I’m deviating a little bit from my usual focus here. There are some bands that have a solid fan base and don’t need any promotional help, but they’re still a hell of a lot of fun to catch. The following are a group of bands that I’ve caught multiple times in the past that reliably put on a damn good show. I would unequivocally recommend catching any/all of these bands during CMF.
This Ottawa band has been making the rounds in Toronto for at least a half-decade. As far as I can tell, I first caught them in 2009 and have seen them live on a number of occasions since. Each time I was impressed by their unbelievably energetic stage presence as they belted out their unique brand of high-energy rock.
However, Jacquie Neville’s vocals are what really set this band apart. Liam Jaeger and Steven Neville play the straight men balancing out Jacquie’s dynamic vocal work to great effect. The first video I’ve selected showcases Jacquie Neville’s impressive vocal talents (and as a bonus it’s a fun video to watch):
The second video is the closest thing I could find that can give you a sense of their hugely energetic stage presence (they’re seriously not playing it up for the camera):
Playing on Thursday March 21, 2013 at 10:00 pm @ Lee’s Palace
The Balconies – February 8, 2009 @ Whale Tooth EP Release Party
Amos The Transparent
No one has ever accused Ottawa of having a weak music scene. And, here’s yet another band from our nation’s capital.
I’ve been catching Amos the Transparent since at least 2008, and they were in fact one of the first bands I ever photographed at small venues like Rancho Relaxo. They have a solid and very loyal fan base in Toronto (I’ve known people who NEVER missed a show when they were in town) and for good reason: they always put on a rambunctious sweaty show. And, even though they’re big enough now to play some big venues, they’re still down-to-earth enough to keep playing the venues where they got their start. You’ve got to respect that.
I would describe their sound as classic indie rock—by which I mean melody-centric songs with tight guitar work, solid drumming and no extraneous production fluff. It’s hard to get a sense of the raw energy that they emit during a show, but their video for “Says the Spark” should give you a pretty decent idea:
Playing on Thursday March 21, 2013 at 1:00 am @ The Dakota Tavern
Amos The Transparent – January 3, 2009 @ Rancho Relaxo
This Toronto band is actually relatively new, but they’ve impressed the shit out of me early which is why included them in this posting. And, I’m not alone, they can definitely pull their own already in terms of drawing in a solid crowd.
I’m usually not a fan of male vocals, but there’s something special about the way that the notably sombre vocals interact with the upbeat melodies that are infused with electronic elements. I will admit that their music reminds me of late 1980’s synth pop and I do love myself a solid Goth club. But even if you don’t, I would seriously dare you to listen to “Coastal Line” without swaying along to that solid solid rhythm (OK I cheated a little here, Allie Hughes does throw in some female vocals into the mix for this one song and she’s always terrific as well):
Playing Saturday March 23, 2013 at 11:00 pm @ Wrongbar
Paradise Animals – June 15, 2012 @ El Mocambo
Sidney York is a Calgary based band that plays some unique upbeat indie pop and always puts on a great live performance. But don’t be fooled, the music may be upbeat pop but it’s no simplistic fare. The instrumentation is always tightly orchestrated and the vocal work ventures into some notable syncopation which is annoyingly absent from most indie bands.
You also don’t see too many pop bands featuring both an obo and bassoon, and they use the instruments to good effect. “Dick & Jane” will give you a decent impression of their musical offerings:
Playing Thursday March 21, 2013 at 9:00 pm @ Annex Wreck Room & Friday March 22, 2013 at 11:00 pm @ The Gladstone & Saturday March 23, 2013 at 11:00 pm @ The International Lounge
Sidney York – June 13, 2012 @ The Painted Lady
The Wilderness of Manitoba
The Wilderness of Manitoba is an amazing Toronto band which is without a doubt one of my absolute favourites in the city. And given the impressive local music scene, that’s no small feat.
I’ve caught them at least a dozen times, in venues large and small, and they always impress. This indie folk band puts together what can only be characterized as a terrifically tight sound blending together mellow piano chords, acoustic guitars and some banjo work into a seamless finished product. But what really sets them apart from most bands of a similar vein are the talented vocals which they manage to harmonize without effort. EVERYONE in this band can sing. Think Fleet Foxes, but with more of a bluegrass tinge and well … better. Yeah, I said it, better than Fleet Foxes.
It also doesn’t hurt that they are all terrifically nice people. I can’t tell you how many bands I’ve photographed a half-dozen times who couldn’t pick me out of a line-up to save their lives (and admittedly I do keep a low profile on purpose). But the fellows from Wilderness of Manitoba not only recognized me from day one, but go out of their way to say hello whenever I run into them. All of which to say, it’s rare to find people who are as amazingly talented as these guys who are also stand-up people. So go out and show some support.
Here are some video suggestions to give you a bit of a feel for their music:
Playing on Friday March 22, 2013 at 11:00 pm @ Revival
The Wilderness of Manitoba – June 25, 2010 @ The Music Gallery