It always amazes me to see the number of bands that travel such a long way to be a part of Canadian Music Week’s lineup. Out of the two CMW shows I’ve attended at The Bovine Sex Club this week, at least four of the performing bands are from out of the province. I suppose it makes the festival that much more unique. Either way, on Saturday, May 7th, I was ready to experience some local and not-so-local talent.
RYDER, a two-piece band, consisting of a drummer and a DJ/vocalist, was the first act to perform that night. I don’t even know where to begin. These guys clearly don’t take themselves too seriously, so I figure, neither should I. The cheesy dance music and the occasionally off-key vocals weren’t great by any stretch of the imagination but as entertainment? Excellent. Having a drunk frontman pull off some silly dance moves and climb all around the stage was an experience in itself. His confidence and downright ability to not give a shit is what kept me from hating his set. Even when he jumped down from the stage and kept singing as he put his arm around his friends, you couldn’t help but awkwardly laugh about it. Was the music enjoyable? Not at all. Would I recommend anyone check out their material? Highly doubtful. Did I enjoy myself while I was there? You bet your ass I did.
Up next was Waingro. This hard-hitting three-piece from Vancouver, BC brought their kickass brand of hardcore punk to this side of the country for Canadian Music Week, and thank God they did, because it totally rocked the Bovine that night. Between the frontman’s thick guitar tone and powerful vocals, to the drummer’s endurance, and the bassist’s ability to keep it all locked together, they produced this high energy that carried them through the set. Unlike most heavy bands I’ve seen live, I never got tired of their half-hour set. The band’s frontman did a great job of keeping the music interesting with a handful of sweet riffs and killer solos. His gritty, unclean vocals surprisingly never wavered, and neither did the bassist’s backup screams. Even when things slowed down in tempo, they never slowed down in raw aggression. I don’t have much criticism aside from the fact that they live so far away and I won’t be able to catch them again for a while. A little more audience engagement wouldn’t hurt either, but they were so tight musically that it made up for it. I’m looking forward to listening to some of their recorded material.
The Dying Arts was the next band to play what they explained would be their last show for some time. I caught them last year when they opened for Anti-Flag and was unimpressed by their set then, but they more than made up for it this time around. Aside from their energetic performance, there was something different about this act compared to the others that night. The Bovine filled up. Fast. People were standing shoulder to shoulder in the venue that it felt like it was at capacity. It didn’t feel like a local show anymore and it was indeed great to see one of the smaller CMW shows being that full. The Toronto band made the most of it by charmingly interacting with the large audience. They were my favourite of the night; always staying active, frantically covering every bit of the stage that they could, and having so much fun doing it. Musically, the guitar and vocal effects did a good job of adding an atmospheric element to their heavy sound and they played a handful of older songs, as well as newly recorded ones. As they ended their set, the crowd cheered for an encore, but after officials had told them no, the lead singer half-jokingly told the audience that Canadian Music Week, “Isn’t about the bands or the audience. It’s about making money off you guys,” before walking off stage. Despite the fact that I disagree with his statement, it was a memorable way to end a good set. The spirit of punk rock was certainly with them that night, and the crowd was loving it.
As the next band was getting ready, a few fans of The Dying Arts had left the building, leaving some elbow room for whoever stuck around. The last group I had the chance to catch that night was Meat Wave. The Chicago group was easily the loudest of the acts. Unfortunately, I didn’t find them too memorable in any other way. The clean vocals weren’t bad, but the melodies never stood out. The guitar riffs were cool and dissonant, but forgettable. They had an aggressive sound to them, much like Waingro, but the execution didn’t impress me as much. I could be wrong on this one, however, because the audience, although smaller than the one for The Dying Arts, was much more passionate. Some people were headbanging while others were dancing to the music, and it was clear that they were having a blast. Much like the band before them, the crowd was chanting for an encore by the end of their thirty-minute set which, again, ended up being undelivered (Curse you Canadian Music Week and your tightly run schedules!)
All in all, it was a good show with a few surprises that made a lasting impression. Although some acts weren’t as enjoyable as others, they each had elements of their sets that made them unique. As Canadian Music Week draws to a close, I can only hope we keep seeing this level of passion and artistry stay prominent in the city of Toronto.
Written by Mathieu Perrier
Photography by Thomas Cummins
*edited by Danielle Kenedy