With the 29th edition of Canadian Music Week set to start in Toronto on Wednesday, the city—not to mention customs — is preparing for the annual invasion of more than 800 acts from around the planet who will somehow manage to play gigs in 55 venues over just five nights. It’s like the flooding of the Nile during a plague of locusts. Only drunker.
While the industry folk will be caught up in the conference with its panels, speakers and awards ceremonies, everyone else can focus on figuring out which band to see. Here are some recommendations from me along with links to more music.
Altan Vrag: When I say that bands come from around the world to play CMW, I’m not kidding. The seven members of this group hail from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia and are committed to merging traditional Mongolian music with something more contemporary. www.altanurag.mn
Berri Txarrak: Their name translates as “Bad News” from Euskara, the language of Basque country along the Spain-France border. Tim McIllrath of Rise Against is a big fan of their kind of punk rock and has recorded at least one song with them. bit.ly/e8lc1m
The Coppertone: A Toronto trio led by the very red-haired Amanda Zelina. When Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top saw Amanda play in vintage guitar shop in Hollywood, he predicted that she will go far. I agree with him. www.thecoppertone.com.
Freedom or Death: This Toronto bunch was much hyped leading into their appearance at CMJ in New York last October—and with good reason. They have a new EP entitled EGO coming April 26. www.myspace.com/freedomordeathmusic.
The Hippy Mafia: Happy Mondays drummer Gaz Whelan was persuaded by his wife to move from Manchester to Burlington, Ontario, on the basis of a real estate show she saw on TV. The first thing he did was form a band. With big-name management on the horizon, this is one band you do not want to miss. www.thehippymafia.com.
Karkwa: Surprise winners of the 2010 Polaris Music Prize. Since then, they’ve proved that their victory wasn’t a fluke. www.karkwa.com/english.php
Phone Joan: I met this band at the by:Larm Festival in Oslo last year. Think a more threatening Dead Weather cross with Zep-style blues. www.myspace.com/phonejoan.
A full schedule along with band profiles and details on how you can buy an all-access wristband can be found at www.cmw.net.