A belated recap: My Canadian Music Week 2016

I was able to catch quite a lot of live music during the week, and I’m sure I could write about a lot more than I have here, but these truly were the performances that really touched me – or that I was able to stay for long enough to have been touched by them. I know it’s not the first time I’ve admitted that it’s a highlight of my life working for the festival, but it isn’t always awesome shows: I do actually get work done!

My favourites this year:

Lights at Danforth Music Hall

Lights at the Danforth Music Hall | Monday, May 2nd

At this point, I hadn’t been to a show in ages. Ages. I’ve been to small shows, and they have been lovely and intimate but there’s something about attending a show by someone who has been through it all, and has continued to hold on the thing that makes them magical.

It was an acoustic set for almost 1500 people, and you could feel the intimacy in the room all the way at the back of the balcony where I was seated. I am ashamed to admit I haven’t listened to any of her latest stuff but that didn’t stop me from enjoying her incredible talent.

What a delightful way to start my Canadian Music Week experience.

Royal Canoe at Mod Club Theatre

Royal Canoe at Mod Club Theatre | Wednesday, May 4th

I hadn’t planned on staying long, but the route I chose to check-in on my venues for the night made me quite late for my check-in at this venue. I’m so glad it did. I ended up being able to catch Royal Canoe‘s entire set, which was so much fun. I wasn’t that familiar with their music, but it was easy to enjoy.

Definitely a highlight of my week.

The People The Poet at Cameron House | Thursday, May 5th

I tried so hard to make it back to the area from the east end of the city to catch some friends, The Cat & The Queen, playing at The Hideout but I didn’t quite make it. So I thought I would check out The People The Poet at Cameron House. I discovered this band from Ireland while I was investigating international bands, and our potential transformer needs and had penciled in a few of their showcases in case I could catch them.

As a lover of Mumford and Sons, the Head in The Heart and of Monsters and Men, these guys were right up my alley. Would definitely go to see them again if they made their way back to Canada.

Demi Louise at Drake 150

Demi Louise at Drake 150 | Friday, May 6th

I wasn’t able to catch her whole set as i had to get started on my schedule of venue-checks for the evening, but I managed to stay for a couple of songs performed by this gentle-woman. I first met her last year when I advanced the shows at the same venue. She reminds me a lot of Rory from the GIlmore Girls, except that she actually has musical talent1. With a buttery voice, tunes that are funny and serious at the same time it’s hard not to swoon when she starts playing.

Very glad I was able to catch her set, ever-so-briefly.

Motel Raphael at Lee's Palace

Motel Raphaël at Lee’s Palace | Saturday, May 7th

Three years ago, my life was very different, and meeting and working with this band was one memorable experience. I was still Stage Managing. They were gracious, humble, and they rocked. I’m very happy to report that they still rock, and I can only assume they’re every bit as gracious and humble (I wasn’t able to stick around to stay hello – duty called).

I can only hope they keep coming back so I can continue to catch their live shows. So much love for these gals (and their band).

Who did you get to see at Canadian Music Week 2016?

  1. where Rory did not[]

It’s All Happening: Lessons learned from Volunteering

By now, I would be neck deep into my fifth year as a Stage Manager for Canadian Music Week – that is, if they hadn’t moved the festival to a warmer time of year1. As I yearn for the late nights, live music, and the perfect outlet for my need to organize-the-shit-out-of-everything I thought I’d list a few lessons I’ve learned about volunteering for festivals such as Canadian Music Week and North by North East.

CMW logo


The simple things
Becoming a volunteer is pretty easy. For both Canadian Music Week and North by North East, you can simply apply on their respective websites. There are a lot of different positions, and you can choose from volunteering for the conference or the festival but I’ve always been partial to volunteering for the festival. I feel like I get the most out of it because the main perk I’m seeking is to be able to enjoy some live music – full stop. I’ve had a lot of people question this, and I don’t know what to say other than sometimes I’m just that simple: all I want are the feels that good music brings.

Lesson 1: Pay attention?
There is going to be a lot of information thrown at you and all of it is going to be important. Some of it is only going to be important to keep at the top of your mind, and not for every day use but you should still know it. You should also pay attention to the subtle ways that the volunteer coordinator and their team like to do things; even if it’s not the way you usually like to do things – making them feel at ease about your competency to do the job will go a long way. And I don’t mean that you have to read their minds; it’s okay to ask questions – but be careful that you’re not asking questions that have already been covered in the material they gave you. So: pay attention 😉 and do your reading.

[As a stage manager or assistant stage manager] You also need to pay attention to the bands you’re dealing with, because the way they do things will vary as much as Toronto’s weather does. Some bands will prefer to do things via email and will have their own system for playing festivals down to a science, others may still need you to hold their hand2. The ability to pay attention to, and adhere to the subtle cues that people give you3, has been one of my favourite lessons learned from volunteering for these festivals. No matter what role you end up working, it’ll be good to pay attention to a lot of subtleties that will be everywhere.

Lesson 2: Things will go wrong
This is one that can be applied to life, but4 it’s so important to remember when working a music festival. With so many moving parts, it’s only a matter of time before something slips and/or falls into the cracks because life is beautifully imperfect like that. The most important thing I’ve taken away from this lesson is that the people who are in charge, whether that’s the volunteer coordinator or the festival coordinator or the programming coordinator, have given you guidelines for doing your job for a reason. You can deviate from their guidelines so long as the main objective is achieved, but if you miss the point and something horrible goes wrong – no one is going to be happy.

