INDIE WEEK 2011
By: Fridae Mattas
Every October for the past eight or so years, Toronto celebrates five days of Independent Music since creator Darryl Hurs birthed the festival. This year it was October 12 to the 16th and Toronto isn’t the only place this festival is held, Indie Week also has a full five days of music in Ireland and Indie Week Ireland winners play Indie Week Canada and vice versa. Many bands have played this festival since its inception and it is one of the best ways for an Indie Artist to be seen and heard by industry professionals. Like any other music festival there are panels to bring some key information to artists and bands about how things work in the music industry, I did not attend any of the panels. Many people I know always ask what makes Indie Week different than NXNE or CMW? Indie Week is a fun competition for Unsigned Independent artists around the world, three bands occasionally four bands per venue are judged in a showcase and if they win their showcase they advance to the semifinals on the Saturday. If they are that good they will make it all the way to the finals held on Sunday for the best of the fest. I did not make it to the finals but I did make it to the launch party and the FridaeTV crew and I were in flotation for pretty much the whole week.
Last year I only judged one night, this year I was judging two nights at different venues so I had to figure out my coverage in advance. Thankfully I was able to get some much needed help to implement and execute the coverage schedule. As a judge I have to stay at the same venue until the last band I am judging completes their set. Did I actually stay at the same venue? Nope, the first venue was The Underground Garage where I was to judge three bands with two other industry professionals. I have never been to that venue but passed it a million times before and didn’t know any of the judges but they turned out to be pretty chill people. All the bands at this venue I have never seen or heard before and that was exactly what I wanted, fresh faces and music. The Toronto music scene is pretty small and if you are continually going out to shows you tend to see most of the same bands out there on repeat. It was no surprise to me when I was constructing the schedule, of how many bands in the festival I knew or have already covered. My team of two photographers were shooting sets I could not physically be at for the “Indie Week Xtra Series” you can find those shots on FridaeTV Facebook, I also had help with filming at the venues when I was judging. They were a little confused at the Underground Garage with how things worked but soon they figured it all out and it was smooth sailing from there. While they figured it out, I had to pop into the Peacock another venue directly downstairs from the Underground (You would think the venues were reversed considering the name). The Peacock was also an Indie Week venue and on stage was Angela Saini and The Residents entertaining the crowd, I really wanted to cover her set but knew it would be tight so I did send a photographer to shoot while I judged but of course I had to go check her out again. I don’t know why she’s not signed yet, she has great tone in her voice, has the natural talent and is a mufti-instrumentalist; the songs are done well but could use some tweaking. Angela has improved her vocals from previous performances and she seems to be a lot more comfortable and relaxed. You would never know this venue even had a performance area because there really wasn’t a stage, just a bunch of speakers and gear in a corner by the front entrance.
I caught a full song and then had to run back upstairs to fulfill my judging duties, three bands: Skinny Bitches, Paint and Oh No Yoko were the contenders. The first band Skinny Bitches comprised of two people, a female Drummer who also does the vocals and a male on the Axe doing lead vocals. The first thing that came to my mind was they need more band members it did not sound full, they were not strong enough as a duo and they both need to work on vocals and songs, a lot. Many of the harmonies or attempted harmonies were off more than the drumming. A little piece of advice, if you are going to take the lead in a song, have the confidence in yourself to deliver the song, I understand nerves but you have to be on your A game if you are being judged. The Drummer should practice a lot more on those skins because she isn’t a singer, I wish I knew their names but I don’t recall any of them introducing themselves nor does it say anywhere on their website or Facebook who they are.
The next band “Paint” was better but not by much, the guitarist was newly recruited filling in temporarily and learned the songs in a matter of days which is extremely commendable but if you don’t know the lyrics don’t pretend you do because it was blatantly visible to us that you were singing the wrong words. The band once was a four piece but all of the members left the band leaving only Vocals/Guitar Robb Johannes who had two of his friends come in as Drums and Lead Guitar. Honestly,I do not remember their names because the sound was muffled, the venues sound system isn’t the greatest and that was what it was like for the majority of the set. You have to make sure to enunciate the words when you have such a bad sound system to work with, who knows maybe it wasn’t the venue’s gear, it could have been the bands equipment. Regardless, the show must go on and they did deliver a high energy performance but the songs are not something I would hear on mainstream airwaves or listen to on the regular.
The final band to judge for this evening was “Oh No! Yoko” from Vancouver and were the youngest of the performers. The three amigos met in Kindergarten and are only eighteen, its sad to say they totally kicked ass in comparison to the first two bands. They have a great sound it is not unique but they do have chemistry together and it showed as they played. The front man of the band was the only one who migrated off the stage with his guitar giving that extra effort the other bands lacked. The skill they had with their instruments was incredible for their age and in the end they won their showcase. Drummer showed his game face every time those sticks hit the cans; the band is Everett Morris – Vocals/Guitar, Liam Hamilton – Drums and Nic D – Bass.
