Rewind: Indie Week 2012 10/14/12

In part two of my Indie Week 2012 rewind, I take you through (most of) the Finals, and share my own ratings on the acts seen.  For part one of my Indie Week 2012 adventures, click here and immerse.

As before, my own rating system will be employed and I will do my best to not rate sonic apples to oranges.

Beyond The Mountain

Up first was they who snagged the Best Singer-Songwriter TIMA over OTM darlings Future History (as well as Best Song), Beyond The Mountain.  Billing themselves as “alternative country”, duo Theo Tams and Carly Jean Campbell share more than the hardware and a band – they share the semi-finalist experience of Canadian Idol 2008.  What fortunate happenstance for us, the listeners, as powerful harmonies flooded Tattoo Rock Parlor.  With Carly’s rich voice as the perfect complement to Theo’s more breathy vocals, I couldn’t help but think that this was the answer to, “What would it sound like if Kelly Clarkson and Howie Day formed a band?” (Response: utterly awesome.)  Their sweetly poignant take on the omnipresent “Call Me Maybe” actually made a song I’ve dodged unless performed by Cookie Monster enjoyable.  It’ll be great to see where they venture next in music.

Engagement Level:  5
Unique ‘Voice’: 
5
‘Make You Move’ Factor:
4
Cerebral Captivation: 
4.5
Desire To Acquire A CD/See Again: 
4.5

Total Score:  23/25

You can get yourself educated on Beyond The Mountain via their official website.

Pistol George Warren

Billing themselves as a country/soul band, Pistol George Warren is a nine-piece band from Sudbury.  Now, here’s the thing about large ensemble bands:  either each element blends together to create a whole greater than its parts (Arcade Fire being an easy example), or the whole shebang comes off as that Kellerman’s Anthem nonsense at the end of Dirty Dancing.

Unfortunately, Pistol George Warren comes off as the latter.

Here’s the thing:  just because nine musically talented people know each other in a smaller town or city, it does not mean they should form one mega-band.  It’s worse when you have a male vocalist with semi-powerful voice, poor enunciation and a bad imitation of James Brown.  Throw him on stage with powerhouse female vocalists and a bombastic sound and the result is just a freaking mess.  I couldn’t make out many of the lyrics because there was simply too much noise, too many voices.

Until they fire half the band, I’ll pass in the future, thanks.

Engagement Level:  3
Unique ‘Voice’: 
3.5
‘Make You Move’ Factor:
4
Cerebral Captivation: 
2.5 (mainly because I couldn’t understand anything sung)
Desire To Acquire A CD/See Again: 
2.5

Total Score:  15.5/25

You can give Pistol George Warren your own test drive at their bandcamp page.

Nitemarket 12

So there you are:  minding your own business at the bar, perhaps nursing a broken heart.  It’s midnight and the booze is flowing.  And then suddenly, three deranged clowns walk in with creepy masks like that underappreciated Eliza Dushku flick, Soul Survivors.  But don’t worry:  the clowns won’t hurt you.  They’ve simply decided to quit the circus life and form a prog-jazz band that playfully hat tips the Big Top.

Intrigued?  I certainly was!

Nitemarket 12 wins for the most unexpected band of the night and of recent memory.  I think the last time a band caught me so off-guard before reeling me in was The Dresden Dolls – a decade ago.  The emergency vehicle sirens?  Nice touch.  I think the best thing about this band is absolutely no one knew what to think for their first instrumental tune.

Engagement Level:  5
Unique ‘Voice’: 
5
‘Make You Move’ Factor:
3.5
Cerebral Captivation: 
5
Desire To Acquire A CD/See Again: 
4.5

Total Score:  23/25

Take a swing past Nitemarket 12’s Facebook page and learn more about the new genre they’ve apparently invented.

Unbuttoned

Toronto-area band Unbuttoned delivers music made for movement and low lighting – which sounds far more kinky than I intended, but I can’t rule out that option.  The best way I can describe them is an indie pop-rock band with urban-ska undercurrents.  And yes, it works!  Kamilah Apong packs some serious pipes in an ever-smiling package, belting notes between sprawling stretches of guitar.  Little “call and response” moments are also a nice touch to a sound meant for bonfire gatherings.  The live show needs a wee bit of tightening up to my ears (not that a “hurry up, play, get off stage” event like this is helpful), but there’s a lot of potential here.

Engagement Level:  4
Unique ‘Voice’: 
5
‘Make You Move’ Factor:
4.5
Cerebral Captivation: 
4
Desire To Acquire A CD/See Again: 
4

Total Score:  21.5/25

Check out the sounds of Unbuttoned at their official website.

