Posts tagged ‘canadian music week’

January 26, 2013

Diamond Rings takes on the world

[This article was published last month in Vacay.ca as part of its Rock ‘n Roll Road Trips series. Diamond Rings has since been nominated for a SiriusXM Canadian Indie Music Award, whose show takes place March 22, 2013 during Canadian Music Week in Toronto.]

Diamond rings, John O’Regan says, are glamorous and tough. That’s why they’re the namesake of his on-stage persona, an act that has busted out of the Toronto music scene to earn superlative-laden reviews across the continent. One reason for the success is the fact diamond rings are mesmerizing too.

It’s difficult not to keep your eyes on O’Regan. For one thing, you have to make up your mind whether his act is an artistic form of self-expression or a schtick. One listen of his hit “I’m Just Me” should convince you he’s much more Ziggy Stardustthan Gary Glitter, which is to say that Diamond Rings has substance and cred. It’s quite possible the persona O’Regan has created is the most interesting act to come out of Canada since Arcade Fire. “I’m Just Me” comes across as a mantra for the sexually uncertain, the androgynous or the transgender, but like any great song it has universality to it, appealing to anyone who embraces their individuality when it clashes with bullies or the sensibilities of the establishment. There’s both a rebelliousness and a sweetness to the song, underscoring the duality O’Regan talks about in himself and his performance.

While most audiences are now hearing about Diamond Rings for the first time, O’Regan isn’t an overnight success. He’s been toiling in Toronto for several years, fronting the electro-pop band The D’urbervilles, recently renamed Matters. In Toronto, the 27-year-old spends his days in Roncesvalles, a historic neighbourhood known for its Polish heritage and proximity to High Park.

“I tend not to leave that neighbourhood when I’m at home. Being away, being in a rock band there is so much stimulation, a lot of long nights, a lot of loud music and loud clubs, and although Toronto is great for all that stuff, when I’m home it’s rarely what I want to do,” O’Regan said during an interview three weeks ago in a suite in the Ritz-Carlton Toronto.

Roncesvalles is beyond West Queen West, an area that’s become a cultural hub for the city, with vintage clothing stores, nightclubs, and a pair of notable boutique hotels, the Gladstone and the Drake, that are a breeding ground for artists of all sorts. O’Regan’s part of town is much more low key, although it does have two of the city’s best new restaurants in Hopgood’s Foodliner and Barque. Despite his flamboyant stage presence, O’Regan struck me as very much an introspective artist devoted to pushing himself and his work as far as he can, and that makes Roncesvalles a fit for him. It lacks the bustle and distractions of other areas of the city, allowing him to hole up and make music.

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March 13, 2012

2012 Canadian Music Week Preview: Who to see in Toronto

blackie-and-the-rodeo-kings

Blackie and The Rodeo Kings play Massey Hall during Canadian Music Week in Toronto. (Julia Pelish photo)

TORONTO — Canadian Music Week keeps reaching higher and for its 30th year it will ascend as high as it can get. The kick-off celebration to Canada’s largest music event will take place at the CN Tower — 1,815 feet up.

East coast rockers the Joel Plaskett Emergency are the headliner for the March 21 opening show, which will jump start a five-day celebration of music, art, film and, for the first time, comedy.

“Music promoters seem to be promoting comedy more and more. A goal of the festival is that we always want to stay current and we wanted to add Canada’s premier comedy festival to our list,” festival coordinator Zach Gordensky told me.

The event features industry seminars, a digital workshop, the Indie music awards, and musicians from 40 countries. Although there are usually some big names, including Slash this year, the festival isn’t known for attracting major acts. It’s a showcase of new music and that’s one of the reasons why it doesn’t get nearly as much media attention as it deserves. I’ve been attending the festival for the past three years, since returning to Toronto, and it’s one of the most underrated big events in the country. With a $75 wristband, you can get into see dozens of fantastic performances from emerging artists throughout the week. You’ll also get to experience some of Toronto’s best and most intimate music venues, including the Dakota Tavern and the Piston.

With close to 1,000 bands, 800 media members, 500 industry attendees, and between 125,000 and 150,000 fans, Canadian Music Week and its festival lineup have an immense economic impact on Toronto each year.

“There’s been a lot of hard work and people dedicated to building this thing up. It’s pretty impressive for me to work with something with such a long legacy,” says Gordensky, who’s been aboard for a couple of years.

He says he’s excited to see Bear Hands, a Brooklyn band, and Etobicoke’s Cold Specks (aka Al Spx), who was recently on Jools Holland’s show in the UK.

As for the show at the CN Tower, Gordensky says the plans fell into place easily. “The CN Tower is excited to be on board, we’re excited to be doing it,” he says. “It’s the first time we’re putting bands up there. It’s the highest point in Toronto, the highest point in Canada, so we expect it’ll be a really great show.”

In recognition of the 30th anniversary of Canadian Music Week, here’s the list of Vacay.ca’s Top 30 Must-See CMW Performances, broken down between Canadian and International acts. For a full schedule, visit the festival’s website.

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