In what he hopes to be the first of many, he’s launching a symposium for discussion and brainstorming, simply asking “What does music mean to you?”. These pow-wows are scheduled to happen once a month, presumably all in the intimate four walls of Phog Lounge.
The idea is to have guests each month, from national touring acts to local musicians, and in Hargreaves’ words “to talk about favourite songs, song writing, and overall values in music. The goal: to hear as many perspectives as we can on music, and how it plays a role in our lives, why we think it’s good, and why the hell we care about it so much.”
It will be a way for musicians to interact on a grass roots level with the music audience and determine what is it that makes you come back to their shows? Why do you choose to follow one band or musician more than another? How can we as music fans save the music industry from becoming a Walmart rather than a L’Ouvre?
The guests for tonight’s debut are Stefan Cvetkovic (who plays solo under the name Efan! and also plays alongside Hargreaves in recent XM Radio Verge Artist of the Year winners Michou) and Martin Schiller, whose credits currently include What Seas, What Shores, 87 Things For The Future, Poughboy and Star Trek: The Band.
The event begins at 8pm tonight and it’s free to all those who wish to attend.
Although it doesn’t have the cross country excitement of North By North West (NXNW) or perhaps the indie pop romanticism of Pop Montreal or Halifax Pop Explosion, Canadian Music Week (CMW), held annually every March in downtown Toronto, could very well be the nation’s most important music festival. And the best part of CMW – for music goers – is Canadian Music Fest (CMF), the live music portion of the festival.
Perhaps closer in importance to the U.S.’ South By South West (SXSW) than even NXNW is, CMW is a week long foray into the heart of the Canadian independent musician, as they primp, pose and rock for Canada’s national and underground media, and every record label from grass roots to international circles around venues like the legendary Horseshoe Tavern, El Mocombo, Sneaky Dee’s or Rancho Relaxo like vultures looking for the next Arcade Fire (or Shad or Caribou or…Justin Beiber). This is truly Canada’s industry conference festival and with social media becoming such an integral part of music marketing these days, its at events like CMW that bands will learn things that will automatically put them ahead in the game.
And while Windsor has had representations at prior festivals, this year’s CMW – held March 9th to March 13th – features one of Windsor’s strongest line-ups to date. Here’s your guide to following Windsor connected acts at this year’s Canadian Music Week:
WEDNESDAY MARCH 9: MICHOU at El Mocambo (464 Spadina Ave.) Slot: 10 PM – Windsor’s big winners of XM Radio’s Verge Artist of the Year recently kicks off Windsor’s participation as part of the FACTOR Breakthrough Showcase at the El Mocambo, on a bill that features Eric Hutchinson, To Tell, Behind Sapphire and Cardinal Chase. Doors are at 8pm, 19+ and all wrist bands accepted.
THURSDAY MARCH 10: CRASH KARMA at Mod Club Theatre (720 College St.) Slot: 10:30 PM – Canadian alt. rock supergroup Crash Karma (featuring members of I Mother Earth, Our Lady Peace, Zygote as well as Windsor’s own Jeff Burrows (The Tea Party) on drums) headlines Blackburn Radio’s showcase at the Mod Club, with special guests Age of Daze, Birthday Boys, Metro4 and Paul Davidson. Doors are at 7pm, 19+ and all wrist bands accepted.
THURSDAY MARCH 10: MICHOU at The Supermarket (268 Augusta Ave.) Slot: 11 PM – Michou’s second showcase of CMW is the following night in the Kensington Market area, a great artistic and musical hub smack in downtown Toronto. As part of The Agency Group’s Thursday showcase, the night is headlined by In-Flight Safety and also features openers Sun Wizard, Tomi Swick and Louise Burns. Doors are at 7:30pm, 19+ and all wrist bands accepted.
THURSDAY MARCH 10: ASSASSINATE THE FOLLOWING at The Bovine Sex Club (542 Queen St. West) Slot: 12 Midnight – Windsor’s lone metal representative is a solid one, with Assassinate The Following taking the stage as part of Jagermeister’s celebration for The Bovine’s 20th Anniversary Bash. Also on this night are bands FAME, The Isosceles Project, Endast, Dagoba and As You Like It. Doors are at 8pm, 19+ and all wrist bands accepted.
