Show alerts: Canadian indie invades Detroit, Windsor, Sarnia and Toledo

Lovers of Canadian indie artists have a lot of opportunities this weekend to get their fix. Good luck choosing; we'd be at them all if we could.

Fri., Jun. 1
FM Lounge, Windsor
Sunparlour Players (Toronto) w/ The Unquiet Dead (Windsor)

Two bands we love.

Fri., Jun. 1
Garden Bowl (The Majestic Detroit) FREE SHOW
Rah Rah (Regina)
Our show review from Dec. 2010.

Fri., Jun. 1
Mickey Finn's Pub, Toledo
Buck 65
Only one of the greatest hip hop artists in Canada.

Sat., Jun. 2 and Sun., Jun. 3
Sarnia Artwalk
If you couldn't be at Rah Rah's show on Friday, you can catch them in Sarnia opening for the great Hawksley Workman (review of Hawksley at London's Home County Folk Festival last July) at a ticketed show Saturday night. And if you couldn't catch Sunparlour Players in Windsor, they play Artwalk on Sunday. The Canadian indie talent at Artwalk also includes The Lake Effect, Evening Hymns and more.

Sun., Jun. 3
Small's, Hamtramck
The Real McKenzies

Celtic punk comes to Poletown.

Show Alert: The Besnard Lakes will be roaring in Detroit

Thurs., May 31
PJ's Lager House, Detroit
w/ The People's Temple ~ $10

It's been nearly a year and half since Montreal's The Besnard Lakes played Detroit. If you missed them at the Magic Stick Lounge in Jan. 2011, now's your chance. Their contemporary interpretation of the best of 70s psych rock, anchored on one end by Olga Goreas on bass, soaring on Jace Lasek's amazing falsetto on the other, supported by fine guitar work from Richard White on and Kevin Laing on drums, is reason enough to pony up $10 for the band responsible for The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse and The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night, both Polaris Prize nominees.

But see The Besnard Lakes and you'll also see one of the most significant producers recording Canadian indie music today. Lasek's client list at his Breakglass Studios in Montreal includes seminal bands from both past and present: The Unicorns, Islands, Stars, Holy Fuck, Hey Rosetta! (who just announced a Jun. 22 Detroit date), Wolf Parade and Patrick Watson, to name a few.

Photos by Russ Gordon/N2D Images

Show Review: Up a Creek With Royal Canoe

The progression of popular music, or the lack of, has been a topic hotly debated on the CBC Radio 3 blog, and at N2D central as well. We're of the opinion that either through nature or nurture, our brains expect and desire certain conventions in music (the resolution, the major and minor modes, the 4/4 time signature, for example), and as long as music is held hostage by these structures (and the listeners that demand it), it leaves few places for composers of popular music to go.

That's why, as predicted, Winnipeg's Royal Canoe did indeed blow our minds at their show on May 12 at the Majestic's Garden Bowl in Detroit, for their ability to beautifully straddle (or paddle, as the case may be), the line between adventurous music and music that is eminently satisfying to both the ear and the brain. Founder Matt Peters (vocals, keyboards, acoustic guitar) and the rest of the band-- Matt Schellenberg (vocals, keyboards), Bucky Driedger (vocals, electric guitar, percussion), Brendan Berg (vocals, bass, keyboards) and drummers Derek Allard and Michael Jordon (on both conventional and electronic drums)-- all came from other groups, but Royal Canoe "is our baby," says Driedger.

If you guessed that vocals play a significant role, you'd be right, from Schellenberg's angelic Vienna Boys Choir falsetto to Peters' tenor, but they're used more as additional instruments instead of the usual simple harmony. Songs on their (oddly unimaginatively-named) EP, Extended Play come with five beats to a measure, and even 15; it's a tribute to their talent (and their collective skill at hitting all the complicated rhythms) that such time signatures feel completely natural and never forced. That's the best part about Royal Canoe: they're writing and performing progressive music that appeals to our Pavlovian brains, like putting zucchini in brownies, or applesauce in chocolate cake. And the captivated crowd at the Garden Bowl ate it up, demanding an encore: the lovely "Dear June" from the first Royal Canoe incarnation, Co-Op Mode.   