The Bright Road

Up next was Montreal’s The Bright Road, a band with plenty of promise.  The atmospheric ambient folk-rock vibe was in many ways reminiscent of Owen Pallett in terms of the feel of the compositions.  At times, the band veered into expansive instrumental moments that hold their own against the best of M83 in that “carrying me away” sense.  I would have liked the vocals more upfront in the live mix and feel they could use a little stage polish, but that will come with practice.  Keep an eye on them.

Engagement Level:  4
Unique ‘Voice’: 
4.5
‘Make You Move’ Factor:
4
Cerebral Captivation: 
4
Desire To Acquire A CD/See Again: 
3.5

Total Score:  20/25

Learn more about The Bright Road and their Norway LP at their Facebook page.

Cai.ro

Perhaps the band with the biggest hype (aside from Glen Matlock), Cai.ro was a must-see on my list due to having missed them at NXNE.  My regret was justified:  Cai.ro delivered on their hype, enthralling the audience into a mesmerized sway.  Acoustic-driven and accented by precision violin, the result is something ethereal.  Think back to that flavour that The Tea Party perfected when they stormed onto the scene; now, strip it back to something more confessional and quietly reflective.  The result is a musical enigma, a Rubik’s Cube for the brain.  While ultimately rewarded by judges to a degree, I have to tell you that Cai.ro was utterly robbed of the top prize, and I was definitely not the only one in attendance who held that opinion.  Believe the hype.

Engagement Level:  5
Unique ‘Voice’: 
5
‘Make You Move’ Factor:
4
Cerebral Captivation: 
5
Desire To Acquire A CD/See Again: 
5

Total Score:  24/25

Find out more about one of the hottest indie bands in the city at their official website.

Burning The Day

Upfront caveat:  I’m picky about metal.  I have full admiration for shredding solos, but when it comes to vocals, I prefer a mix of growls and intelligible singing as a rule.  Metallica, Megadeth, AC/DC, Rammstein and, for a little lesser known flavour, Amon Amarth and Skindred.  Given that Burning The Day brings the growl to the party, I will say this:  if you love your metal thrashing, raging and raw, this band’s got you covered.  Tight playing all around.  My fiance would probably love them.

Engagement Level:  4
Unique ‘Voice’: 
4
‘Make You Move’ Factor:
4.5
Cerebral Captivation: 
4
Desire To Acquire A CD/See Again: 
4

Total Score:  20.5/25

You can check out the winners of Indie Week 2012 at their Facebook page.

Final Comments:  Let’s preface this by stating that none of this is meant to diminish the accomplishments of any of the bands at the festival.  That’s important.  My forthcoming criticisms are with the festival itself.

This was my first experience with Indie Week and sadly, it may be my last.  In comparison with NXNE, so very much of Indie Week is in need of polish and better planning.  For starters, I could not easily find the complete schedule on their website, nor could I find all of the bands to sample them.  I feel like they took advantage of the ingenious ShowGopher.com and let them do their job.  I get it: they have less cash than NXNE.  But seriously, a schedule.  Why?

Second, who the hell plans a Finals event that starts at dinner time and doesn’t bother to provide food?  When a showcase begins at eight, I expect that I should eat first.  When you start at six on a Sunday, my ass expects finger foods at least.  Utterly baffled.

Third… I have no idea what the criteria were for judging, nor do I know of the individual preferences of judges, but it became blatantly obvious just in the two days I attended that many judges were listening for the most “mainstream-ready” bands and often gauging scores on crowd volume and movement.  This is a BS move that biases against experimental artists like Cai.ro in favour of rock bands.  No one moshes to ambient music.  Further, bands able to drag a crowd in for their set (and they often left right after) seemed to have fared better as well.  My jaw hit the floor when I heard The Stogies had advanced, as they were the least enjoyable act I saw all night; when they won second place, I saw red.

Look, Indie Week:  either have winners within broad genres (rock/metal vs folk/ambient/pop), or change the judging.  Either that or start calling it “Indie Rock and Metal Week”.  Be real.

For what it’s worth, of the bands I saw at The Finals, I had ’em ranked so:  Cai.ro; Beyond The Mountain; Burning The Day (adjusted my scoring to compensate for personal tastes… very close runners-up:  Nitemarket 12).  I know I’m just one person, but I’m not the only one baffled, given that many predicted Cai.ro would take it.

But hey, what did you think?  Feel free to drop a line.

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