Cameron Carpenter: Past and Present Tens – RiFFing on Indie Week – Part 2
After the panels on Friday I headed over to The Imperial Pub across from The Bond Place Hotel for a quick pint before heading over to the theatre for the evening. I was greeted by John Brodeur and Alex White from the Morning After Girls as well as “Alone In North America” director David Hilbert, who were relaxing after their Indie 101 panel. Across the bar I spotted newly named CMW VP of Music Development Rick Fenton holding court with United Steelworkers of Montreal’s Gern Vichek.
I am looking forward to reading Gern’s new book “Turn Right, Turn Left, Repeat: Life on the road for the Canadian Indie Band”. As I mentioned in my column last week young bands need to read books such as these to get a sense of what may be in store for them, and, to learn of the bands that paved those roads. Sadly time was pressing and I needed to get over to the theatre.
Friday night’s early show was a collection of shorts. We started with the new music video from U.K. artist Jack Garratt called “Chemical”. We followed this with a 20 minute doc on rockers The Cancer Bats and a 9 minute short on the newly crowned 2016 Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame member Andy Kim. To finish the program we showed 20 minutes of outtakes from upcoming feature “Hired Gun”. The look at the hired guns who help out bands on stage and in the studio has just been completed but as the film has applied to Sundance we were only able to show the outtakes at this point. I was joined by Jason Hook (the Toronto born guitarist featured in the film) and director Jason Strine for a lively Q+A after the screening. We have been promised the full film for next year.
The second screening of the night was a music video from Spain’s betamotion and then the Canadian premiere of “The Seeds – Pushin’ Too Hard” the in-depth story of Sky Saxon and the legendary California band.
Director Neil Norman was in fine form at the post-screening Q+A regaling the audience with stories of his famous father’s Sunset Strip night club and smoking cigarettes at the age of nine in the back of a taxi with his cousin sixties baseball superstar Sandy Koufax. It was then off to The Old Laurel, but of course the night did not end there. While standing in front of the club we ran into booker Dan Burke and he took Neil, Mike Joyce, Christopher Cherry and Smalls director John Kerr over to the Silver Dollar and then downstairs to the rave that was going on at 3:15 AM. Now I am used to the late night Bovine crowd but this scene is totally foreign to me. Of course Mike Joyce was in his glory re-living his Manchester Hacienda days, the club that The Smiths built their career upon. It was a side of Toronto night life that I rarely get to see.
With no panels Saturday was the first sleep in day of the fest but there was still one more night of movies. The first screening of the night was the short music video “Marooned” from American band Adventure Galley followed by the long-form music video “Takes You Like A Rose” by Belgium’s Victoria + Jean.
At the busy opening night party I watched a little bit of the Victoria + Jean set but there were too many distractions around me to get fully engaged in their set. I was pleased when they arrived early for their screening and we had time for a drink at Bar Radio (across from the Royal). They introduced their short film and it looked amazing on a full screen. It is much more a short movie than a music video. Our first feature of the night was “Piss On You: Winnipeg’s Early Punk Scene” directed by Kathryn Martin. The Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal first generation punk scenes are well known to me but for some reason I was never aware of the Winnipeg scene and the doc was a real eye opener.
The Reel Indie Film Fest finished with a video called “Whisper” by the band Playing to Vapors and then with the Toronto premier of “the smalls – forever is a long time”. The smalls were a nineties Edmonton band who rode the tightrope between punk and metal and were stars in western Canada. After a tumultuous decade the band went their separate ways only to re-form in 2014 for a series of dates. Those dates were the nucleus of the film along with the lives of the four band members after the break-up. There was almost a full-scale reunion in Toronto when Dug Bevans, Terry Johnson and Corb Lund joined us for the screening and answered questions after the film.
I was hoping to make it down to The Rivoli in time for the Luka State set but when I arrived they were out front celebrating their self-proclaimed greatest set ever. I got inside just in-time to catch the last three songs from Victoria + Jean and it was one of the most intense 15 minutes I have ever seen on stage (and in the case of Victoria, offstage as she verbally confronted an overly loud crowd member or two). The sweet woman I had met hours before was an animal on-stage channeling the likes of Sinead O’Connor, Bjork, Patti Smith and even Iggy Pop while guitarist Jean wielded his guitar like Thurston Moore. I was won over.
The venue took on a happier demeanor when Mike Joyce took to the stage for his DJ set, spinning classic new wave and punk and even throwing in a Smiths song for good measure. After the set we all re-convened at The Bovine for some late night fun.
Sunday night was the band championship night at the Virgin Mod Club and we also announced the winners of the RiFF Awards: Will Currie & The Country French for best music video, “Alone In North America” for best short documentary and “Forced Perspective” for best feature film.
A great week all around with special thanks going to Christopher Cherry and all of the film makers and panelists who helped make Indie 101 and RiFF happen, and of course Darryl Hurs for asking me on the team.
More music from Indie Week’s RIFF….
The smalls –
The Seeds –
Will Currie and the Country French
The morning after girls
And more information on Adventure Galley and a repeat of the winning video….
Adventure Galley – https://vimeo.com/95794174
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Cameron Carpenter has written for The New Music Magazine, Music Express, The Asylum, The Varsity, The Eye Opener, The New Edition, Shades, Bomp!, Driven Magazine, FYI Music News, The Daily XY, New Canadian Music, NXNE Magazine and Don’t Believe A Word I Say.