THURSDAY, March 2

Femme Generation – Reverb, 10 pm

Rating: VVV

Hot off the release of their debut album Brothers and Sisters, Alone we Explode, Toronto quartet Femme Generation took the stage and promptly fired a volley of their “so-right-now” sound. Taking their cues from those who took cues from the dance-y art-punk sounds of the late ’70s and early ’80s, Femme Generation create songs that might have changed modern music had they been penned in NYC years ago. Now they sound like a store-brand version of that whole Walkmen, Radio 4, Bloc Party thing-nothing that smacks of anything brand new, but a perfectly good substitute if there’s nothing else to be had.

Don’t get me wrong, songs like “Hearts In Stitches” and “Semper Fi” have quality hooks, and the new song they played (apparently written just the day before) wasn’t half-bad, either. Would I take them over an evening with Danko Jones? Hell, yes. Will they be “the next big thing” in 2006? Probably not.-JB

Shout Out Out Out Out – Lee’s Palace, 11 pm

Rating: VVVVV

What’s that? Edmonton is the new Seattle (or Montreal, or Toronto, or whatever)? Although saying anything ‘is the new anything else’ has virtually lost all its meaning, it is impossible to ignore the amount of great music coming out of that oil-rich city of late.

With fellow E-Town threat Cadence Weapon rapping their praises Friday night over at the Silver Dollar, it was all too evident that The Shout Out Out Out Out have all kinds of buzz surrounding them. Is the hype to be believed? I went to find out. And apparently so did, like, 400 other people. Lee’s Palace was packed shoulder-to-shoulder with scenesters eager see what this electro-sextet could do.

Led by long-haired frontman Nik Kozub, the band boasted two drum kits, two bass guitars, a ton of Korgs and loads of effects-ridden vocals. The sound was somewhere between NYC’s agro disco-funkers !!! (chk chk chk) and Scotland’s Boards of Canada overdosing on ecstasy. Instruments were shared, shed, and picked up again depending on what each song required, and band members jumped, kicked, and flailed about with reckless abandon to the punk-inflected beats.

Kozub seemed to really connect with the enraptured crowd when he dedicated their new song “Forever Indebted” to everyone who’ll be in debt for the rest of their life. The crowd went wild. Believe the hype-these guys kick ass.-JB

Fjord Rowboat – The Silver Dollar,

12:30 am

Rating: VVVV

One of the best new bands in Toronto, Fjord Rowboat blend UK shoegazer (à la Ride and My Bloody Valentine) with the newer, anthemic dark-rock stylings of Interpol and Idlewild to create moody atmospheres, lush soundscapes, and catchy sing-along choruses.

Not afraid to tread both up- and down-tempo, Fjord’s live show is unpretentious and anchored by a solid rhythm section featuring Kevin McKay (formerly of Vibrolux) on drums, and brother Ian McKay on bass. It was tragic indeed to see the Silver Dollar only half-full for their first CMW appearance. Songs like “Paragon,” a slow-building instrumental number, and “Taking the Pass,” which has the catchiest chorus I’ve heard this year, deserve to be played to a packed room. Definitely a rising band to keep an eye on.-JB

Raw Child – Rivoli, 1 am

Rating: V

His promotional postcards strewn about upstairs at the Rivoli touted Raw Child as the winner of the Best Hip-Hop Artist at last year’s Toronto Independent Music Awards. Well, if he’s the best Toronto’s got, he must be pretty good, right? I wanted to like him, but his sound and rhymes were so derivative that it was impossible. For an artist that markets himself as coming to hip-hop from a different upbringing (he was raised middle-class, “far away from the established hip-hop culture,” according to his website), I was expecting something a little less “been there, done that” and a little more “wow, that’s new.”

If you want the tried-and-true, “Don’t hate me because your girlfriend wants to get with me” type of hip-hop, by all means, give Raw Child a listen, but you aren’t going to find anything fresh here. I left as soon as he uttered, “Like 50 Cent, I’ve got the Magic Stick.” Um, clever?-CF

FRIDAY, March 3

The Early Morning – Lee’s Palace, 9:30 pm

Rating: VVVVv

The only unsigned band on local indie promoter Eric Warner’s fantastic CMW lineup was Toronto’s own three-piece electro-rock outfit The Early Morning. Featuring brothers Tim and Matt Foran and Ryan Lowe, TEM also added a live drummer just for this show to help augment their drum machine beats.