I’ve been pretty lucky, I haven’t had anything majorly bad happen while I was working as a stage manager5. I can only hope that with more experience, I can continue to avoid major catastrophes.

Lesson 3: Open your mind to new experiences
I usually ask to work every day of the festival, and even though I’ve been volunteering for so long I’m sure I could ask to work less so that I can take advantage of the free festival pass that I get and see some big name bands with my friends. I highly doubt I will be doing that though. You see, it’s just that I think it’s best to discover new music; listen to something you wouldn’t normally listen to when you go to a festival. I could be wrong, but I think that’s what these festivals were created for in the first place.

…which brings me to Lesson 4: Know your venue, and how to get there
When I volunteer, I don’t make requests about bands, nor venues to work with – to an extent. I do request to work venues that are closer to either my place of work or home so that I’m not too stressed trying to get to the venue on time. Stage Manager & Assistant Stage Manager shifts start as early as 5pm for some venues6, and if I have to trek across the city – I may not make it7.  With NXNE, it’s pretty easy – I just hop on my bike and I know exactly how long it’s going to take me to get there.

Anywho, that’s all I have for now. I’m sure there are a few more lessons I’ve learned, and I’ll be sure to add them to another post when they come to me. If there’s anything you want to ask me about, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below. You can also send me questions via the contact form on my Author page.

Happy volunteering!

  1. or so we hope[]
  2. for example, bands who are not from Canada[]
  3. whether they are aware of it or not[]
  4. we are not talking about life right now[]
  5. actually, I do have a story but it is not my story to tell so I will have to save it for a face to face conversation; i.e. ask me next time you see me[]
  6. depending on what time doors open[]
  7. On the TTC? It is more likely that I will not[]

For Chris Levoir

The Mark Inside at the Gladstone Hotel Ballroom | NXNE 2012I had put you away in a box, though I was sure I’d see you again.

I’ve only known you for a little over a year but the moments we shared meant more to me than I ever cared to let you, or anyone else1 know. I liked that you called me, ‘lady’2. It was so rock and roll. You were so rock and roll, but so down to earth at the same time. You were the perfect balance of both. I would have loved you forever if you had asked me to. There’s a part of my heart that always will. Especially now that I never got to tell you just how wonderful you are. And how wonderful you made me feel the few moments we got to share (on or offline).

I remember going to your gig at El Mocambo after watching another band’s cd release party. I got there just after the last band’s set had finished, you told me when I came to say hello to you. You bought me a drink, or a shot; or both, I can’t remember now. Conversation was easy between us. Soon though, you had to get on stage. I stood near the front, stage left. I watched you do what you did best, rock out. We talked about getting drinks together some time, as I was saying my goodbyes. One day we got our chance…

It was a great first date and you were the gentlest man to have ever rocked my world at the time. I remember thinking that you had the softest skin. That your lips were softer than I had imagined them to be. That your touch was electric. You spoke to me in the deepest bass voice I’ve ever heard; it was a delight to listen in the state of mind I was in when I was with you. You had the most innocent, caring face. You smiled with your eyes, though your smile3 alone would have melted anyone’s heart.

I didn’t know you that well; I loved you all the same. I’m sad I’ll never get to see you again. I was hoping that at the very least we’d stay friends for a very long time, and I’d get to meet your beautiful children; that I’d get to watch you grow old and exceed all our expectations of you. You were great because you just loved. You loved the things that mattered to you, and they loved you right back.


The Mark Inside, at Sofar Sounds on August 16, 2011.

This week at the Great Hall just isn’t going to be the same without him there. I miss him. I know I’m not the only one who does, but I needed to say it out loud here. Judging from outpouring of love all over various media, I know I am not alone in that need either. We’re all in agreement:

He was kind of a big deal4.

  1. including myself[]
  2. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one[]
  3. more of a smirk, really[]
  4. I would say, he still is[]

New Music, New Life: September 2012

It seems to me that everyone and their mother’s band is releasing a new album this year. I’m sure it’s some freak coincidence that so many of the bands I keep an eye on are releasing a new album but it does seem like a bit of a conspiracy to make me wet my panties1. Below are some of the albums I’m most excited for.

Graydon James and the Young Novelists
As you read this, the Young Novelists are touring the East Coast debuting their new album, In the Year You Were Born. I’ve heard a few songs from this album at shows they’ve played during their spring & summer shows around Toronto and I just can’t wait for this album. I’ve even been harassing them to let me buy it earlier but apparently I don’t have enough Klout. Fine, I’ll wait like everyone else Young Novelists but I will be very happy about it!

Their CD release party is scheduled for September 7th at the Horseshoe Tavern. Full details for said show can be found in this facebook event page.

The Pigott Brothers
I’ve lost touch with Oliver2 and I was very pleased to learn, upon facebook-stalking him of course, that he is doing some very exciting things lately. He’s starring in a movie called Lost Angels, which is “An honest yet brutal look at the effects of fame and the substitution of real values for fake ones in the land of Hollywood.” The movie will feature his [solo] music and has me very excited for sure. They’ve got an indiegogo campaign running until the end of the month so if you feel inclined to support this production, please go here.

The Age of Peace will be debuted at the Tranzac on September 14th. For full details click here.

Whenever one of my favourite artists releases a new album it tends to become the soundtrack of my life for some period of time and we all know how much music can affect one’s mood and life. I can’t wait for what the remaining three months of 2012 have in store for me. All thanks to these lovely, talented people of course. Cheers guys!

What new music are you looking forward to this year?

  1. oh, did I say that this blog was PG? No? All right then[]
  2. who I still consider a friend[]