Canadian Music Week Toronto 2013

30 must-see shows at Canadian Music Week 2013

Canadian Music Week runs in Toronto between March 19th and 24th. Here's a roundup of our must-see shows.

Now in its 31st year (holy eff!), Canadian Music Week gets underway next Tuesday at over 60 venues across the city and with over 1000 artists performing. Throughout the week there's also a conference, a film fest, a comedy fest and award shows. Your best strategy to deal with the barrage of performance options is to get yourself a fancy little wristband — it'll save you time and money.

The music portion of the fest can be pretty overwhelming so we've whittled down the list of shows to 30. Where possible, we've linked to each band's CMW page, where you'll find more info there like set times, whether it's all ages and how your wristband can help you. Please leave other not-to-miss show suggestions in the comments and stay tuned for our free shows post.

Stay alert and stay safe!


Get a wristband. For only $60 the 6-day wristband is the way to go. It's a guaranteed no-cover bit of paper for all CMF shows, and even gives you entry into all film and comedy events.

Stay hydrated. Whether you're planning on "enhancing" your CMW experience with alcohol, caffeine or insert name of hip club drug here, staying out until 4am will require a lot of water. Love from, your mom.

Have a plan. Check out the schedule, figure out transit, make sure shit isn't sold out, charge your cell phones (or just "phones", probably) in case you wind up lost and need to call a more responsible friend. Etc.


Rihanna / March 19 / Air Canada Centre
Rihanna! Like duh. I would love to see RiRi's energy (and costumes! and voice!) in a non-Youtube format. But I live in the woods. Sigh. AJ

CHVRCHES / March 20 / The Mod Club
With only three singles released to an eager music blogosphere, Scottish electropop band CHVRCHES has gained a ready and waiting audience for this year's CMF. Luckily for us, their debut album arrives only five days after their performance at CMF - and if we're extra lucky, they'll play some stellar tunes from that album to give us a taste of what's to come! LS

Raekwon / March 20 / Sound Academy
Yeah, trekking to the Sound Academy in unpredictable March weather may not be the best start to one's night, but when the destination yields a full performance of Raekwon's 1995 debut Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, the inconvenience of the journey doesn't seem so awful. Widely considered one of the best records in the extensive Wu-Tang canon (an opinion shared by this writer), here's to hoping the recently settled Torontonian is able to translate the album's hard-hitting contours in a live setting. Ghostface Killah features heavily on Cuban Linx, and made the trip up from NYC in June to perform with Raekwon for NxNE, so some Wu guest appearances certainly aren't out of the question.AK

Heart / March 21 / Massey Hall
During orientation week of university whenever I would encounter a dude with an acoustic guitar I'd ask him to play the intro to "Crazy on You" 'cause why else play acoustic guitar, ya know? Only one man could, and to this day we remain best buds and musical collaborators. Plus I hear they can still RIP IT unlike most of their male peers. EB

Metric / March 22 / Kool Haus
Alongside the steady and relentless rise of Metric's mainstream popularity in the past few years, the band has moved further away from their punk rock and New Wave roots to a more electro-indie pop rock sound, which Emily Haines herself decried at the end of one of their recent shows in Montreal. With the diversity of their openers - from indie folk rock band Yukon Blonde to the super synthy sounds and hip beats of Diamond Rings - Metric's bound to draw on a variety of tunes to end the night, and I can't wait to see which ones they pick. LS

Mac Demarco & Cousins / March 23 / Parts & Labour
Another great choice for Saturday is Parts & Labour. With kickass rock duo Cousins going on at 12:30, followed by the bizarrely-prolific Mac Demarco at 1:30, this one will fill up fast, so get there early. AB

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds with Sharon Van Etten / March 23 / Massey Hall
This one's a no-brainer! And, if you don't already have tickets, also somewhat of a lost cause. One of the greatest songwriters and frontmen in rock music rolls into town with longtime compatriots the Bad Seeds in tow for a very sold-out show at our city's most storied theatre. Recent setlists have seen the eight-piece airing out new album Push the Sky Away in full before a lengthy set of classics, which is sure to altogether be nothing short of amazing.

