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CMW 2016: Music is Great Britain UK Trade and Investment showcase Saturday night – 7th May 2016

 
By on Thursday, 26th May 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

You know that phrase, “loud enough to wake the dead”? Saturday night at Canadian Music Week 2016 may not have been all that loud, but it was definitely the most crowded night out in town, with plenty of locals out and about to lend a party atmosphere. It sure was very cold and windy, making me wonder whilst wearing my hat and gloves if the dearly departed residents of St. James’ church cemetery near my accommodation for the week were rattling around in their graves.

When it comes to the elements, I consider myself reasonably hearty stock if dressed appropriately, having faced wind and driving rain in my face on many occasions in the UK. However, following along in a theme that has repeated in most everywhere in North America this spring, it was just too damn cold Saturday night. In stark contrast, I saw The Spook School play an early set at the Garrison that afternoon when it was sunny and bright, and I had wished we could have bottled that poppy sunniness and used an atomizer over the entire chilly week of CMW 2016.

The Spook School CMW 2016 Garrison Saturday

My plans for the last night of CMW 2016 would take place solely and in one of the nicer clubs in all of Toronto. Velvet Underground on Queen Street would be seeing out the festival in style, thanks to a ‘Music is Great Britain’-branded showcase put on by UK Trade and Investment. The first two bands on the bill are friends of TGTF; the other two, well, you’ll have to read on.

As a rule, TGTF does not condone skipping school for the sake of music. However, we’re going to give The Orielles a wide berth, as they arrived in Toronto as close as humanly possible to play their first show during CMW while catching as much school as they could before they left. I understand they had finals to return to after; I hope the adrenaline off their first North American music festival saw the band through them.

The Orielles CMW 2016 Velvet Underground Saturday UK Trade and Investment

While they played, excited whispers abounded all around me. “They’re how old?” “And they can play *that* well?” “When did you discover them?” “Liverpool Sound City?” “No, 2013?” “Seriously???” “How old are they again???” Opening the UKTI showcase might well have been ample cause for anxiety, but the young yet experienced in gigs trio from Halifax came out with tune after tune. The Orielles’ first North American appearance was a triumph in every sense of the word, impressing industry and punters alike with their energetic garage and surf-tinged performance.

The People The Poet CMW 2016 Velvet Underground Saturday UK Trade and Investment

The People The Poet, now SXSW veterans after showcasing back to back in 2015 and 2016, were up next. From the surfy, psych vibe created by the Orielles, the Welsh band brought things back squarely to good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll. The vocals of frontman Leon Stanford – growly, emphatic and Joe Cocker-esque – are a force to be reckoned with on their own. But accompanied by the band’s driving instrumentation with the anthemic glow of any Springsteen number worth its salt, the complete package of The People The Poet provide a formidable punch. Check out recent single ‘Club 27’ below.

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Very early on in my CMW 2016 schedule preparation, I’d pencilled in The Undivided for my last night in Toronto. I’d gone through the profiles of all the UK bands headed out to the festival, and I had been most impressed with the oomph of ‘Invincible’. I fully felt the emotions of this band, displayed on their sleeve for all to see. It was a feeling I’d experienced 2 years ago at Liverpool Sound City when faced with Geordies Boy Jumps Ship for the first time. (They’ve just released their debut album this month, and I couldn’t have been prouder of and happier for them.) When you listen to the power of their music and lyrics together, you just know this means an awful lot to every member of the band. Even more weirdly coincidental, both of these bands’ names suggest an inclusionary, “all for one, one for all” mentality that is comforting in this crazy world we live in.

The Undivided CMW 2016 Velvet Underground Saturday UK Trade and Investment

The Welsh band released their latest EP ‘Satellites’ on the 6th of May when we were all out in Toronto, so I hadn’t had a chance to listen to it. It’s on Spotify now, and it’s good stuff. This is loud, fast-paced rock with plenty of heart, and you should do yourself the favour of checking them out now. You know, before they hit it big and I say in a smug tone “I told you so” to your face.

