10 Toronto bands showcasing at SXSW 2014
Toronto acts showcasing at SXSW are a good representation of the city's music scene, coming from backgrounds as varied as dance, folk, and hip hop, all ready to take on the madness in Austin.
Although SXSW started off as a festival focusing on emerging talent, it's turned into a shark pit of the music industry dominated by some of the world's biggest brands. With brands come massive investments and endorsement - and that money inevitably brings in top tier artists. While you're eating tacos watching a local strum his banjo on 6th street, you could very well be around the corner from Jay-Z or Prince playing an unannounced show at a low cap venue. It might not be as easy to stick out, but nevertheless this year SXSW has selected a bunch of talented Toronto artists to play official showcases.
Here are 10 that should be on your radar.
Ain't No Love
This renegade pop trio (who we've previously featured) has been getting more attention as the months pass. Their single "Fake Your Dreams" was well received at MuchMusic where it got heavy rotation and in February they headlined the main stage at Confederation Park for Ottawa's Winterlude festival, a performance that was plugged by CBC. This will be their 3rd consecutive year playing official showcases at SXSW, including a midnight slot on the SOCAN/CIMA event on March 12th @ Friends. Just last week they released a heavy hitting video for a track called "Blinded," and it's already touched MuchMusic's airwaves.
This jazz trio is truly in a league of their own. They set the themselves apart from the rest early on by making covers of hip hop songs by the likes of ATCQ, Gucci Mane, Waka Flocka Flame, and others. Tyler, The Creator cosigned them and even recorded a live jam session with them, helping BBNG go viral. Since then they've toured around the world and were Frank Ocean's official backing band at Coachella in 2012. At SXSW they'll be playing the Arts & Crafts showcase as well as massive showcase opening up for A$AP MOB and Nas. They just premiered a new track from their upcoming album BBNG3 through The Fader.
This producer has landed massive credits with his work on projects by hip hop moguls like Clipse, Drake, Eminem, Nas, Nicki Minaj, among others. In 2011 he won the ASCAP Pop Music Award for the Songwriter of the Year, along with Noah "40" Shebib, for their work on Drake's "Over." He's slowly created an empire of Toronto-based producers who work under his wing, and at SXSW he'll be representing this community during an international beat battle where Toronto takes on Texas. Team Toronto is being "coached" by Boi-1da and his team consists of teenage phenom Wondagurl and Rich Kidd, who just sold out the MOD Club among others. Go Canada !
Last year The Darcys dropped Warring, their third release through Arts & Crafts, following up on their self titled record in 2011 and an impressive cover album of Steely Dan's "Aja" in 2012. Comprised of Jason Couse on vocals/guitar/keys, Wes Marksell on drums, Michael le Riche on vocals/guitar/synth, and Dave Hurlow on bass, their image is clean and their sound is sharp. They'll be playing two official showcases on Wednesday March 12th, of course including the Arts & Crafts showcase. Stream a track from Warring, their newest album here:
This group is fronted by two lead vocalists who are pretty much polar opposites: Peter Dreimanis who channels Tom Waits with his rugged raspy voice, alongside the sweet and sultry Leah Fay whose vocal texture easily seduces the ears. They've toured relentlessly over the past year with acts like Billy Talent, Matt Mays, Arkells, Sam Roberts, and Besnard Lakes. They'll be representing Canada at midnight on Friday night's CMW showcase in Austin, then again at the same time on Saturday night right before Deap Vally.
In the current electronic music world it's a rarity to have real instruments incorporated into live shows, and KNK are the answer to those who appreciate real music but want to vibe out to body moving electro tunes. Drummer Adam Tune goes as hard as one can, alongside keyboard David Matisse, and internationally award winning turntablist Jr. Flo, who stands out of the pack of EDM laptop DJs. These guys have erupted onto the scene over the past couple years. With massive co-signs and releases through Dim-Mak, they've earned their spot at SXSW with two huge showcase performances on March 11th and March 13th.
Pick A Piper
This dance collaboration between Brad Weber (Caribou's drummer), Angus Fraser, Dan Roberts and a collection of guest vocalists was an official participant at Red Bull Music Academy in 2013. The layered synths and intricate drum patterns create a moody ethereal soundscape that is both deep and hypnotizing. Basically their music sounds like what a kaleidoscope looks like. Although its upbeat and dancey, it could probably put you into a trance and lull you to sleep in a hammock at the same time. At SXSW they're showcasing at Maggie Mae's Gibson Room on Saturday night at an event presented by Planetary Group.
Saidah Baba Talibah
Seamlessly blending the lines between soul, blues and rock, if there's one thing that SBT has, it's an edge. With music in her bloodline (she's the daughter of Tony and Grammy-nominated Salome Bey) she splashed onto the scene in 2011 were debut album (S)cream. Her video for Revolution recently hit 100K views and it's striking imagery perfectly exemplifies the massive crossover potential in her alternative look and sound. She'll be playing an R&B showcase at 512 Rooftop in Austin as well as the outdoor Canadian Blast BBQ.
Yet another member of the acclaimed Arts & Crafts collective, TRUST, the electronic project of artist Robert Alfons, has been accepted with open arms by international audiences and major online media outlets. His 2012 Juno-nominated debut album TRST was praised by taste-makers like The Guardian UK, VICE, and Pitchfork. Just a few days ago he released his followup album Joyland. Before he takes off south of the border, you can catch him in Toronto, alongside Montreal female duo Mozart's Sister, on Saturday, March 8th at The Great Hall.
The Wilderness of Manitoba
This chamber-folk group has been together for four years, in which time they've released two EPs, three albums and toured extensively throughout Europe, Canada and the US. Their sound has evolved over the years as they've managed to draw in an eclectic audience, including fans of traditional folk as well as those who appreciate a modernized experimental rendition of it. They were recently nominated for a JUNO in the category of Roots & Traditional Album of the Year: Group. After a quick stop off in Chicago, they're making their way down to SXSW to set off a folk-heavy evening at the Soho Lounge.
Photo of July Talk by Matt Forsythe