Photos: Russ Gordon/N2D Images

Handsome Furs Cannot Get, Stopped

The first half of 2012 has been a sad year for music, as we've lost several great artists, and bands as well, including Edmonton's The Wheat Pool. Regretfully, you can now add Montreal's Handsome Furs to the list, who for reasons yet to be revealed, recently announced the band's dissolution. From their website:

"With a heavy heart the time has come to let all of you know that Handsome Furs are no more. The most important thing that needs to be said right now is how extremely grateful we are to all the fans all over the world that showered us with love and support over the years. Thank you for everything! It's been an incredible 6 years and we owe it all to you."

In addition to making a lot of much-loved great music, Handsome Furs toured and played in places few bands venture to, and supported bands in countries where simply playing could result in arrest. Alexei recorded those in experiences in their tour journals. We highly recommend spending some time reading them. Here are our own fond memories of Handsome Furs' show at PJ's Lager House in Detroit last summer.

Thanks, Dan and Alexei, and we wish you the best in the future.

NXNE 2012 announces additional bands

NORTH BY NORTHEAST (NXNE) announces the next wave of programming for the 18th edition of the festival, including five-piece prog-metal maniacs PROTEST THE HERO, psychedelic-rockers PORTUGAL. THE MAN, surging Canadian singer-songwriter MATT MAYS, noise rock trio A PLACE TO BURY STRANGERS, minimalist pop duo ETERNAL SUMMERS, and DUSTED, the latest project from Holy Fuck’s Brian Borcherdt and Bruce Peninsula’s Leon Taheny.  NXNE takes place June 11-17 across Toronto. Tickets are now available online at

Launching today is the NXNE Schedulizer on, where fans can choose their must-see NXNE events and create a personalized schedule. For fans on the move, NXNE will launch brand new apps for iPhone and android users on May 28th with mobile access to festival info and a searchable schedule for NXNE Music, Film and Interactive.

New this year is The NXNE Magazine, a free publication highlighting programming from NXNE Music, Film and Interactive. Key features include interviews with music acts such as Purity Ring, Phedré and YAMANTAKA//SONIC TITAN. The NXNE Magazine will hit the streets with 10,000 copies through the city this week.

Coming soon: N2DS2W's list of bands we'll be seeing at NXNE.

Show Alert: Royal Canoe

Sat., May 12, 10:00 p.m.
The Garden Bowl (Majestic Theater Complex), Detroit

"They will blow your mind."

That's been the universal response from everyone we've talked to at shows this week that's seen Royal Canoe, yet another of the great bands coming out of Winnipeg, MB. What more do you need to know?

Listen: "Hold On To The Metal" from their new EP, Extended Play.

Show Alert: Hurricanes, Plants and Animals, Royal Canoe, Country French

After a bit of a break following our Said the Whale/Chains of Love doubleheader last month, this week there are not one, not two, not three, but four great Canadian indie bands playing the Windsor/Detroit area, and we're hitting every one, beginning with...

My Son The Hurricane - Russ Gordon/N2D Images

Weds., May 9
My Son the Hurricane (w/ Theatre Crisp)
The Dugout, Windsor
If you see what looks like part of a marching band brassing their way through downtown Windsor, follow them. It's probably My Son the Hurricane (St. Catharines). We liked their unique fusion of brass band and hip hop so much when we saw them last year, they made our list of top shows for 2011.

 Thurs., May 10
Plants and Animals (w/ Wavvy Hands)
The Pike Room (The Crofoot), Pontiac
With songs like "The End of That"-- which features one of our favourite lyrics of the year so far, "With your bee sting lips and your pepper grinder hips"-- it's hard to believe Montreal's alt rock/progressive pop trio Plants and Animals started out as an instrumental group.

Sat., May 12
Royal Canoe
The Garden Bowl (Majestic Theater Complex), Detroit
A good reminder not to judge a band by one song, Winnipeg's Royal Canoe got a lot of love on CBC Radio 3 for their ode to Kasparov, but their progressive electronic pop is so much more than that. This is a FREE show, so you've got nothing to lose by coming down to check them out.