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I have gotten onboard with Slaves and have been known to sing along – loudly – to ‘Where’s Your Car Debbie’. However, I have to admit that I still haven’t quite figured out the appeal of Fat White Family. Is it the camp posturing of Lias Saoudi that gets people hot and bothered? Is it the spitting? Is it the sleaze of ‘Touch the Leather’? Or is it just the anarchic feel of their brand of punk? Of all the bands at the UKTI showcase, they brought in the biggest crowd of the night. Is that a commentary on the music lovers of Toronto? Let’s hope not.

Fat White Family CMW 2016 Velvet Underground Saturday UK Trade and Investment

I left Velvet Underground with the same feeling I had closing out what will probably be my final Sound City in 2014. What was I missing about this hugely hyped band? A few weeks out now from my first CMW, I have come to the acceptance yet again that as they say, there’s no accounting for taste. TGTF will continue to do what we’ve always done: champion the little guy and the music that moves us. And we appreciate you all – bands and fans alike – being along with us for the ride.

 

CMW 2016: a little bit of everything Friday in Toronto – 6th May 2016

 
By on Wednesday, 25th May 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

For at least 1 day during a multi-day festival, you owe it to yourself the benefit of a doubt to have a relaxed day. Or you do what I did on Friday at Canadian Music Week 2016, taking it easy and succumbing to the throes of a bad cold Friday night.

It started promisingly enough. Demi Louise, the lovely yet inexplicably unsigned Australian singer/songwriter who I befriended at SXSW 2016, played a blistering series of shows out in Toronto. One of the more relaxed shows she did was at Drake One Fifty Friday afternoon. Despite a chilly wind that pervaded the city all week, the young Demi brought the sunniness from her hometown of Melbourne to the afternoon’s festivities. Her beautiful voice shone on her current single ‘Taxi Driver’, while she sparkled in her stage patter, so honoured in winning a songwriting award now displayed proudly in her family’s home.

Demi Louise CMW 2016 Drake One Fifty

I had every intention to make it in time for Vancouver duo Fine Times at the Cave, the dance venue above the famous Lee’s Palace. Unfortunately, I made it just as they were packing up. No matter. I hung out for who I was really waiting for, electropop artist NINA. The German-born, London-based musician was dressed to the nines in a white suit jacket with black accents. And as might be expected for someone from her genre, the beats of her music were massive, and the feeling of girl power – or maybe better phrased as independent woman power! – came through in her uplifting, empowering tunes. She has an EP out this Friday, which should be a great introduction of her music to new fans and a cementing of her talent to her already devoted fan base.

NINA CMW 2016 Cave Friday

Due to a terrible miscalculation in distance and location, I missed both Northern Ireland’s PORTS and The Magnettes from Sweden playing at the Nightowl. I’ll have to visit the venue next year. When I realised the error of my ways, I decided to cut my losses and head on to the Smiling Buddha, where I had planned to finish out my evening. The College Street venue’s line-up for the night was not one of enlightenment, unless you’re the kind of person who finds hard rock a pathway to such a higher plane.

Double Date with Death CMW 2016 Smiling Buddha Friday

Double Date with Death are a Montreal lo-fi trio who play loud, hard and fast. If I were to say I could distinguish between their songs, I’d be lying, as I didn’t have time to investigate their music properly prior to the festival. In a way, I’m sure the band themselves had no idea how well the venue’s lack of variation in stage lighting reflect the name of their band perfectly. That said, I did enjoy their slapdash, unforgiving delivery and there were plenty of headbanging punters who clearly agreed.

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Broken Hands were up next. Compared to the bare stage setup of Double Date with Death, the Kent band used up nearly every single centimeter of space at the Smiling Buddha. I’d had a taste of their debut album ‘Turbulence’, having the opportunity to watch them do an in-store at Rough Trade East last October shortly after the LP’s release. However, I was sure after touring around the album in the UK, their confidence would be sky high out here in Toronto.