After a bit of a rocky start (the drummer had trouble hearing the drum track), the boys recovered and were in fine form by their second song “Are You Ready?” which can be found on their brilliant new demo-which they gave away for free after the show. The band then ripped into the opening chords of fan favourite “You’ve Got That Knowing Way,” a creepy, pulsating track that sounds like classic Ian Curtis at the helm of a gloomy New Order.

One of TEM’s key strengths is Tim Foran’s dark yet unmistakably hopeful lyrics. Foran sings like a man possessed by a ghost from the future, desperate to communicate with the living present. The result makes for a captivating and haunting performance style.

A lot of music gets compared to Joy Divison these days-The Early Morning (along with Toronto’s Uncut) is among the few groups that actually merit such a flattering comparison. Going by the crowd’s enthusiastic response and the swarm of people who lined up for a free CD-R after the show, don’t expect these guys to remain label-less for long.-JB

Cadence Weapon – Silver Dollar,

11 pm

Rating: VVVV

As a non-aficionado of hip-hop, I was apprehensive about trying to review rising young Edmonton rapper Cadence Weapon (Rollie Pemberton)’s set. I can safely say, however, that his performance at the Silver Dollar was the highlight of CMW for me. Pemberton (who’s only 19) skillfully draws on his appreciation for a very wide spectrum of music in crafting his own sound. From the more hard-hitting “Oliver Square” to the smoother sounds of “Black Hand,” the schizophrenic nature of his set fit perfectly with his stage act.

Pemberton ran around the audience for high-fives several times (making sure to hit all sides of the stage) and rocked out to his own beats, showing a true excitement for performing. His intensity is admirable. Even Pemberton himself seems to recognize it: “You should see me when I’m drunk,” he proclaimed, only half-jokingly.-CF

Toyko Police Club – The Boat, 10:45 pm

Rating: VVVV

Recent Paper Bag Records signees Toyko Police Club are well on their way if their CMW showcase Friday night at The Boat was any indication. Playing to a packed house, a large contingent of which spent the set singing and shouting along with vocalist/bassist David Monks, TPC did not disappoint. The set was complete with flag-waving, sign-holding, and clap-alongs.

Despite having formed only a little over a year ago, these boys seem to know how to work a crowd with a strong stage presence and a tight set of songs reminiscent of Bloc Party and the Strokes combined. There is only one way to describe this band’s sound and stage antics: fun.-CF

Cities in Dust – The Boat, 11:30 pm

Rating: VVVV

Named after a Siouxsie and the Banshees song, Hamilton’s Cities in Dust bring hardcore vocals and rowdy stage antics to the indie-rock crowd. Vocalist Zach Frank shouts and screams over jangle-y guitars and dance-y rhythms. Imagine Blood Brothers-style vocals backed by Gang of Four and you’re in the ballpark of what CiD sound like.

The band hit the audience with a sonic assault culled from their widely anticipated debut release Night Creatures (produced by Jon Drew of Uncut), that’s set to drop in May. Standouts of the night included the rhythmic genius of “Beautiful,” “The Secret,” and a renamed version of “Save the Last Dance” which Frank dedicated to Kevin Douglas of fellow Hamilton crew Sailboats Are White.

If you like screaming but hate ‘screamo,’ Cities in Dust are your band. Looking around the club, there was nary a silk-screened hoodie or carabiner in sight, but wannabe MuchMusic hipster Devon Soltendieck was in attendance, proving that while you can run, you can never truly hide (even at the tiny Boat).-JB

SATURDAY, March 5

Expatriate – El Mocambo, 12 am

Rating: V

I wandered in off the street to see this group of Aussies doing their best impression of that “dance rock” thing that the Killers and the Bravery are responsible for. It’s true, each one of the four Expatriates had formidable chops, but then again so do the guys in Theory of a Deadman. The more they played, the more obvious it became that Expatriate is guilty of cannibalizing the bands that they admire.

What’s sad is that it’s not like they take their musical influences and make them their own, either-they simply try become their influences outright. Time and time again this has proven to be disastrous. Look at what happened to rock music in the mid- to late- ’90s, after bands began cannibalizing Nirvana and Soundgarden-you got shit like Days of the New and Creed.

What killed Expatriate for me was when they stopped vaguely ripping off Bloc Party and directly ripped off Radiohead. Their song “The Spaces Between” bears more than a passing similarity to “Where I End and You Begin” from Hail to the Thief (seriously, check it).-JB

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