Diners at Mildred’s Temple Kitchen in Liberty Village may not realize the likeable guy who greets them is also one heck of a rock ’n roll front man. No exaggeration. Mikey Manville is 6-feet-2 of combustible energy and charm. Playing Saturday night at a secret show for Canadian Music Fest, Manville bounded and danced and charged into the crowd, wailing his guitar, and then rushed back to the microphone in a frenetic display of showmanship that you’d expect to see on stage at the El Mocambo and not the basement of a duplex in the Queen West neighbourhood.
Manville relocated from Vancouver about six months ago and when he’s not working as a host at one of Toronto’s best restaurants, he’s building an impressive catalogue of alternative rock tunes, some of which he and his band, The Manvils, showcased at that impromptu after party celebrating the 30th anniversary of Canada’s largest music festival.
In a room that proved it can hold as many as 50 people (uncomfortably — “Uh, where’s the fire exit?”), Manville jammed with drummer Jay Koenderman, who made the move with him from out west, and new bassist Jason Skiendziel, who learned the band’s catalogue in a matter of a few hours in the days before Saturday’s 30-minute performance. Songs “Turpentine” and “Hot Volcano Like” have great rock hooks while the newly written “Heart of the Hide,” about the theft of Manville’s baseball glove in Vancouver, shows his diverse songwriting abilities.
“Mike’s a great front man,” Koenderman says. “He really gets the crowd going. It’s fun to watch from back there while I’m drumming.”
A few years ago, The Manvils were one of Vancouver’s hottest new bands, with a song featured on a beer commercial that aired during the Beijing Olympics and a breakthrough album on the Sandbag Records label. The move east to Canada’s biggest city gets them in front of larger audiences with more influential industry types.
It also gives Manville more opportunities to explore his songwriting.