Tuesday, March 27, 2012

CMW 2012 Roundup

I saw a lot of bands last week... I mean A LOT of bands.  I partied my ass off and I left a puddle of spilled beer and sweat wherever I went.  This went to the point where I got so sick that I bailed on work on Monday, and I'm pretty sure I still have a headache (read: hangover) on Tuesday evening.  Yet still, I forge on and try to at last write my CMW 2012 round up. Festivals like CMW and NXNE are always fantastic experiences and while I enjoy seeing the bands that I know and love, part of me always enjoys the unexpected element of festivals, such as mobile breastfeeding units with giant, flashing tits on top:
Did I stutter?

First, to the city of Toronto... I love and hate you.  I've experienced only 5 CMWs and maybe another 4 NXNE's, but there is a recurring theme at Toronto shows that just pisses me off: no one gets into it.  I spent 8 years in Montreal, and let me tell you, while I'm pretty sure I like Toronto more on the whole, at least Montrealers know how to lose their shit at a show.  I like to get pissed up 'n move around... and you know what: fie on you people for looking at me strangely.  It's a rock show... you know... rock already.  My biggest awards of the fest go to Russ from The Mercy Now, Steve from Bella Clava, Harley from Waster (MB represent!) and the chubby drunk guy without a shirt that kept grinding his sweaty ass up on me during Thursday night's Jordan Cook set at the 'shoe.  I saw you guys actually getting into the music, I saw you guys actually enjoying yourselves and I saw you guys supporting the bands with screams, sweat and swagger. You guys are the true heroes.

That said, we should also sing the praises of those wonderful folks who gave us the tunes to groove to.  As such, I present to you my top 5 CMW 2012 acts.  Judging criteria were things such as how hard you fuckin rocked, how many minds in the room were blown and the size of the puddle of sweat you left at your feet.

5) Rockyard (Friday, 3am, Hideout)
I'll preface this by saying that at 3am, at the end of what was one of the greatest musical nights of my life, though suffering massive exhaustion, I wasn't expecting much when walking into the Hideout.  We'd played with Rockyard before, but fuck me... you boys win the most improved player award.  This band was always tight and a lot of fun, but the energy, intensity and fun they brought to the stage (coupled with copious quantities of Jager and beer) was enough to turn the place into an orgy of rock, booze and people just waiting for last call to go have sex.  I also tip my hat to Matt for dealing with crazy Hideout stripper dancer better than anyone I'd ever seen.  I think you actually creeped her out a bit when you hovered over her, screaming out lyrics.

4) Hey Sugar (Thursday, midnight, Bovine)
Hey Sugar ended up here not only because they played a fantastic set at the Bovine, but also because they fought through adversity.  I saw them on Wednesday night at Velvet with around 5 other people and a deaf sound man on ecstasy who needed to feel more bass to get off.  Quite literally, it was the worst mix I've ever heard in my life: something between the loudest fart you've ever heard and ongoing thunder.  I talked to the band and their manager after and the boys were pretty down on the situation.  Fast forward a day and they owned the stage in front of a close-to-packed Bovine, playing like the night before was just a bad dream.  They ripped off one of the tightest rock sets I've ever seen played and even with a pretty dull crowd (way to go, Toronto), were up to all kinds of antics on and off the stage. Of course, hardly anyone danced, but a few of us still raised our firsts and screamed "HEY" as we were Standing at the Crossroads.

3) Bella Clava (Wednesday, 9:30pm, Horseshoe)
While feeling angry for only learning of Bella Clava this summer, I was even more angry after this was my first live experience.  So many chances to rock, completely squandered. Combining so many elements of music that I adore - riffs till the cows come home, southern 70s feel, epic vocal harmonies, powerful organ droning in the background, and a rhythm section to root the madness into reality - the masked ones were a perfect combination for kicking off my CMW experience.  Energy to boot and enough rock to fill a quarry (uggghhhh... just awful), Bella Clava was still able to get an early-night crowd at the Horseshoe moving and into the music: not an easy task.  Also, I previously nominated Steve Suitte for riff-rock God... I'd like to go ahead and second my nomination.

2) Starvin Hungry (Friday, midnight, Bovine)
I had seen this band as a 4 piece in Montreal back in the early 00's.  They were one of my favorite local bands who belted out an incredible yet creepy hard rock sound.  However, little did I know that I wasn't experiencing the truest form of Starvin Hungry: a two-piece formed from the Milchem brothers.  Their tightness and connection was enough to lend to the theory of sibling 6th senses and the sound did not suffer in the slightest from the loss of 2 members.  Perhaps it was the opportunity to sing along to some of my favorite songs from my early 20s or perhaps it was that two brothers got up on stage and played a set without a fucking care in the world what the audience thought of them.  I'll tell you right now... we all thought very good things.

1) Jordan Cook (Thursday, 10:30pm, Horseshoe)
Part of me hates to give Jordan this award.  I think I've donned him with this honour at nearly every other festival I've ever seen him play... whether he's alone or he's smashing ear drums with his band.  I quite literally wanted to just put an asterix and omit him from this list, since it just feels like he cheated.  The problem is that Jordan is on a different playing field from the rest of us.  Stumbling and staggering his way around the stage, one hand flailing a mic stand around his head while the other plays riffs on his 6-string that most guitarists I know can't even play with 2 hands... Mr. Cook has learned how to truly own a crowd.  Lurking around the stage, eyes piercing through the audience for someone to stare through, Cook's eerie, powerful voice and frantic stage presence are only topped by his guitar playing, which one would assume he had to sell the souls of himself and his extended family to obtain.

"If you don't feel like death after last week, then you weren't doing it right."

PS: To the guy who writes the billboards at Duffy's... no, my band is, in fact, not a group of communist scientific intellectuals, but thanks for coming out.