Canadian Music Fest 2011 Roundup

Crooked Valentine's Lindsay Robin.

Story:Lenny Stoute


(Photo at right: Crooked Valentine's Lindsay Robin.)

This year’s Canadian Music week got off to a hilarious start featuring a program on the cover of which appeared three music stars, exactly none of them Canadian. Way to show the flag y’all. Or maybe it was just the Canadian Music Biz having a sly laugh at itself. And instantly elevating that program to collectors’ item status.

Down on the street and in muggy club after club, this was the year Big Geetar Rock came back with a six-string vengeance.

Representing the more acoustic end of the stick, Edmonton’s The Wheat Pool offered up prairie folk rock without a hint of irony. The crowd at The Hard Luck ate up their shtick of the two brothers Angus trading lead vocals and bass riffs enough to indulge the often overlong and earnest guitar solos. There were enough decent tunes, including ‘This Is It’ and ‘Lefty’ to keep the crowdlet’s attention for the most part. Dudes are not without a pointed sense of humor, naming their album Hauntario as an acknowledgement of the province's looming presence on the Canuck music scene.


At the opposite end of the loud’n’proud scale, Montreal’s Parlovr brought heir best game to the Horseshoe in reinventing the power trio for troubled times. The line-up of Alex Cooper (vcls, gtrs, kybds), Louis David Jackson (vcls, gtrs) and power-hitting drummer Jeremy MacCuish hook up big ass booty shaking hooks with off the hook lyrics to deliver a set that was all killer, no filler. 

As powerful chords, unhinged vocals and relentless drumming blasted house rockin’ tune after tune, it seemed like watching a stadium act doing their ‘greatest hits’ except Parlovr is still a hidden hole card to most folks. Easily the most energized, audience inclusive gig. 


Except for Tokyo’s’ Zoobombs at the Comfort Zone in what turned into the unlikeliest of love fests. Maybe it had something to do with the carnage in Japan and the fact the Zoobombs regard the Zone as their Canadian home base, but from the first blast of Don Matsuo’s Fender, this gig was off and running and jumping and howling as Matsuo led his merry crew through a funkified, dance-infested set of edge-riding rock’n’roll ending with Matsuo’s impassioned shout out to Canadians for all the love directed the band’s way in the aftermath of the devastation their homeland. A moment of classy communion between band and audience. Undeniably the toughest of the tough on show.


Jakalope's Chrystal LeighJakalope's Chrystal LeighWhen it came around to POWER Babes In Da House best in show were Lindsay Robin (Crooked Valentine) and Chrystal Leigh (Jakalope). At The Wreck Room, Crooked Valentine took the stage to a scattered house that within a few savage snarls from Lindsay, came stage front like iron filings coming at a magnet. And didn’t let up. CV comes with an industrial strength guitar assault on heavy rock, all sexed up by the reigning Baddest Babe of the T.Dot rock underground. Lindsay Robins.  She was brilliant on ‘Dead Zone’ and ‘War Machine’ and nailed the overall vibe in place like JC on the cross


Weirdly unsettling move about the halfway mark when guitarist C.C. Spit doffed his shirt. Y’all know this only works if the boy’s either skinny as a rail or all buff stuff. This case of white pudge on dude didn’t cut it and worked to undercut the aura of menace lurking around the best CV tunes.


Chrystal Leigh and Dave ‘Rave’ Ogilvie egged on a five-piece version of Jakalope into a searing set at the Horseshoe, mostly drawn from current album Things That Go Jump In The Night. There’s a throbbing Goth-rock at the heart of the new songs and Leigh draws from Siouxsie Sioux and Courtney Love in getting them across to the largely female faithful who hung on every note as the backing unit churned out a Spectoresque wall of swagger rock. Leigh was right on top of those and didn’t back off the intensity on the more introspective tunes, including current single ‘Magnolia’.


Beardliest band of the fest The Darcys arrived at the Silver Dollar with new album in hand and redemption on their minds. Also fans of the big guitars approach, they’re staking claim to turf somewhere between Kings of Leon and Radiohead and have a chance to do big things. Now a quartet, The Darcys are no strangers to recent hard times, having had to reshuffle the band and eventually re-record the vocals on their current self-titled album, The Darcys. And guess what? This night would be no different. Three songs into the set and squealing feedback cut in, centred around guitarist Mike le Riche and stayed around to bedevil him all the livelong set. No matter, distractions aside, the tunes, the good looking dudes and their impassioned delivery of such were indicators they may be every bit as good as The Dears’ Murray Lightburn says they are. So, Next Big Thing then?


Wildlife rocking outWildlife rocking outThe Montreal influence reared its head yet again when Wildlife took the El Mocambo stage after having seen an Arcade Fire video or five. Full credit, the five piece put more muscle on it, courtesy of massive volume and another’ of the fest’s impressive array of power drummers, Derek Bosomworth.


All that power was needed to properly put across the over the top muscular prog rock which propels their debut album, Strike Hard Young Diamond, which is not a collection of early Neil Diamond hits. Instead its ‘Stand In The River’ and ‘Sea Dreamer’, shouted choruses, calls to party, furious strumming and lasers, lasers, lasers.


Blinded by the light of so many promising bands seemed like a good way to close out CMW 2011.