Sweetening the deal is Sharon Van Etten opening the show, still touring in support of last year's stellar Tramp. The combo is enough to make this one of the best bills at this year's CMW, and if you've got a VIP wristband, you could still be in luck. The first 50 are admitted entry night of show, so if you're interested, you should probably start heading down to Massey Hall now. AK



Cousin / March 19 / The Annex Live
Got the mid-week blues? Cousin's here for you. The Toronto by-way-of Niagara Falls band is great at crafting some of the best off-kilter guitar pop out there, and seeing as how it's been almost two years since their self-titled debut LP, one can guess they'll have some new tunes for the CMW crowd. There may not be a whole lot else going on in the first two days of the fest, but this is one of your sure bets for the week. AK


Rock Forest / March 20 / Neutral Lounge
Frankly, I never heard of 'em before I looked at the lineup but I checked out their album X1000 and I dig it. It's another CMW miracle! In fact you should take my lead and seek out your own CMW miracles. Get a pass and go see as much as you can. After all, if you don't like a band, you can leave and find another one. EB

Outlaws & Gunslingers Showcase / March 20 / The Horseshoe
This is one of the few can't-miss nights of the festival for anyone interested in roots/country music. From NQ Arbuckle, Daniel Romano, a Jim Cuddy solo set (!!!), to Danny Michel, Justin Rutledge and Belle Starr, there isn't a weak performance scheduled at the Horseshoe Wednesday. AB

Crunchy Frog Label showcase / March 20 / The Garrison
Apparart Organ Quartet, Shiny Darkly, Thee Attacks with Canadian friends Rococode and Foam Lake are all coming together at The Garrison. I'm most excited about this show for Rococode. I caught them live a couple of years ago and their lead singer, Laura Smith, is captivating to watch. RC


Wildlife / March 21 / The Great Hall
I have a soft spot for straightforward, exuberant, hooky indie rock. Much like Wolf Parade, Toronto band Wildlife hits that spot and charges forward with my heart in their pocket. This year at CMF, they'll be playing at the Great Hall, and I am looking forward to having their synthy-rock tunes envelope me in a wave of audial goodness. LS

Teenage Kicks / March 21 / The Horseshoe
Joined by fellow Torontonians Great Bloomers, Poor Young Things and Halifax's Ben Caplan and The Casual Smokers, this is a night for fist-pumping and beer drinking. (Please refer to tip #2 and stay hydrated!). ES

Bend Sinister / March 21 / Cherry Cola's
Hailing from BC, my home province, the boys from Bend Sinister have been making a name for themselves over the last few years and are bringing their pop/prog/whatever rock to Toronto for this year's CMF. It's time for me to lace up my dancing shoes, put on my seriously-entertained face, and boogie down to their catchy, melodrama-filled, Queen/Scissor Sisters-esque tunes. LS / March 21 / The Dakota Tavern
Kicking off Audio Blood Media's showcase at the Dakota Thursday night right at 9:00 PM are Or is that Or... Cairo? Anyway, the confusingly-named Toronto indie rockers are starting a packed 2013 strongly by playing several times through the festival; catch them Saturday at 9:00 PM at the Hoxton, or Wednesday at 11:00 PM playing Cabin Five. AB


Legato Vipers / March 22 / Supermarket
The new project from Tyler Belluz (also of Del Bel) is one that's every bit as steeped in the past as it is in forward momentum. Legato Vipers' spaghetti-western instrumentals are disarmingly compact, giving off the sense that these songs simply could not exist as any variant on their terse arrangements. It's a post-punk ethos that goes down smooth, with a similar execution as the Pixies at their surfiest. Their debut EP Quick Slug is an excitingly fun listen, and was produced by Don Pyle of the recently reunited Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet. AK

The Besnard Lakes / March 22 / Lee's Palace
The Besnard Lakes' last record was deservedly shortlisted for the Polaris Prize, so there are high hopes for their upcoming Until In Excess, Imperceptible UFO. That record will be released April 2nd — heads up, Besnard Lakes, send us a review copy! — but you can bet the Montreal indie quartet will be showcasing that material at Lee's on Friday. AB

Iceland Airwaves Showcase / March 22 / The Drake Underground
Featuring artists of the European Nordic Region Focus, the Iceland Airwaves Showcase includes Endless Dark, Asgeir Trausti, Soley and Apparat Organ Quartet. How often do you get to see any decent bands from Iceland play in Toronto? Not since Björk, you say? How about four in one night? I'm especially stoked to see Apparat Organ Quartet. RC

SiriusXM Indies: 13th Annual Independent Music Awards / March 22 / Kool Haus
Hosted by Jeff Leake and featuring Metric, Matt Mays and Diamond Rings all in one night! Also worth seeing are nominees Cold Specks and Yukon Blonde. The Indies are always a good bet: great selection of bands, decent lights and sound and a built-in awards show to boot. Just be sure to get your pre-drink on, as the $12 beers will surely keep you dry. RC