Broken Hands CMW 2016 Smiling Buddha Friday

Happily, they exceeded my expectations, the conjunction of sound ringing in my ears. Although frontman Dale Norton was dressed in a white lab coat and looked more appropriate for a biology lab, once the music started, he was more like an angry beast having finally been let out of his cage. More in your face than I had ever experienced before, Norton’s stage presence has definitely increased multifold, spitting out the lyrics to ‘Who Sent You?’ and ‘Meteor’ with strength and a sneer. The only fault to their set, which is a minor quibble, is that the moments of mellowness and balladry on ‘Turbulence’ didn’t get an airing. However, given the tone for the evening and it being their last show in Toronto for the week, I don’t blame them for leaving it all onstage in a blistering show of power.

Right, so on to the last act of the night, Overhead, the Albatross. Being courted on social media by family members of a band performing isn’t something I am used to, but it did increase my curiosity about them. They had even more band members and stuff than Broken Hands did, so they didn’t bother staying all onstage, with two of their group joining us on the floor.

A friend described them as “a cross between Arcade Fire and Godspeed You! Black Emperor”, which doesn’t help me much as I’m not a follower of either band. There’s definitely a rebellious prog edge to Overhead, the Albatross, which makes total sense, given that they’ve christened themselves with a name that while not indicating dangerous subversiveness, it’s sufficient to note the brazen headstrongness of doing their own thing and exactly what they want. Curious? Have a watch and listen to their song ‘Big River Man’ below.

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CMW 2016: electropop at Studio Bar and more from the Music from Ireland showcase at Rivoli Thursday – 5th May 2016

 
By on Tuesday, 24th May 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

So that I would not miss one of my must-see bands a good 20-minute walk away, I left the Music from Ireland showcase at the Rivoli before Dublin grunge act Fangclub settled onstage. From what I heard from other punters, they went down a treat, so Carrie and I will need to investigate them further at some point. Walking up Spadina Avenue, then west on Dundas Street, I returned to the Studio Bar, where I’d interviewed Llanelli, Wales group Cut Ribbons earlier before dinner.

Featurette CMW 2016 Studio Bar Thursday

I understood The Studio Bar’s lineup for the evening to be entirely electronic, or at least electropop / synthpop based. So it was no surprised to see electronics at the ready when I arrived and local Toronto duo Featurette were performing. They weren’t that bad, per se, but having seen my fair share of mediocre electronic acts at festivals all over the world, it was hard to be impressed. Further dampening any enthusiasm I may have had about them was singer Lexie Jay singing (er, shouting) into a megaphone a song that I’m guessing was by Drake (?), complete with lyrics that can’t be repeated on a family Web site. I give them credit for giving it their all to a handful of onlookers, but not much else.

Cut Ribbons CMW 2016 Studio Bar Thursday

Cut Ribbons, whose debut album ‘We Want to Watch Something We Loved Burn’ was among my top 5 albums of last year. After some warm-up shows in Guelph and an invigorating visit to Niagara Falls that very morning, they were raring to go, eager to show off new material they’ve been working on at home. While I enjoyed them as much as I did seeing them on the Horizons / Gorwelions stage at the Great Escape 2015, I wish there would have been more punters seeing them that night. That would be one of the cons of Canadian Music Festival: if you’re not hyped enough going out to Toronto, and you find yourself at one of the further out venues, you might not get a great turnout. However, professionals as they are, they put on a great show and I’m really looking forward to hearing their newest music – their new acoustic-based music! – when they make it available to the public. For now, check out a live session track of ‘Helen of Troy’ they shared 2 months ago.

Walking back to the Rivoli with much purpose, I was all about making sure I made it in time for Daithi, with whom I’d had a great chat with Wednesday afternoon in Toronto. On paper, a traditional Irish fiddler mixing his instrument with disparate genres of electronic, house and math rock shouldn’t work. However, live, it’s an entirely unique, lively performance. It’s my understanding that many of the punters who saw him earlier in the evening at Drake Underground walked quite a distance back east to see him play a longer set at the Rivoli. At 1:30 in the morning thousands of miles away from Ireland, Daithi succeeded in being the centre of attention at a dance party of his own creation.