Sat., May 12
Will Currie and The Country French
w/ Dance Movie, Quiet Parade and Years of Ernest

Phog Lounge, Windsor
With four bands on the bill, we're hoping to have time to run over to Windsor after Royal Canoe to catch Will Currie and The Country French (Waterloo) and their unique brand of piano-driven, intelligent alt pop. Read our show review from the last time they were at Phog here.

Show Review: All Aboard for Shred Kelly

Have you ever gone to a party with a date and left with someone else?

That's the way we felt last Nov. 23 when we went to Windsor's Phog Lounge to meet up with our good friend and fellow CBC Radio 3 blogger StephRamsahai. We were there to support her friends, The Creekside Strays from London, opening for Shred Kelly of Fernie, B.C. We'd never heard of Shred Kelly, but that's who we ended up taking home. (Their debut CD, Goodbye July; what did you think we meant?)

 Nic Cavaliere

Led by Nic Cavaliere's heavy, funk-infused bass and James Vinyard's working man's growl on the guitar and vox, The Strays mine the meaty end of classic and '90s rock. We think what keeps them out of the retro-tribute band camp and on campus radio charts, and puts the "alt" into their rock, is Justin Shorey's smart, finessed drumming. The band was only eight months old when we saw them; they've been working hard ever since playing non-stop shows in London and Toronto, and just released their second EP, Honour Amongst Thieves, the follow-up to last year's Tiger Waltz.

Justin Shorey

James Vinyard

We called 2011 the Year of the Dirge, because it seemed like so many new albums from bands we like were more down-tempo and/or somber. "Be happy," we wanted to tell them, especially since they were really good albums embraced by listeners and critics. But still dirge-y. Which might explain why Shred Kelly's "stoke folk" proved to be the perfect antidote. Fun, high-energy, blistering banjo, anthems like "I Hate Work"? Shred Kelly made us very happy, and our list of top shows for 2011.

Jordan Vlasshaert
Ian Page Shiner

Tim Newton

Sage McBride

Tim Newton (l) and Steve Polit

Congratulations to Shred Kelly, who will be one of the bands playing Tracks on Tracks, the epic rock 'n' roll train adventure being sponsored by Green Couch Productions, CBC Radio 3 and VIA Rail. The train pulls out of Vancouver on Jun. 8 and rolls into Toronto on Jun. 12 in time for NXNE. If you can't take the train, there will be a Tracks on Tracks showcase featuring the bands from the train on Jun. 13.

Photos by Russ Gordon/N2D Images
Tracks On Tracks image courtesy of CBC Radio 3


WINDSOR, ON - Windsor-based singer-songwriter Pat Robitaille has released his second single and video entitled “We Won’t Change” from his fourth album, Change.

The video was shot in Toronto, Ont.with the support of a grant from MuchFACT. Director Sean McLeod had this to say about the grant, “It’s a really great program they have set up to assist Canadian talent with everything from music videos to websites. The music industry has completely changed and continues to evolve, and unfortunately there’s just not enough money to go around. Without programs like MuchFACT and FACTOR in place it would be very difficult for artists to make things like music videos happen.”

Change is Pat's fourth studio album and has been well received since its release. "It's an album about love lost," says Pat. "Lyrically, it reflects on some major relationships that have failed in my life. Musically, it reflects on the song writing and instrumentation I was exposed to during my time in Nashville. I was hanging around with a crew of insanely talented and successful people, and I soaked it all up like a sponge."

Pat is already beginning work on his next album. “I’m excited because I’ve received a grant from the Ontario Arts Council to work on my fifth album," he says. "I’m really looking forward to getting back in the studio after spending the past two years promoting and touring my latest record. I’ve been getting anxious to explore some new musical ideas that have been floating around in my head for the past year or so.”

This video marks the second collaboration between Pat and director Sean McLeod, who had previously worked together on the album's first video, “Going As Planned." Sean has recently been added to the roster at 235 Films, joining such industry heavyweights as Harv Glazer, Director X, and Davin Black. Seans’s previous video was for Canadian icon Ashley MacIsaac’s “Poka Rokin”. He has a full slate of upcoming projects including videos for local favorites Years Of Ernest and Efan (Stefan Cvetkovic of Michou’s solo project).

The video can also be seen in rotation on Much Music.