Posts tagged ‘canadian music fest’

April 6, 2013

Lee Harvey Osmond brings on the folk


Tom Wilson put together a stellar lineup during Lee Harvey Osmond’s recent show in Toronto. (Adrian Brijbassi photo)

[This article was originally published on]

By its nature, roots music makes a statement through understatement. It uses poetry and art and subtlety to snake its way into a groove that listeners find themselves wanting to retrace time and again. If rock ‘n roll and hip hop are the Saturday night club, then roots and folk music are the neighbourhood coffee shop — the place we always wind up when we want to think and gain perspective and sense community.

Tom Wilson may look like Saturday night — and he’s no doubt enjoyed the rock lifestyle — but his songs have always had the elements of folk music, from their melodies to their characters who possess the depth necessary to connect a listener with their struggles.

On “The Folk Sinner,” the sophisticated second album by his Lee Harvey Osmond project, Wilson shows he’s at his finest these days when there is minimal bombast. With the goal of “serving the music first,” Wilson and his bandmates deliver an elegantly produced album with throaty vocals and a touch of First Nations texture in songs like “Big Chief.” It is reminiscent of Robbie Robertson’s brilliant self-titled album from 1987. “The Folk Sinner” also evokes another celebrated Canadian songwriter, Gordon Lightfoot. A cover of his song “Oh Linda” kicks off the album and was a highlight of Friday night’s performance inToronto that featured Wilson and several of his friends, who just happen to be among Canada’s most talented musicians.

Wilson’s Blackie and the Rodeo Kings bandmate Colin Linden performed “Oh Linda” while Michael Timmins of the Cowboy JunkiesOh Susanna, the Skydiggers‘ Andy Maize, and Paul Reddick were also on stage at the Great Hall for a 90-minute set that showed folk songs have no problem turning into rock music when infused with the energy of a live show and Wilson’s showmanship.

“That configuration has never played together before. They’re all friends of mine and have been for a long time. The idea was to serve the music, to put it first and see where it takes us,” Wilson told me on Tuesday.

A charismatic frontman, Wilson keeps audiences engaged with his humour, some of it self-effacing (“I’ve been on a no-wheat diet and I’m trimmed down and feeling good, but before the show I had a burger for the first time in months and I tell you, I owned that bun, man”), and talents, whether with his vocals or his on-stage antics. On “The Folk Sinner,” “Freedom” is a funky foot-tapping number highlighted by horns and slide guitar, but in concert it smoulders. With a riveting and fiery delivery, Wilson urges anyone within earshot to unshackle themselves and move.

Timmins’ sister, Margo, will be making appearances on upcoming tour dates, Wilson said. Hawksley Workman, who performs on the album’s first single, “Break Your Body Down,” will also join this rambling group of aging and congenial musicians who will show audiences that great concerts are still about great musicianship, not distracting choreography and lip-synching.

“We’re really astonished by the response. To be able to put 470 people into that hall is quite something,” Wilson said about Friday night’s show, which was part of Canadian Music Week festivities. “The album has been No. 1 in Canada already on the Americana Roots charts and we’re getting airplay in the States.”

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March 27, 2012

The Manvils will rock — and entertain — you


Mike Manville's infectious songs for The Manvils match his fun personality. (Julia Pelish/

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.

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March 13, 2011

2011 Canadian Music Fest: Aussies rule at the Horseshoe Tavern

The Australian music industry came to the Canadian Music Fest loaded with more than a dozen bands and left Toronto with an army of new fans. The Horseshoe Tavern hosted an Aussie BBQ on Saturday featuring nine acts, headlined by the sensational Blue King Brown, a funky eight-piece outfit fronted by the energetic Natalie Pa’apa’a (above). If you like Michael Franti & Spearhead, you’ll probably dig Blue King Brown. Their up-tempo rhythm and feel-good vibe had the Horseshoe moving from start to finish of their half-hour set.

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March 12, 2011

2011 Canadian Music Fest: The Jezabels win over Lee’s Palace

Some bands you can listen to all night. The Jezabels are one.

This group of four Sydneysiders all in their twenties were mesmerizingly good at Lee’s Palace on Friday night, playing 45 minutes of their unique indie-pop that never gets too loud or too soft and never stops you moving. Singer Hayley Mary has one of those ethereal voices that just plain makes you want to hear more of it.

With their Canadian Music Fest appearance done, Mary and her bandmates are already on to the States. Hopefully they’ll make it back to Toronto soon for another set. The Jezabels have toured with Canadians Tegan and Sara in Australia and are creating quite a bit of buzz Down Under for their upcoming tour.

Another band that’s got a growing following in their homeland is A Friend in London, a Danish quartet who played to a tiny but enthusiastic late-night crowd at Mitzi’s Sister on Day 3 of CMF. A Friend in London have won competitions overseas, including the 2008 Bodog Battle of the Bands, and have enough talent that they should be playing venues more prestigious than the Irish pubs they’re setting up in during their run through Ontario this month. In their poppy rock songs you’ll hear hints of U2, the Smiths and Peter Gabriel. If you want to check them out before they head back to Europe, they’re at the Foggy Dew (803 King St. W.) on Sunday at 4 p.m.

I was hoping to catch the full Big Sugar show at the Sound Academy, but only arrived for a bit of it. That was enough to discover Gordie Johnson can still pluck the strings pretty damn great. Looks like they’ll be making big noise around town again and that’s good news.

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March 10, 2011

2011 Canadian Music Fest: Birds of Tokyo show why they are on top Down Under

Birds of Tokyo proved why you should always get a wristband for Canadian Music Fest. On the first night of the 2011 edition, this polished Australian quartet rocked through a tight set of songs that has won them much acclaim Down Under.

In their home country they’re headliners. Silversun Pickups (one of my fave bands) opened for them during a recent tour that went from Perth to Sydney.

In Toronto this week, Birds of Tokyo are among 800 bands vying for attention from industry types and, perhaps more importantly, from you and me. One wristband costs $75 on the CMF website and will get you into a bunch of shows taking place at 55 venues through Sunday.

At the Phoenix on Wednesday night, lead singer Ian Kenny commanded the stage with a confident swagger that made it clear he and his band have done this many times before. Birds of Tokyo won the Best Rock Album award at the 2010 ARIAs (Australia’s Grammys) in November. The highlight of their set was “Plans”, one of their hits in Oz. They’re sure to play that again when they hit the El Mocambo on Thursday night (9:30 p.m.) for their last set at the CMF.

Other bands I aim to see in the next couple of days:

Billy the Kid – Vancouver acoustic act that’s worked with Raine Maida and Garth Hudson. (The Dakota, Thursday, 11 p.m.)

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

The Jezabels – Another 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 some big noise in their home country of Denmark. (Mitzi’s Sister, Friday, 1 a.m.)

Here’s the full 2011 schedule.