Canadian Music Week has had more than its fair share of issues. Whether it's been poor lineups that were slagged off or the ways in which the festival has been run (putting its name on shows that'd be happening anyway, cancelling gigs with little-to-no notice, putting the importance of their trade convention before the live music) it's easy to understand why CMW is loathed by so many.
But! It’s easy to get into a pattern of assuming CMW is bad, just because it’s been bad before. By some magical twist of fate (or more likely, sheer numbers alone) there’s actually more than enough worthwhile artists to choose from this year to fill not just one festival... but six.
With more than a thousand bands on the bill, CMW took a shotgun method to booking a festival, and, miraculously, it kind of paid off. We found a smaller, better festival hidden inside the Russian nesting doll of CMW proper. This is what CMW would look like if the festival was as solely focussed on emerging Canadian artists as its name implies.
Here are our 30 picks for a great fest, divided up into further categories with a few surprises thrown in.
KEEP IT LOUD
Even if each of these bands played an unplugged set, they’d still kick your fucking ass.
METZ May 1st. 11:30pm @ Lee’s Palace // May 2nd. 11:30pm @ Lee’s Palace
With their sophomore release METZ II coming out just days after they’re set to perform at CMW, there’s no better way to preview METZ’s new material than at this year’s festival. Expect lots of sweat, kids push-moshing gleefully, and the ringing reminder that you should’ve brought earplugs.
Camper May 5th. 12:00am @ Sneaky Dee’s
Wild, swinging songs that are belted, not sung. These St. Catharines, Ontario natives marry punk urgency with indie rock sensibilities.
Familiars May 9th. 1:00am @ Rancho Relaxo
Growling, bluesy guitars juxtaposed with airy, distant vocals. Southern Ontario’s originators of stonergaze.
Dirty Frigs May 5th. 11:15pm @ Garrison // May 9th. 1:00am @ Burdock
Few things in life are as satisfying as hearing Bri Salmena’s smoky, siren howl over hazy, haunted grunge. The Frigs’ harvest moon heartache cuts deep, dispensing chills to the bone like waves of reverb.
Wrong Hole TBA
Wrong Hole might not fit in with Toronto’s regular punk crowd, but with songs like “I Love Opulence,” fitting in might not be what they have in mind.
The Next Episode
Save for the annual ManifesTO, there really isn’t another festival in the city that can boast as strong a lineup as this, the best and brightest from the hip-hop and R&B worlds. Better luck next year, OVO.
Shi Wisdom TBA
In a piece for Chart Attack, Anupa Mistry describes watching Shi Wisdom play the song "Young Gunner" as “temporal and relevant and not preachy, but transformative. It connected, not necessarily because of the message, but because it’s well written, soulful and honest. It gave me goosebumps and we all went bonkers and she performed it again.” Shi is without a doubt one of Toronto’s most crucial voices in R&B.
Crossword May 6th. 10:05pm @ The Mod Club
Crossword has emerged as a fixture of the Toronto hip-hop scene, and while he’s hot off the release of his latest record XW, there might be no better time to see him.
Clairmont The Second May 2nd. 8:15pm @ Tattoo
Drake might be “the boy” but Toronto’s very own Clairmont The Second has a couple years on (off?) Drizzy in the youth department. He’s as sharp in his fashion sense as he is with his wit, and bound to put on a show you’ll not want to miss.
Emay May 7th. 8:45pm @ Tattoo
Emay is Hamilton’s beacon of hip hop light. He’s versatile and draws upon a spectrum of beats that are smart, playful and let him shine as a MC.
Faiza May 6th. 10:00pm @ Tattoo
Faiza is still relatively unknown in the Toronto music scene, but with a voice like hers it’s only a matter of time before that changes. This recent grad of The Remix Project oozes confidence, whether it’s on the smooth “Made To Be” or the funky “BandMan,” making it easy to declare her as one of the most exciting up-and-coming R&B artists this city has to offer.
Turn on, tune in, drop out.
Harrison May 7th. 12:00am @ Studio Bar
Harrison’s beats are remarkable: decadent and lush, lean and never fussy. Future disco has never sounded so vibrant and vital.
Mimico May 2nd. 11:00pm @ Silver Dollar
When’s the last time you’ve been to Mimico? The band is a lot like the place, playing along the periphery of what’s familiar and the unknown.
