Canadian Music Fest means it really must be spring

by W. Andrew Powell

Okay, so the weather outside may make it feel otherwise, but spring has sprung, at least as much as it’s going to spring for now, and that means one thing for me this week: the Canadian Music Fest.

Across the city, venues are filling up with music fans tonight, and every night until Sunday, as artists from across Canada, and all over, step up to the microphones and pelt out their best.

For me, it’s not really spring without CMF and Canadian Music Week, so this feels like a rite of the season, just like the Toronto International Film Festival is my rite of fall.

After 14 years covering the festival–yes, this is my 14th year–the year just wouldn’t feel right without the annual “pub crawl” that offers up so many musicians. The problem is really just narrowing my list of “must see” bands down to something I can actually accomplish in one night, and that’s tricky.

If you’re curious how I narrow down my list, it comes down to basic planning, which is heard when your heart just wants to run out and see bands.

First off, my rule is that, if I’ve seen the artist in concert before, or if they’re local, I generally try to avoid seeing them at CMF. After all, I can likely see those people in concert any time, but what about that independent band from Australia, or even Winnipeg? How often will they be in town?

My second step is figuring out how to see as many great acts as possible without changing venues every hour. If I’m running around town, chances are good that I’m either not going to get into the next venue because it’s packed, or I’m going to miss part of a performance, so my goal is to find one venue with a great lineup, or a few venues that are close together. More often than not, I aim for the former, but I will make exceptions for some bands.

Finally, I scour the lists of bands and artists playing, and I listen to every snippet of music I can find. A few years back that meant MySpace, but today, things have vastly improved, and that usually means watching videos on YouTube, where most bands have a few demos or performances. That usually makes it pretty obvious who is worth watching, and who you can skip.

There are still–always–tough choices every year, and this selective little process doesn’t always work out because I like to find the hidden gems (a few years back, one of those gems was Nightbox, and they have since had their music featured in a bunch of TV shows after releasing a brand new CD).

Tonight alone, I would like to be at five venues for at least one or two acts at each place, but since that’s not possible, I’ve picked the acts who wowed me the most, and they all revolve around one band I’m dying to see at midnight: Wildlife. The band is playing The Great Hall, and they happen to have acts on before that I really want to see too–Mad Ones and PS I Love You.

Will tonight be a great night? Barring any disasters, I think it will, but the great thing about CMF is taking the chance, and hopefully being rewarded. I’ll be writing up every day at the festival, so stay tuned for my full reports.

To show off just how amazing Wildlife are, check out their video below for their first single off of their new album On The Heart, “Born to Ruin”.

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