Cameron Carpenter – New & Improved!
The beauty of any music conference is discovering bands that you have never heard or seen before. Last week was no exception. All told I probably saw north of fifty acts, and, many of these, I saw perform for the first time. I had a pretty set agenda at the beginning of the week but occasionally there was a break of an hour to two between mandatory bands, and, at the bequest of others in the know, I would stray off the path.
Most of my activities revolved around the Queen Street West strip as you can walk between all of the venues and there was always something good in each of them. My bookends were the Rivoli to the east and Cherry’s to the west (after Tuesday night the furthest north I ventured was the Tiki Bar on the roof of The Bovine). As always there was time for the lobby bar at the Sheraton and the various events and parties that take place in that immediate area. During the day I found myself on the great deck at The Porch, over in the alley beside The Drake 150 and charging across Richmond to the daily Google Play party. Let`s get to some new music shall we?
Although I have never seen Romes I certainly know who they are. They started in Wicklow, Ireland and then moved to Toronto about seven years ago. The five-piece band honed their craft, worked with producer and Death From Above rocker Sebastien Grainger and released a well-reviewed EP and played some major gigs both as headliners and as a support act. An album was in the works, a buzz was in the industry and then radio silence. Last year, Jacob Bitove, Nick Bitove, Andrew Keyes and James Tebbits returned as Romes, now managed by Ryan Gentles (who also manages The Strokes). They released their debut EP last month (produced by Tony Hoffer – Beck, Phoenix) and have inked a deal with Eleven Seven Music in New York. They have a very eighties dance pop sound and The Guardian in the UK named them “Band Of The Week”. Live it was dark but danceable and the band works much better with Jacob losing his guitar duties and strictly concentrating on his vocal duties. Looks like this is the real deal.
- The Vidos
This band was not on my radar at all but when I ran into my old Vancouver music industry buddy Lyle Chausse he asked what I was seeing later that evening and I told him outside of a commitment at 2 AM I was free when the band he manages The Vidos hit the stage at Cherry Cola’s. The hard rock three-piece are a cross between Lenny Kravitz and Fu Manchu, and, although young, they knew their classic rock chops. Very impressed and looking forward to seeing and hearing more of them.
- White Lung
Somehow this female-fronted punky hard rock band has eluded my ears for the last ten years. I had heard the name but knew nothing of them. When I ran into my old Geffen co-worker Mark Kates (owner of Boston’s Fenway Recordings) at the lobby bar he told me he had just signed the Canadian band to his management company. The band played to a very busy Velvet Underground on the release night for their new Domino Records album “Paradise” and I was instantly captivated by lead singer Mish Way. The girl knows how to work a stage. With Mark now in charge I think they are ready for big things.
- Scenic Route To Alaska
I had only seen the band once before and that was an abbreviated set at an afternoon barbeque last summer. Jay Sparrow has worked with the band in the past and Pop Trip’s Marco Noni has now taken them on for management. The Cameron was packed for their set last week and their pop was perfect for the room. Watch out for this Alberta-based band.
- Fat White Family
It was an all-around great night for the Music is GREAT Britain showcase at The Velvet. I was there early in the evening for The Orielles (who rock much harder live than on record) and returned at midnight for the total swagger that was south London’s Fat White Family. In the great Brit tradition shirts were off and drinks were consumed on stage before the end of the first song. Time to check-in on their back catalog.
- Lemon Cash
I had been asked to check out the Ottawa-based band by my old friend Rob Braide. At the bar we determined that we have known each other since 1978 when he was at CHOM-FM and I was at Quality Records. The five piece band were a cross between Matchbox 20, Third Eye Blind and Our Lady Peace and I can see Canadian radio warming to the band very quickly. Tons of potential here.
- Smoove + Turrell
I met Bite The Apple management’s Ema Nosurak very briefly at the BnB bar. She was looking for a photographer for a quick photo session for the band Smoove + Turrell. I gave her a couple of names and emails and said to tell them I had suggested she contact them. I don’t know what if this happened or not. She gave me her card and a CD from the North East England band and hoped I might be able to catch them, and, unfortunately my schedule did it not work out. On Monday I started to sort, file, download and listen to all the CD’s, download cards and USB’s I acquired throughout the week and I was gobsmacked when I heard what they call “Northern Coal Music”. Imagine The Heavy battling the Average White Band with a turntable thrown in for good measure. I can’t even imagine how crazy the UG3 would have been for their midnight show last Saturday. Regrets? I have a few…
All I knew about Timberwolf was they were going to be playing an acoustic daytime show at the offices of Instinct , where Michael Perlmutter and his staff curate cool daytime performances whenever there is a music convention in town. I missed the performance but was happy to see there was another show at the Aussie BBQ at The Horseshoe on Saturday just before my Tiki Party. Although he performed with a band Timberwolf is actually 24 year old Adelaide artist Chris Panousakis. My first thought was hippy. He looked the part but it was soon apparent he was an old soul well-schooled in the history of songwriter. We sat on the Show patio after the show and I said something along the lines of “Your parents owned a lot of Beatles records and George was your fave”. He smiled, acknowledged and then said who else from that era. There was nothing obvious and he finally told me Paul Simon’s early works totally influenced his song structure. Made sense. Pretty magical.
With gigs on Monday and Tuesday nights, and, only three of the band being able to afford to come over from Jakarta the band made the best of it and their airy U2-ish songs still held their magic without the full band. I think you may get another chance to see this band in November.
- Old Friends
Not a band but always great to see old industry friends such as Daniel Glass (founder of Glassnote Records), Boston’s Adam Lewis from The Planetary Group, Mark Kates from Fenway Recordings, Allen Kovac (Eleven Seven Music), Phil Patterson (UK Trade), Andy McLean (ECMA) and far too many others to mention.
Cam’s column appears every Thursday.
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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.