town in the West of Ireland inspire?

For Daithí, it isn’t just one type or style of music that moves him. One might think that growing up around family members well versed in traditional Irish music (his grandfather is a keen concertina player) and he himself having the fiddle as the first instrument he ever learned how to play, he’d have just become a trad musician himself and be done with it. Or left for the bright lights of Dublin – or emigrated to Canada, I suppose, as I’ve learned there are MANY Irish people who have done just that! – and never looked back.

In this interview with me Wednesday before his two live performances Thursday night at Canadian Music Week 2016, Daithí explains how he has come to a deeper love and appreciation for his hometown and how important it is to him to keep ties to the city. He also stressed the importance of pushing boundaries with his music and trying new ways to engage the listener, while connecting himself to the art itself through the process of making it (like Stornoway and Glass Animals, he favours a good field recording!). This is a musician who has a lot of say and with his ambition and drive to make music not only enjoyable to listen to but also makes you think, he’s a great example of what makes the new music coming out of Ireland exciting and vital. Have a listen to our chat from CMW below.


About Us

There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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