Many of these recommendations come with a live recording from my archive, so you can get some idea of what to expect from them on stage — for more audio previews, check out new listings site showgopher, which has a handy grid and streaming audio for most artists.
Friday, March 23, 2012
Biblical (Bovine Sex Club / 11:00 p.m.)
Splitting the difference between cough syrup and trucker-grade speed, Biblical bring a bad-news boogaloo with just the right evil late-night lurch.
Listen! Biblical - Nickle and Dime
catl (Comfort Zone / on side-stage between bands at 9:45, 10:45, 11:45, 12:45)
Keepin' the blues safe from respectability, catl will be injecting some bursts of their mean dance grooves in the blacklit murk of the Comfort Zone. Quickly becoming a seminal Toronto music festival tradition.
Listen! catl - Poor Black Mattie
Nicholas Doubleyou & The B Squad (Comfort Zone / 1 a.m.)
Ragged like a breakdown and shaky like a treehouse built by drunken teenagers, Nicholas Doubleyou faces awkward truths with the confidence of an existentialist with nuthin' left to lose. Folk-punk jams that punch back, even when they're face down on the floor.
Listen! Nicholas Doubleyou and The B-Squad - Waterloo
Chains of Love (El Mocambo (Downstairs) / 11:30 p.m.)
Also playing Saturday at Horseshoe Tavern / 9:20 p.m.
A wall of sound (here fabricated with rock'n'roll clamour) delivered by a pair of female vocalists with, um, gams. The Pipettes, in their original incarnation, come to mind a little here, but Chains of Love bring far more raunch and scuzz to their musical attack.
Doldrums (El Mocambo (Downstairs) / 2:30 a.m.)
Airick Woodhead's haze-pop explorations have been given new structure by a pair of onstage drummers. The sound of contemporary confusion feeling its way out a cultural black hole.
Listen! Doldrums - unknown
Snowblink (Horseshoe Tavern / 9 p.m.)
Snowblink's presence on this Arts & Crafts showcase is less mysterious with the label announcing the band's signing for their forthcoming new album. The whoop-it-up atmosphere in what'll probably be a crowded room might work against the band, but Daniela Gesundheit usually has something worked out to make each show a special occasion.
Listen! Snowblink - Listen and Profit
Zeus (Horseshoe Tavern / 1 a.m.)
Sure to be busting out some tracks from their forthcoming Busting Visions album, this will probably be one of the most packed and sought-after sets of the whole festival.
Listen! Zeus - The Renegade
PS I Love You (Lee's Palace / 10 p.m.)
Another band with a big sophomore disc on the way, the Kingston duo (now sometimes trio) haven't reinvented themselves with their new songs, but they're bringing the alt-guitar hero facemelting to a new height.
Listen! PS I Love You - Princess Towers
The Soupcans (Parts & Labour / 11 p.m.)
One of the city's most primal rock'n'roll experiences, The Soupcans might strike you as angry ascetics that make The Ramones sound as lush as Bacharach.
Listen! The Soupcans - I Don't Wanna be a Soupcan
Drunk Woman (Silver Dollar / 8 p.m.)
Y'know that country song where George Jones wakes up, drunk, because he nodded off and his head hit the steering wheel and set off the horn? Drunk Woman aren't the sound of that song — they're the sound of that horn.
Listen! Drunk Woman - Marquee Moon
The Pow Wows (Silver Dollar / 10 p.m.)
The sound of confusion; summer of love harmonies; songs about John Wayne Gacy; the pleasant feeling after you were involved in something indecent.
Listen! Pow Wows - Four Star
Rouge (Sneaky Dee's / 2 a.m.)
At the end of the set, you discover your makeup is running. But then it hits you — you weren't wearing makeup. A sweaty dance party where you'll let go of all your regrets.
Listen! Rouge - unknown
Saturday, March 24, 2012
Resonancity/Buzz Records/NeXT@CMF Showcase (Comfort Zone / all night, 9 p.m. - 1 a.m.)
All right, I'm not going to pick any one band here, but if you want a vibe that's opposite to the prevailing ethos of the festival, this is the place to be. "See the losers in the best bars / Meet the winners in the dives / Where the people are the real stars / All the rest of their lives."
The Weather Station (Drake Underground / 8 p.m.)
Spare folk songs to assuage the anxieties of our times.
Listen! The Weather Station - Know It To See It
Papermaps (Hard Luck / 10 p.m.)
Well-written poptunes that hearken back to a time when "alternative" wasn't a term to be snickered at.
Snailhouse (Lee's Palace / 9 p.m.)
Mike Feuerstack's restrained brand of lo-fi isn't going to impose itself on you, but recommended for anyone looking for craftsmanship over spectacle.
The Inbreds (Lee's Palace / midnight)
A reunion show from this 90's CanRock duo might hearken back to past glories, but this is the one nostalgia show at the festival that I can get behind.
Revolvers (Silver Dollar / 3 a.m.)
This Optical Sounds-affiliated group takes a smidgen of psych and a spoonful of blues and comes up with a pretty hot live set. This is where to be if you need that 3 a.m. second wind.
Listen! Revolvers - Break it Loose
ALX (The Garrison / 11 p.m.)
Local Queen of Pop Allie Hughes has undergone a reinvention into a dark-dancepop doyenne.
The Mark Inside (Velvet Underground / 11 p.m.)
It's been a slower-than-expected climb for The Mark Inside, but their lean brand of hard-times rock sounds like it's made for the world we're stuck in.
Listen! The Mark Inside - There is Nothing to Admit
Light Fires (Wrongbar / 10 p.m.)
Gentleman Reg's electronic side-project, where he features his alter ego Regina Gentlelady with dancefloor-ready, leg-kickin' odes to fabulousness.
Listen! Light Fires - If You're Bored
Sunday, March 25, 2012
There's not quite a full slate on the festival's closing night, so instead of spotlighting a few sets, I'll recommend that you hit up one of these full shows instead.
The Wedding Present (Horseshoe Tavern / 10:10 p.m.)
Formed in 1985, David Gedge's band has been a constantly-evolving rock'n'roll machine. This time out, the band will be playing their 1991 Seamonsters in its entirety.
Two Way Monologues Showcase (Rancho Relaxo, 8 p.m. - 1 a.m.)
The biggest attraction of the night will be a homecoming set from The Elwins, fresh from SXSW and the release of their debut full-length And I Thank You.
Listen! The Elwins - On Your Doorstep
Crosswires #5 (The Garrison, 9:30 p.m. - 12:30 a.m.)
What better way to detox than with a night at Doc Pickles' new it's-not-Wavelength-but-it-feels-good music series? You don't need to know who the bands are — you just need to head down with an open heart.
* A note on nomenclature: for years both the industry showcase and music festival components were known as Canadian Music Week. But as of 2009, this was deemed to be too simple and straightforward, and the music portion was "rebranded" as Canadian Music Fest, under the aegis of the larger Canadian Music Week. I see no reason to put up with this and will simply refer to everything as CMW. This year, the name situation has been made more ludicrous with the addition of a top-level sponsor that has been smushed into the festival's name. I don't know what product they're selling, and frankly I don't care. I have no plans to acknowledge them by name as suggest you do the same.