Cookie Duster / March 23 / The Horseshoe
OK, it looks like I'll be spending my whole week at The Horseshoe. Brendan Canning's new/old band makes its second public appearance after playing Wavelength back in February. Guaranteed light, pop-y fun! They're joined by bizarro-jazz-hiphop trio and wunderkinder BADBADNOTGOOD. ES

The Wilderness of Manitoba / March 22 / Revival
Playing as part of the Popguru Showcase, the Wilderness of Manitoba bring their poppy folk-inspired tunes to Revival alongside Let's Build Machines and Grand Analog. Where lead singer Will Whitman's solo work as Lake Forest is brooding and melancholic, here you get songs that should make you feel feet-tapping-happy. Warning: after the show you'll want to find a campfire to sing songs around. Oh wait! They actually have those in Dufferin Grove Park. There you go — the perfect night. Dress warm!

Limblifter / March 22 / The Horseshoe
Am I the oldest one writing these picks? Formed in 1995, this Vancouver group provided a great backing track to many a bedroom sulk. I'm also excited to see Young Rival play earlier in the night. If you can't catch them, check out their Prism Prize nominated (and viral!) video for "Two Reasons." ES


Shout Out Out Out / March 23 / The Horseshoe
I'm not saying Shout Out Out Out is the most fun I've ever had at a concert, I'm just saying (Shout Out Out Out reference) I can't recall having as much fun as the concert (Shout Out Out Out reference). Go see Shout Out Out Out and feel alive. Dude, you'll feel invincible ( Shout Out Out Out reference). EB

Cellphone / March 23 / Comfort Zone
I'm in the midst of writing a feature about them because I really think these kids are going places. So I suggest you go to the place they are playing and see them go. EB

Heidi Happy / March 23 / The Cameron House (back room)
I was first introduced to Heidi Happy's music through a German music podcast, and the Swiss artist struck me as a terribly talented folk musician. Implementing complex arrangements and, in recent years, actually writing orchestral portions to her songs, Heidi Happy has been recognized internationally as a songwriter to reckon with, and I'm excited to finally have a chance to experience her music live. LS

oOoOO Indie Montreal Showcase / March 23 / The Garrison
Top pick alert: Chris Dexter, the producer behind oOoOO, was one of the artists at the forefront of that whole 09/10 witch house thing. oOoOO stood out and continues to entrance with the chill, emotionally tense aesthetic of his electronic compositions and remixes. He played Toronto in November to one of the weirdest Canadian crowds I've ever seen: neon cyber goths and slick hip hop fashionistas wearing Comme des Fuck Down hats brushed up against hooded basement dwellers and, you know, normal people. AJ

Sinclaire / March 23 / The Mod Club
Hold the phone, it's a Sinclaire reunion! The Ontario pop-punk/emo/indie foursome behind hits like "Attention Teenage Girls", "Life at 24 Frames Per Second", "Mr. Right Now" and my personal fave "The Wind is the Sound of Crying" are going to bring down the house like it's 1998. Also playing: Grade, Choke, Ensign and Wheels on the Bus. AJ

Lioness / March 23 / Lee's Palace
Toronto's Lioness are a moody crew and I think vocalist Vanessa Fischer might be a witch. She definitely put a spell on me while opening for SSION last year - maybe it was just her divine old-school soul voice, which I am jealous of. This band has an atmosphere most groups would sell their soul (or maybe the soul of a close friend) to have. AJ

Silent Shout Showcase / March 23 / Comfort Zone
The gentlemen at indie-electro blog Silent Shout are quickly gaining a reputation as tastemakers and they're curating a night of performances at Comfort Zone. Featuring Doom Squad, Mozart's Sister the ever-popular Secret Guest, this'll be a dance party you don't want to miss. AB


Light Asylum / March 24 / The Garrison
AND at WrongBar 1am on Saturday March 23 (but I think you should be at oOoOO this night.) Light Asylum are my most goth pick of my three gothy picks. The NYC duo bring a totally fresh and powerful vibe to a sound as ancient as Andrew Elditch's sunglasses: if you have even a small taste for wearing black and dancing in the dark but haven't seen them yet, just go. I'm guessing The Garrison in general will be a good place to hang out for CMW. AJ

Got CMW picks you'd like to share? Let us know in the comments!

Writing by Adam Brady, Adam Kamin, Aubrey Jax, Eric Boshart, Erin Scholz, Lori Steuart and Roger Cullman

Photo by Brian Morton

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