This past Friday, I attended a Canadian Music Week showcase at Toronto’s Hard Luck bar. Although it was the only CMW show I could attend this year, it was such a fun one. That night lots of talent from the Southern Ontario hardrock scene was showcased thanks to Terminal Joy, Northern Saints, Crown Lands, as well as headliners Bloody Diamonds.
First on the bill was Terminal Joy. Their slow but heavy musical stylings were a great way to kick off the night. The lead singer’s vocals and lyrics were haunting and very repetitive, repeating chorus lines overtop heavy power chords and progressively introducing a false sense of insanity. The vocals were an acquired taste but ended up bringing out the dark undertones in their otherwise simplistic music. Terminal Joy’s drummer wore a mask and his primitive behaviour between songs added to their general weirdness. The tracks themselves were riddled with messy solos, and thick, grungy guitar and bass tones; it’s a sound I don’t often listen to, but can definitely get behind. Although I enjoyed it, I’d love to see Terminal Joy break away from their somewhat formulaic song structures and experiment with their songwriting a bit just to avoid repetition.
The second act of the night was Northern Saints, and they brought a whole new kind of energy to the crowd. In short, the London, Ontario group’s sound reminded me of Red Hot Chili Peppers. I’m sure I’m not the first to make that connection and I know I won’t be the last. With a healthy dose of slap-bass, tight drumming, and the Frusciante-esque guitar, they produced a sound that made you want to get up and dance. On top of it all, their lead singer had a great timbre to his voice, reminiscent of pop performers like Bruno Mars. The two made for a familiar, but refreshing, combination that had me asking the band if they had any music I could buy. Looks like I’ll have to wait until the summer to hear more from them, and eagerly I shall wait.
Crown Lands were the group I was most stoked to see. The two-piece rock duo has been making a stir in Oshawa, Ontario’s music scene lately, and I hope that amount of success bleeds over into Toronto soon because they’re one hell of an act. Although my beef with two-piece acts not having a full-enough sound is always a concern, there was no shortage of that here. Guitarist Kevin Comeau’s low tones were covered, using a foot pedal keyboard to play those bass notes. It was impressive to see him coordinate both instruments, and alongside lead vocalist and drummer Cody Bowles, Crown Lands proved to be a talented, multi-tasking band. The blues influenced hard rock sound made for some infectious riffs and, by the back half of their set, everyone in the sparsely attended venue had gotten up from their chairs to gather at the front of the stage. They treated the attentive audience to a cover of Rush’s “Working Man,” and Bowles performed an impressive O Baterista-influenced drum solo midway through the song. It didn’t quite do the great Neil Peart justice, but really, what can? With a great Canadian tribute like that one, Crown Lands surely won over the crowd by the end of their set.
Finally, Bloody Diamonds were the closers of the night, and they kept up with the riff-heavy blues-influenced sound. Frontwoman Sara Elizabeth was confident and had a great voice that complimented her onstage persona. Her outfit really helped bring out the gothic element in Bloody Diamonds’ music and it made for an interesting blend of genres that worked seamlessly. Elizabeth’s range and passion were easily the highlights of the set, and her bluesy rasp was refreshing. They humbly thanked the crowd for sticking with them until after midnight and wished guitarist Jake Seaward a happy birthday. Hopefully, he had a good one, because they all played a killer set.
It was a fun night that didn’t end too late and served as a reminder of why Canadian Music Week is as fun as it is; loads of talented bands getting together to play for the love of music.
Written by Mathieu Perrier
*edited by Danielle Kenedy