Moving right along to Friday October 14th, I was to judge at the Bovine a venue I frequent on the Queen Street strip so I was excited to be close to majority of the venues making it easier to float around. The bands to be judged were Broomfiller, The Hit Back and All But Over, I have seen two of the three perform already but it has been a while so I hoped they would have improved since. First band Broomfiller hit the stage, the music is decent but the band was off quite a bit, vocals need a lot of work as does their image and songs. If you don’t have that sparkle, the charisma or chemistry among yourselves, your band could play a thousand shows and still won’t be making it to the mainstream anytime soon. This band has been around quite a long time and only time will tell if they have what it takes to make it to the next level. From what I saw and heard at this set, they are still situated in the same place musically from the first time I saw them three or four years ago. I noticed slight improvements but most bands are far more advanced in shorter amounts of time. I do not picture this band selling out stadiums or clubs for that matter, to play with the big boys you have to be able to keep up and outshine your peers.
Indie Week is a great gathering of undiscovered music but most importantly it is a great event to see and hang out with your friends and network with new people. The next band to hit the Bovine stage was “The Hit Back” from Chicago who had more of an Adult Contemporary, Electronic, Pop Rock sound completely different from the previous band and it really wasn’t a good fit for this venue. They should have been placed at the Underground Garage or Horseshoe. The band itself is really good, vocals are almost pitch perfect, he had this rich smooth steady tone but the songs…The songs ruined it for them, they are too Cold Play very slow and nappy completely opposite of the venue they were playing. They need to find themselves an image and a distinct sound before they can become something more. Adding a few band members wouldn’t hurt either, not everyone can pull off being a duo like USS can. Jesse Hanabarger and Seth Weidmann of The Hit Back have something special but need to work harder to take it to the next level. Sadly they did not win their showcase but their music made an immense impact on a few people.
The final band I judged was All But Over, four larries from Toronto who are newer to the Toronto music scene yet have quickly been able to grow a fan base that you could not miss. They were the only band that night that had fans at the venue and they were not industry related. At one point throughout the night I was outside jibbering with a few friends when I heard a bunch of girls singing a song, it was one of All But Over’ssongs which they played during their set and have a music video for.
Throughout the bands set everyone was crowded around the stage, the Bovine was almost to capacity and then this Black guy walks into the club. It was random to see one Black dude in the whole club and he immediately started rocking out to All But Over’s songs trying to get a mosh pit going but he failed. The band is John Riess – Vocals, Rob Matthews – Guitar & Keys, Darryl Siegmund – Drums and Micky Mo – Bass. They had a rough start opening the set but soon managed to get everything under control, the guitarist loves to play his songs, although the stage is extremely tiny he managed to rock out like he was jamming at the Sound Academy, same goes for Drums and Bass they killed it. Vocals were not bad; Riess needs to work on using his diaphragm more than his throat and stop biting down on the words when singing. Other than that this band has the package labels look for, with their own image and catchy tracks it’s no wonder all of the judges chose them as this showcase’s winners. During their second track, the token black guy wasn’t happy with moshing on the floor, he decided to jump on stage and rock out with the band for two songs until security managed to pull him off. I definitely think that was the highlight of the night and the crowd was loving all this excitement and energy the larries of All But Over created.
As soon as All But Over wrapped their set, we booked it to the Hideout to see what “The Suburbians” a four piece all the way from the UK had to bring. The first track I heard played was a cover, once they played some original material I wasn’t disappointed, the whole band is extremely tight musically and vocals are not too shabby either. They had genuine love for performing and it shone through as they tore up the Hideout stage, they all played off each other and didn’t look too hard at the notes they were playing. I definitely want to see this band live again, hopefully they come back to Canada.
Saturday was play it by ear, I popped in and out of the venues on Queen Street West even ended up going to Czehoski’s where I thought Cai.ro was playing but quickly ran out because the artist on stage was horrible. Totally missed a few of the bands I intended to see because when you run into people you haven’t seen for a while you tend to lose track of time when you’re jibbering. I did however manage to reach the Hideout four times in one night, first time I was checking out Jerad Finck who came to Toronto from the west of west Washington State. I listened to a track before I decided to take a few shots and film a tune as I do with all new festival artists and bands I have never seen before. Not bad, vocals need some work and a few of the tracks sounded a little too similar but there was major potential there and I was intrigued because he played barefoot. They were sounding pretty good so I took a few shots and filmed a track that you can find with those who made the Indie Week cut on FridaeTV. I thought they were a band and wanted to know what they were called because I missed the introduction, it was mid set when I arrived at the Hideout. After the set I had to migrate to a few other venues, met up with friends and migrated back to the Hideout where Jerad found me and handed me his record. I asked him what the band was called and he said it was him and his live band, printed clearly was his name on the album in my hand. Duh! I was a tad cloudy at this point so I was a little delayed. This Indie Week was more of a blur than most, it went by extremely fast absolutely amazed that I remembered this much! Many thanks go out to FridaeTV family Joanna, Brystal and Kenny for the hard work, the Indie Week team Darryl, Sarah, Lori for the incredible hospitality and asking me to participate as a judge. Hope everyone who reads this hits up Indie Week 2012 Canada or Ireland and if you can, go to them both!