Pick A Piper May 9th. 10:00pm @ The Great Hall
Heavily psychedelic electronic music with an emphasis on layered percussion. Pick A Piper’s warm aesthetic helps them blur the lines between past and present, Canadian and “World.”
SIANspheric May 6th. 10:00pm @ The Horseshoe Tavern
All they need to do is summon a glorious rumble and your knees will buckle. But those melodies are so soft and velvety, the fall will do no harm. Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating Above Hamilton.
Take the opportunity to check these artists out now, while their audiences can still fit in smaller, intimate venues.
Francesco Yates May 2nd. 7:00pm @ The Grand Ballroom - Sheraton Centre Toronto
If you’ve turned your ear toward pop radio in the past couple of months, then you’ve likely heard Yates’ “Better To Be Loved,” a preview of what’s to come from his collaboration with Pharrell. While Pharrell’s dirtbag nasal croon can be hit or miss, Yates’ gilded vox recall the one and only King of Pop. See him now, before he only plays stadiums and never looks back.
Leah Daniels May 7th. 9:00pm @ Boots & Bourbon Saloon
Pop country is a bit of a blindspot for us here at Chart Attack, much to Chart writer Tom Avis’ chagrin. But, if a glimpse at what’s up-and-coming is what brings you to CMW, then look no further than Canadian country music’s next star, Leah Daniels.
Jazz Cartier May 7th. 12:00am @ The Garrison // May 9th. 8:50pm @ Danforth Music Hall
Jazz Cartier’s raw, nocturnal music effortlessly slides from polished pop to a chest-beating roar. It’s a range that makes his performances unhinged and his latest mixtape, Marauding In Paradise, a must-listen.
Skye Wallace May 8th. 8:00pm @ Rivoli
This Vancouver native writes honest, deeply affecting folk that’s as dark as it is melodic.
DJ Bambii May 6th. 11:45pm @ Tattoo
Bambii was one of the subjects of a short documentary we made last year. She’s continuing on her promising trajectory, smashing together R&B, house, new jack swing and whatever else she feels like in the moment.
Saccharine Spring Night
A-la-carte festivals are the best ways to run around the city and take advantage of the spring thaw. This set of artists provides a great soundtrack to match.
Alvvays - May 9th. 9:15pm @ The Grand Ballroom - Sheraton Centre Toronto
If you really need us to tell you to go see Alvvays at this point we haven’t done our job. Believe the hype! Go, see them and fall in love.
The Muscadettes May 8th. 3:00am @ Silver Dollar// May 9th. 11:00pm @ Bovine
Sunny surf pop born on the shores of the… St. Lawrence?
Planet Creature May 2nd. 9:00pm @ Silver Dollar
Planet Creature make bubblegum rock, but as though that bubble’s about to pop.
ANGO May 7th. 1:20am @ Parts & Labour
Love songs ensconced in crystalline beats set at R&B velocities.
Stacey might’ve played one too many Wicked Games, but she’s not a sore loser, she’s just tearing up the rulebook.
This category looks like a mixed bag, but these artists defy categorization and that’s why we love them.
APigeon May 9th. 8:00pm @ The Drake Hotel
Unpredictable electronic pop music with an immense feeling of vulnerability, but instead of sounding fragile, APigeon projects weight and gravity with a human determination.
Country May 8th. 2:00am @ Silver Dollar
Weirdo sleaze wave straight from what’s likely the weirdo capital of Canada. Hi Montreal!
Moss Lime May 9th. 10:00pm @ Burdock
You have to wonder what all the other labels in Montreal think of Fixture Records and its completely stacked roster. It’s just not fair. While it might be difficult for one crown jewel to stand out amongst the others, Moss Lime’s excellent, smooth take on post-punk is in a class all its own.
Rich Aucoin May 9th. 12:00am @ The Great Hall
It’s safe to say you can always walk into a Rich Aucoin show and walk out happy. Parachutes, glow sticks and tonnes of fun.
Surinam May 2nd. 1:00am @ Silver Dollar
We’ve been waiting on Surinam to come out with a full length record for well over a year now. While their LP is being held up at the pressing plant, their CMW show is the best way to get a taste of their new material.