The Wednesday night kick off was at the Hideout on Queen Street in Toronto, which would serve as the hub for the five day competition. Bands and volunteers came in to pick up their wrist bands and passes.
Opening the festival were Aussies, Winters End. The electronic rock duo entertained as the artists, volunteers and media mingled. They had some great tunes. The drumming was top notch and the sound was full for a two piece.
The next act pulled in the entire bar from the corners with his operatic sound check. UBI & FU, a solo performer from Japan, played loops on his guitar while singing in a nearly unearthly pitch. The experimental act left everybody speechless.
Alberta’s Dusty Tucker, a heavy metal/cock rock group that gave this writer the impression they love Kid Rock, were the first band to bring the audience to the stage. Then, Ireland’s The Hot Sprockets and Mojo Gogo were followed by the UK’s New City Kings. Last year’s winners, Sumo Cyco, as well as The Stogies and Frankie McQueen, also played.
Thursday at the Peacock, the young and energetic Turks bantered with the crowd between their soulful pop-rock.
Next, Ori Dagan’s sound check blended perfectly into his set. The jazz vocalist, accompanied by a bassist and saxophonist began with some favorites from Ellington and Fitzgerald then moved onto his original scat tunes.
Friday night began at Detour in Kensington Market with electronic rock act called Redxdown. Frontman Donal Ward-McCarthy spoke to us beforehand about how it can be tricky transferring something you’ve done in your bedroom into a live show, but it came across awesome. The band is comprised of a bassist, drummer, and Ward-McCarthy on guitar, and loops and backing tracks on a laptop. They even garnered in the audience the guitarists of The Hot Sprockets. It is not a surprise to see that Redxdown won the competition for Detour that night.
We ran around the corner to the Round to see the latter half of the set by a surprisingly young smooth jazz ensemble, Midcoast. They played like a group of veterans who have been together for decades, though in actuality they’ve been together only a couple of years.
Vocal trio The Ault Sisters performed a couple of original numbers including “That Boy from New York City”. Their beautiful harmonies gave new life to old favorites like “Sincerely”, “Moondance” and “At Last”. These girls know how to engage an audience, and the backing band was great too.
It was a bit of a hike to the Adelaide Music Hall where Breached was about to take the stage at the Indie88 showcase. Breached played their hard, ballad-style rock and wowed audiences with their crisp vocals and guitar solos.
We decided to finish our night at the Hideout. A windy walk back to Queen led us to The Mohrs. A hearty helping of rock from the leather clad four-piece was just what the doctor ordered.
We had missed Philly Moves‘ first set on Thursday, so Saturday began at Tota lounge where they were set to perform. Electronic-pop artist from Brampton, Zolo, and his crew opened saying they wanted to fill the room with positive energy and they did just that.
Next was hip-hop act Philly Moves, originally from Ottawa. His smooth voice and clever rhymes captivated the audience. Such gems like, “I have a weak day every other weekday/ I feel weakened every other weekend,” really stuck with me. The acoustic guitarist/beat maker/backing vocalist accented the rapper’s flavour nicely.
We ducked around the corner after that to see Bovine winners, Blind Race, at Cherry Cola’s ‘n’ Rock and Rolla Cabaret Lounge. A Metallica-style heavy metal act, the keys were a cool addition and the guitarist was incredible.
Jessie Brown had suggested seeing her hometown pals The Stogies. Coming off a ten day run of shows promoting their album Hoot, these Canadiana Blues rockers were great. Their energy was awesome, one of the best in the competition.
To close the night, The Hot Sprockets of Dublin, looking more like a southern blues band, exhibited a sound that went right along with their look. They played two sets a night nearly every night and although it was well after two in the morning when they went on, they were not burned out. They had great vocal harmonies – almost gospel-style at times. I loved the mandolin and the harmonica. It was nice of them to toss out tees and CDs at the end of their set, too.
Arriving at the Mod Club slightly late Sunday meant seeing one song by classical guitarist, Maneli Jamal. He used the guitar percussively, finger tapping and strumming, which amazed the audience. Jamal is one of many performers we wished we could have seen more of.
The Turks, lucky enough, made it through to the next round of the competition. They played their three favourites songs as part of a fifteen minute set that flew by. Rapper Jutes followed with his heavy beats and party rhymes. It was great to see that Philly Moves had made it to the last round as well.
One of the best parts about the competition is seeing the love between bands. From Philly Moves congratulating Jutes on a great set to realizing that the girl who had been dancing in the front row to the formerly mentioned performers, as well as the night before during Zolo’s set, would be in the following band, DLV. Even during blues rock set of Frankie McQueen, I recognized the guys from Dusty Tucker come in as the guitarist said, “Hey boys.”
Not surprisingly, The Stogies and The Hot Sprockets made it to the finals as well. The next performers, Stone Iris would go on to win the competition.
After the winner’s showcase, we headed over to the Bovine where Goodnight, Sunrise and last year’s winners, Sumo Cyco, performed for the after party.
Written by Jarod Semple
Photography by Sarah Semple