2011 Canadian Music Fest: Zeus is almighty and Billy the Kid could make herself famous

It’s happening again.

The groundswell of support that’s lifted Arts & Crafts’ artists like Stars and Broken Social Scene to wide recognition in Canada and elsewhere has surrounded Toronto band Zeus.

Nina Gandolfo waited at the front of the Horseshoe Tavern stage all night Thursday to see her favourite band, which didn’t begin its set until 12:20 a.m. “The best band ever” and “they’re like the Beatles” and “they care so much about the music, there’s such warmth in it” were among Nina’s words of worship. She’s clearly the leader of the Zeusbolts (every great band needs a name for its followers; other contenders: Zeusters, Zeusheads, Zeusies). They are mostly twenty-something artsy types with sharp enough ears to realize they must turn off the radio in order to find good music.

On Day 2 of this year’s Canadian Music Fest, the Z-bolts sang and danced joyously to every song, and added the kind of energy that’s needed for a terrific show. Zeus have won over a number of critics, both locally and abroad. Their sound is rich and their musicianship worthy of their fans’ effusive praise. A cover of “That’s All” by Genesis was one highlight from this quartet that includes drummer Rob Drake and a trio of frontmen: Carlin Nicholson, Mike O’Brien and Neil Quin.

Formed a couple of years ago, Zeus has members who’ve backed up Jason Collett on nationwide tours. The band plays in Toronto a lot, so there’s ample opportunity to see them in small venues, for now.

Elsewhere on Thursday night, Billy the Kid, aka Kristen Pettinger, from Vancouver wowed fans at the Dakota Tavern. Canada has turned out many excellent female singer/songwriters in the past 10 years or so and Billy the Kid seems poised to join the ranks of Kathleen Edwards, Julie Doiron and Sarah Harmer with her melodious tunes.

At Sneaky Dee’s, those few who stayed for the 1:30 a.m. performance of Golden Isles got treated to some funky soul music from a Montreal band that’s got a real groovy sound.

Here is the full CMF schedule. And this is where I’ll be tonight:

James Vincent McMorrow – Irish singer/songwriter and they tend to always be good. (Great Hall, Friday, 9:30 p.m.)

The Jezabels – An Australian band, this one with a wonderful lead singer (Hayley Mary) whose voice will remind you of Kate Bush and Florence Welch. (Lee’s Palace,  Friday, 10 p.m.)

Big Sugar – Gordie Johnson and his reunited band that made some noise about 20 years ago around town. (Sound Academy, Friday, 11 p.m.)

A Friend in London – Quiet, pop rockers have made a splash in their home country of Denmark. (Mitzi’s Sister, Friday, 1 a.m.)

(Thanks to Julia Pelish for the great pics!)

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