Daithi CMW 2016 Rivoli Music from Ireland Showcase Thursday

While I have some friends enjoy EDM a whole lot but don’t enjoy watching an electronic master at work, I love the spectacle. Making something off the cuff, from general guidelines the artist has set but otherwise allowed himself to improvise up and away from, and being present while that ephemeral art is being made is an amazing honour in itself. For more on this exciting musical alchemist, have a listen to my chat with him in Toronto here. Want a feel for his music and with a very happy tabletop cat? You’re welcome.

 

CMW 2016: the first half of Music from Ireland showcase Thursday night at the Rivoli – 5th May 2016

 
By on Monday, 23rd May 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

If you recall reading in my introductory post about Canadian Music Week 2016, this year’s festival had a Focus on Ireland, which meant there was a great turnout of acts from the Emerald Isle. All said and done after the event was over on Saturday the 7th of May, I managed to catch nearly every single Irish band who had come to Toronto, save one. It helped that most of the Irish bands and the many Irish who had emigrated to and were now resident in the city descended on the Rivoli pool hall on Queen Street Thursday night for a full night of bands as part of Music from Ireland’s brilliant showcase during CMW. Counterintuitively, I did not eat anything remotely Irish for dinner, instead downing a massive, entirely from scratch chorizo arepa in Kensington Market to keep me full until I returned to my bed that evening.

I knew that many Irish bands successful enough to cross the Atlantic for our continents music festivals would naturally take to one another. But it was at CMW 2016 that I felt the incredible strength of bands and artists’ ties to each other, bonded together by the fact that they are Irish and they are all about making meaningful music. They showed up to each other’s shows to cheer them on and to hug and high-five them after their gigs, and I started to get emotional. It occurred to me that we have supported so many Irish bands over the years, starting with Two Door Cinema Club in my early blogging days, through to all the Music from Ireland showcases at SXSW and The Great Escape. So I am now on the hunt for an Irish contributor or two to join us at TGTF. If you or someone you know lives in Ireland (north or south), is keen on independent music and would like to write for us, please contact us / me on Twitter with your interest.

Bagels Search Party Animal CMW 2016 Rivoli Music from Ireland showcase Thursday

Young lads Bagels (now rebranded as Search Party Animal) were first up on the bill, starting things off at the 8 o’clock hour with plenty of energy. If you hadn’t heard his accent, you’d have no way of knowing frontman Adam Redmond wasn’t a surfer dude from the West Coast, which is a roundabout way of saying he’s got the boy next door good looks that I expect young girls all over the world to swoon over in due course. But let’s get back to the music. They’ve got that bouncy guitar liveliness that Northern Irish trio Two Door Cinema Club made their name with. You know, remember that sunniness that Two Door used to bring into venues that would light up the room? There’s even a bit of pounding rhythm with jangly guitar that Foals have made famous. If you’re going to sound vaguely similar to other bands, you could do worse, right?

However, the night belonged to MKAI, a band of brothers (literally, not figuratively) from Cork. Evidently, their reputation preceded them, as even before the tall, dark and handsome figures of Cian, Conor, Eoghan and Colm MacSweeny took the stage, there was an excited mass of fans down the front, patiently waiting for them. They have a debut EP out now, ‘Waiting’, which was released last autumn and led to the selling out of their hometown venue Crane Lane Theatre for the EP’s launch party.

MKAI CMW 2016 Rivoli Music from Ireland showcase Thursday

Just a wild guess, but I’m pretty sure every one of those excited fans already have it, as I haven’t seen people jumping up, down and sideways so enthusiastically at a show in a very long time. I’m being serious. My impression of them was as a folk-less Kodaline, with a pop sensibility and massive anthemic builds featuring synth swells and memorable guitar hooks. I (well, we) were not left disappointed. Their new single ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’ is out this Friday, and you can read Carrie’s review of it from earlier in the month here.

As I was busy watching Icelandic singer/songwriter Axel Flovent at Drake One Fifty early Wednesday afternoon, I missed Elm’s performance at the opening Canadian Music Week party at Google’s Canadian headquarters in Toronto. No big deal, as they were part of the Music from Ireland lineup. They describe themselves as an alternative baroque-pop band, but that would seem to suggest they sound like Neil Hannon and The Divine Comedy. Which they do not.