THURSDAY MARCH 10: NEVERENDING WHITE LIGHTS at Cherry Cola’s Rock N’ Rolla Cabaret (200 Bathurst St.) Slot: 2 AM – Daniel Victor’s doom pop project headlines a late night party at Cherry Cola’s, on a bill with The Wandas, Stone Parade, In A Coma, Venice Queen and Preacher’s Son. Doors at 9:30pm, 19+ and all wrist bands accepted.
FRIDAY MARCH 11: BIG SUGAR at Sound Academy (11 Polson St.) Slot: 11 PM – One of Canada’s dirty blues rock pioneers, Big Sugar – led by Windsor’s Gordie ‘Grady’ Johnson and Kelly ‘Mr. Chill’ Hoppe – headline a night of Canadian rock and roll at the Sound Academy, alongside Wide Mouth Mason, The Stanfields and Desperate Union. Doors at 8pm, an all-ages event and all wrist bands accepted.
FRIDAY MARCH 11: ORPHAN CHOIR at Parts & Labour (1566 Queen St. West) Slot: 12:30 AM – Orphan Choir, one of Windsor’s hardest working acts, takes their thinking man’s post-punk to yet another Canadian festival as part of a Canadian Music Fest showcase at Parts & Labour, on a bill alongside March Forth, Listener and Lost Chord. Doors at 11pm, 19+ and all wrist bands accepted.
FRIDAY MARCH 11: NEVERENDING WHITE LIGHTS at The Gladstone Hotel (North Ballroom) (1214 Queen St. West) Slot: 1:45 AM – NWL’s second showcase, this time as part of the S.L. Feldman & Associates Showcase, moves to the Queen Street district with a full line-up in the intimacy of the Gladstone Hotel, along with Andrew Cole, Stef Lang, Hello Beautiful, Current Swell, Kim Churchill, Sierra Noble and Justin Hines. Doors at 8pm, 19+ and all wrist bands accepted.
SATURDAY MARCH 12: PAT ROBITAILLE at The Supermarket (268 Augusta Ave.) Slot: 10 PM – Singer/songwriter Pat Robitaille is Windsor’s sole Saturday night performer, as part of The Agency Group’s Saturday showcase at the Supermarket. Pat is joined by Emmanual Jal, Morgan Cameron Ross and Nikki Lang. Doors are at 7:30pm, 19+ and all wrist bands are accepted.
SUNDAY MARCH 13: SEVEN YEAR RIOT at Cherry Cola’s Rock N’ Rolla Cabaret (200 Bathurst St.) Slot: 10 PM – Windsor’s Seven Year Riot has travelled a long road as one of Windsor’s longest standing original alternative rock acts, first as PlusMinus-X, then to Citizen Erased and now in their most successful incarnation as Seven Year Riot. They’re closing out Windsor’s CMF contingent on a Showcase with LastDayHere, Dearly Beloved and Parikrama. Doors at 9pm, 19+ and all wrist bands accepted.
The week isn’t just some of the country’s top independent musicians either. There’s a film festival running parallel with CMW as well as The Indies, Canada’s independent music awards, of which, two Windsor connections are up for. Neverending White Lights’s collaboration with Canadian hip-hop artist J Diggz, “This Time”, is up for Video of the Year, while Windsorite Jeff Burrows’ Canadian alt. rock supergroup Crash Karma are up for Rock Artist/Group of the Year. The Indies 2011 are held Saturday March 12 at The Royal York Hotel.
If anyone has exemplified Windsor tenacity over the past few years in the music scene (with the exception maybe of Orphan Choir), it’s Michou. This impish quartet (formerly a five-piece) has produced infectiously enveloping pop music that you either instantly loathe or are immediately smitten by. Fortunately for the boys from Windsor, it’s mostly the latter. The aforementioned tenacity shines through whenever you bump into one of the four – multi-instrumentalist Sasha Appler, percussionist Stefan Cvetkovic, bassist Ryan Firth and singer/guitarist Michael Hargreaves – following one of their extended tours across Canada. Their eyes are a mixture of exhaustion, frustration, excitement and wonder. The hardships of independently sending themselves across Canada coast to coast touring and sharing the stage with bands from Death Cab For Cutie and Dashboard Confessional to tours with San Sebastian and their upcoming jaunt with USS, may be physically exhausting them, but nothing is too hard of a sacrifice to continue to follow their dreams of playing the music they love with the band mates they love for the fans that they love.
