Malone Mullin/THE VARSITY

Daniel Lanois

Notorious for his dynamic sets, atmospheric compositions, and a hefty track record of famous collaborators, musician and producer Daniel Lanois helped kick off Canadian Music Week with a sold-out, yet somehow intimate show at the Horseshoe Tavern.

Although the festival was dedicated to Canadian talent, the Ontario native played a set that could be considered much more otherworldly than Canadian, manipulating both his unconventional instruments and the audience to generate an atmosphere both alien and moving.

Amid strobe lights and a predominantly middle-aged crowd, Lanois broke up the set with banter, some of it aimed directly at the festival itself. Lanois’ opening words were, “What’s with this Canadian Music Week? It’s ‘Canadian Music Week’ every week of my fucking life.” For Lanois, having produced albums for U2, Neil Young, and Bob Dylan while simultaneously creating his own music, setting aside one week per year to showcase our national talent seems absurd.

Lanois spent much of the show banging away on multi-levered machines reminiscent of Tom Waits’ ‘Conundrum’. For over an hour he presented the audience with a medley of early folk tunes, sonorous ambience, and bone-vibrating EDM, converting anyone who doubted the Canadian music scene could be inventive and shocking — especially when led by a 63-year-old industry vet.

Listen to: “Opera”:

Dead Broke

If you judged them by their on-stage attire alone, you could easily mistake the members of Dead Broke for undertakers, or perhaps morbid caterers. But rather than serving up condolences or hors d’oeuvres, the bloused and clean-slacked punk rockers served up a serious and well-rehearsed show, proving that years of experience in Canadian and European venues has taught them more than their youthful visages would suggest.

The suburban quartet has been around for at least long enough to have apparel for sale at the Lee’s Palace merchandise table. They have also attracted the attention of reviewers as a well-behaved addition to an Ontario genre dominated by bands that are more often than not brutal and beer-soaked. Though their 9:00 pm set didn’t fill the bleachers, it did draw a crowd of both seasoned fans and newcomers alike, all of them equally absorbed in the show.

Vocalist Mike Bright’s theatrical performance style, while stealing some attention from his band mates, didn’t detract from Dead Broke’s tight-knit sound. And although Bright ended the set with a painful looking belly flop, the music itself wrapped up with grace and sophistication.

Listen to: “Bullet”:

Jazz Cartier

While small in stature, Jazz Cartier has a presence that easily filled The Garrison with his exuberant and appreciative fans.

Going by alternative names such as Cuzzi or Jacuzzi, any leftover space in the venue was more than filled by the rapper’s personality. With unwavering confidence, Cartier declared his show to be the best that CMW had to offer. He made it clear that he was not another “sad rapper” from Toronto (a possible dig at Toronto favourite Drake) a claim he quickly proved.

The flamboyant rapper spent plenty of time interacting with his audience, grabbing a hold of his fans, and signaling to those who were visibly the most die-hard. There was never a dull moment in the “Cartier experience”.

Near the end of his set he leapt into the crowd, and while everyone rushed towards him, there was a mutual respect between audience and artist — no stampede, no violence. Like a well-governed mosh pit, the crowd surged and swayed, but was quick to help each other out if someone stumbled.

The rapper’s rhymes have the flow of Kendrick Lamar, and the emotional vulnerability of Drake, coupled with Cartier’s own blend of charisma and his obvious love of Toronto. If anyone deserves to be acknowledged as one of Toronto’s finest up-and-comers, it’s undoubtedly Jazz Cartier.

Listen to:  ‘Count On Me’:

The oOohh Baby Gimme Mores (OBGM)

If Bad Brains played a set in Disneyland’s New Orleans Square, it would probably look a lot like the OBGMs’ set at Velvet Underground. Thrashing out dance-infused punk to an enthusiastic crowd, frontman Densil McFarlane played alongside bassist Joe Brosnan and perhaps Toronto’s only hardcore synth player, Jemuel Roberts.

Anchored by drummer Colanthony Humphrey, the foursome’s energy could easily have suffused an entire stadium. McFarlane and Brosnan ensured that the crowd always had a few black and white balloons to toss around in between powerhouse tunes. Self-described as “garage party punk”, the band walked a line between typical pop punk, and edgy, original performance.

From joining the sizable mosh pit to blowing bubbles during the band’s last song, McFarlane’s playful attitude made the Friday night punk show accessible to anybody who braved the sweaty mist to join in the fun. Unlike other bands in Toronto’s hardcore scene, The OBGMs’ agitated riffs do nothing to preclude a newcomer from enjoying the music — no studded jacket necessary for entry. As far as balloon punk goes, The OBGMs do it right.

Listen to: “Torpedo”:

Busty & The Bass

Crowded onto The Smiling Buddha’s tiny stage Busty and The Bass, a band comprised of nine former McGill students, featured a brass section of two trumpets and a trombone alongside the smooth vocals and saxophone of leading man Nick Ferraro. Filling the rest of the stage were the standards; a drums, a bass, one piano, a guitar, a vocoder and electronic keyboard used by Evan Crofton who surprised the audience with the occasional rap verse.

“We don’t really have to try hard to stand out,” declared bassist Milo Johnson. Just on looks alone, they’re a band that stand out in a crowd. The group is not only comfortable with complex rhythms and tones, but it embodies many genres at once, all the while displaying an array of technical prowess. While Crofton’s rapping skills are adept, and the hip-hop influence is refreshing, the band shines when leaning towards jazz, blues, or soul. Johnson points to what he describes as an “organic hierarchy”, a rotational leadership structure that allows everyone to take the reigns for different projects. When the band plays their instrumental interlude, “Mmmmmhmmm, a slow jam that combines hints of slow moving gospel with jazz improvisations, Busty’s talent becomes apparent.

Listen to:  ‘Models’:

The Wayo

The Wayo’s lead-woman and vocalist Charlotte Day Wilson easily impresses. Her voice contains elements of ‘90s R’n’B, reminiscent of the smooth alto-tones of Mary J. Blige and the phrasings of a moodier Ashanti. There is an ambient quality to The Wayo’s sound — the kind of music you would want to listen to while driving, but that you could also easily fall asleep to. For The Wayo, all the fundamentals are there, but star power charisma and variety is lacking. Each song blended quickly into the next, with Wilson’s expressive voice and the musicians’ technical skills barely making up for the set’s bland atmosphere. At the very least, its pleasant, danceable music, and the attentive audience seemed content to do just that.

Listen to: ‘Sun Soaked’:

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