CMW 2016: Wednesday night with stops at Mar on Music at The 300 Club and The Central – 4th of May 2016

By on Wednesday, 18th May 2016 at 4:00 pm
 

Wednesday night was still ahead of Canadian Music Week (CMW) 2016 conference proper, but there was plenty on music-wise in the good city of Toronto to nosh on before things officially kicked off at the Sheraton Centre Toronto. My first stop was to see several bands on the pretty awesome line-up at recently redone and rebranded 300 Club on College Street. It was put on by our Canadian radio friend Mar on Music, who has a Friday afternoon programme on University of Toronto radio station CIUT. Most of the line-up was locally sourced, which was what I was looking for.

The Magic Gang CMW 2016 at the 300 Club Mar on Music Wednesday

However, the first band was English and making their North American live debut. We saw The Magic Gang at Live at Leeds 2015, and the Brighton band has been going from strength to strength since then. They’re truly a band who have embraced the DIY ethic and managed to come out on the other side with grass roots-earned success. The Brighton band were raring to go with their slot at this evening showcase, and they didn’t disappoint. They brought their brand of sunny indie pop and the feeling of the seaside to the 300 Club, bringing smiles to everyone in the place.

The Seams CMW 2016 at the 300 Club Mar on Music Wednesday

The next band up at the 300 were The Seams, who I understand to be kind of a local indie supergroup of talented musicians all wanting a side project. The trio comprises of band members from WISH, Elsa and Fake Palms, and the resultant noise recalls great ‘90s Britpop. If you’re so inclined to go back that way to revisit all those subgenres back in the day like shoegaze and its more jangly brother, you’re likely to enjoy The Seams.

Sahara CMW 2016 at the 300 Club Mar on Music Wednesday

Of all the Torontonian bands I had on my CMW 2016 schedule, I was most keen on catching Sahara. They recently released a new EP that is described on SoundCloud as psych-tinged post-punk, but I actually think it’s more dream pop than that. In fact, I considered them Toronto’s answer to High Highs. The same description on SoundCloud says of their sound: “a shimmering, summery sound that belies some of their darker leanings”, which is interesting because when they actually played, they played virtually in the dark, as if they didn’t want us the audience to see them. Not that I was expecting a full, strobe-y light show to accompany their set, but I was surprised and a little bit disappointed in the darkness, as I think their song ‘Mirage’ is gorgeous.

Comrade Hat CMW 2016 Central Wednesday

Like SXSW, many bands were playing most multiple times at CMW, which afforded me some good options for scheduling in the week. After I’d gotten my fill of Sahara, I decided to head way west to a little place nestled among a residential neighbourhood. When I arrived, I noted that The Central is an adorable venue that looks perfect for intimate, acoustic sets by singer/songwriters. Oddly enough, who I came to see was not a single man or woman onstage but instead, the six-member strong Comrade Hat.

Or maybe they are better described as Comrade Hat the man – Donegal via Derry composer and performer Neil Burns on a Korg keyboard – plus his fellow Irish friends Great White Lies. Like The Seams earlier in the evening, they’re a throwback, but a throwback much further back in time. I imagined being transported in time to a smoky jazz lounge in the ‘70s with a guy on piano, singing about his observations on life, kind of like a jazzed up Mister Rogers. I can see why it makes more sense to have a full band at an international event like CMW because it adds more pomp to the occasion, but they barely had any room to move with all the equipment onstage with them. But if you visit Burns’ own SoundCloud and listen to his ambient burblings such as ‘High in the Rockies’, that’s the kind of stuff I prefer to geek out on.

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