Their kinship with their audience is as genuine as it gets, as they’ve been a homegrown band to almost every scene they infiltrate on their tours. In many of these cities and small towns, they started in house shows and grew to playing venues like the legendary Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto on more than one occasion. Their fans have watched them blossom from a rosy cheeked five piece (with former multi-instrumentalist Ryan Ard) to feel good popsmiths who now play the bars and clubs they’re slowly becoming legal to finally see them in. Then they get to follow them to bigger venues with national acts. It’s a perfectly symbiotic process of admiration, from artist to audience.
They’ve put on countless free shows for charity and friends, given away unreleased tracks to their fans, and worked social media to be as much a part of the band process as listening to their music. They’ve made Michou more than an entity – they’ve made it a community.
Which is why it’s no surprise that Michou took home the 2011 XM Radio Verge Artist of the Year award this year (voted on by XM listeners and music fans), beating out fellow nominees Tegan & Sara, Stars, Zeus, The Zolas and a small band from Montreal you may have heard of, recent Grammy winner Arcade Fire (they’re latest album, Cardona, was a finalist for Album of the Year but lost out to Zeus). This award comes with more than just prestige and bragging rights – there’s a nice $25,000 financial award. Which will sure make the next tour just a little bit more comfortable.
But if I know the guys in Michou, they’ll probably spend more of that money on recording than upgrading their tour patterns. Something tells me they’d rather write the perfect pop song than eat caviar. And hey. Cold pizza and beer is a great motivator.
They’re heading back out again soon in support of their new EP, Celebrate Love, which is available today in iTunes (preview the full EP on Much Music’s webpage here), including a stop in Toronto this July as part of Edgefest 2011, on a bill with Rise Against, A Perfect Circle, The Weakerthans, Arkells, Tokyo Police Club, The Reason and more.
Congrats boys. You deserve all you get.
Here’s the first single, released last November, off the EP.
Michou are undeniably Windsor’s clown princes of pop. And by no means is that meant as an insult. They write catchy melodic indie pop gems that are as infectiously encompassing as the lyrics are intelligently cohesive, but it’s delivered with such a sense of innocence and sheer joy at playing music together – their chemistry is electric – as they do for other people. They have a sense of humour about themselves, as well as this business, but continue on with a methodical mandate to play as often and as many places across Canada as they can. From their humble start playing house shows and picking up opening gigs (or just showing up and playing off nights) at venues like Phog Lounge (157 University Ave. West), where they happen to be rolling in to on Friday night, or Milk Coffee Bar, to suddenly touring this Great White North, picking up slots on bills with bands like Death Cab For Cutie, Dashboard Confessional and Lights, Michou has come a long way in what seems like a rather short time. But perseverance has paid off – maybe not quite as financially as they’d like, but with the respect of the national music industry at least (which is a good start). They recently secured a spot on this year’s massive Edgefest concert in Toronto, featuring such international acts as Rise Against, A Perfect Circle, The Weakerthans, Tokyo Police Club and Arkells, as well as ex-Windsorites The Reason (formerly known as Sewing With Nancie). And if that wasn’t enough, they were most recently named one of the Top 5 Finalists for the XM Radio Verge Awards in Toronto in March, for Artist of the Year and Album of the Year, for last year’s bundle of pop joy Cardonia. Normally when they return to Windsor, they’re filling The Blind Dog or one of the other much bigger venues. But this time, they wanted to bring it all back home. To the little stage that launched them. For the people who provided the emotional catapult.
Opening the show will be the beautiful songs of Crissi Cochrane, a rising talent on the singer/songwriter circuit who moved to Windsor last year from Halifax, Nova Scotia. One of her compositions from last year’s release Darling, Darling, “Separate Cities”, leads off this month’s FREE Windsor Music sampler.
If you’re seriously considering going to this show, keep in mind they pack several hundred people into larger venues to see them in their hometown. Phog holds 65 people. You will want to be there early or you will be watching through steamy windows.
Michou with special guest Crissi Cochrane, Phog Lounge (157 University Ave. West), Friday February 4, 9pm, 19+, $5