Elm CMW 2016 Rivoli Music from Ireland showcase Thursday

Truth be told, while I find some things in common with this band with other bands that have a cellist, like Wooden Arms or Passport to Stockholm, I actually found singer Dylan Walsh having an Eddie Vedder, Michael Stipe-like presence, except with a lighter touch. The main concern with a less bombastic vocal is having it get lost in the instrumentation, yet Elm manage to avoid that with thoughtful composition. I will say that Elm are a much more visceral proposition live, as when I saw them this night, they were much louder than I expected them to be, which I wonder if it has to do with the venue’s sound mix for the night. I saw them in conversation with some important looking folk on Saturday at the Sheraton, so I hope that means they have some kind of signed deal in place.

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Stay tuned for the rest of my Thursday night at CMW 2016, which includes more from the Music from Ireland showcase, following tomorrow on TGTF.

 

Preview: Dot to Dot Festival 2016

 
By on Thursday, 19th May 2016 at 9:00 am
 

In this day and age, there are an overwhelming number of music festivals big and small vying for your attention and your hard-earned cash. While we’ve been to the biggies such as SXSW and The Great Escape, there’s something to be said about the smaller events in the less likely places that offer incredible value. Seven years ago, I covered my first UK music festival and now in 2016, I’m chuffed to bits that we’ll be sending another of the TGTF writers out to cover Dot to Dot Festival 2016. If you find yourself not having any plans for the upcoming second May bank holiday weekend, Dot to Dot could, in a pinch, serve as a welcome musical salve to keep your weekend lively.

In case you’ve not heard of Dot to Dot, it’s like behemoth Reading and Leeds in that the bands move on to the next city of the festival, so that nearly all acts set to appear in the franchise will appear in all locations. However, for those who lack the endurance for a longer festival or indeed, for those lacking the desire to commit to more days of an event, Dot to Dot is a 1-day festival, put on at various venues in Manchester (Friday the 27th of May), Bristol (Saturday the 28th of May) and Nottingham (Sunday the 29th of May).

Heading the top of the bill are English indie darlings Mystery Jets, who released their fifth album ‘Curve of the Earth’ at the start of the year. You can read my review of their latest long player here; Rebecca caught some of the band’s set at Live at Leeds late last month too. Providing a welcome contrast, American trio Augustines (pictured at top) will also be appearing at Dot to Dot, ahead of their new album ‘This is Your Life’ out in June on Caroline International in the UK and PIAS America in America. If Steven’s impression of recent single ‘When Things Fall Apart’ is any indication, the synthesisers will be out in full force during their set.

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Another big name scheduled to appear at the festival are The Temper Trap, who will be releasing their long-awaited third album ‘Thick as Thieves’ on the same day as Augustines’ LP drops, the 10th of June. They’ll be appearing at a super secret Amazon Music show this Saturday at the Great Escape 2016 in Brighton, but why wonder if you’re going to see them or not and just buy a ticket to Dot to Dot and ensure you will? Check out their teaser track ‘Fall Together’ above. Other inclusions on the lineup of note to us include Irish band Little Green Cars, whose second album ‘Ephemera’ was released in early March, and SXSW 2016 BBC Introducing stage alums The Sherlocks and ESTRONS, as well as Manchester’s SXSW 2015 BBC Introducing breakout band Spring King, whose debut album for Island Records will also drop on the 10th of June. (Seriously, what is up with that date?!?) Check out a stripped back Radio 1 Piano Sessions version of their track ‘The Summer’ they did live for Huw Stephens below.

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There are, of course, a blindingly amazing list of other acts scheduled to appear at Dot to Dot in 2 weekends’ time, and we invite to check out the official Web site for the most current information on the event. Tickets are available for all three cities at the incredibly low price of £27.50 (including booking fee) directly from Alt-Tickets.

 

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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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

The blog is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in the UK and America. It was started up by Phil Singer in Bristol, UK.

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