Toronto’s Indie Week 2010 delivers ups and downs

Indie Week Canada showcases the best of Canadian and Irish independent music and this year, Australia and Japan also got in on the game.

Although many of the bands playing the Friday night “Irish Showcase” were not actually live and direct from the Emerald Isle, the bands that did cross the Atlantic were treated to all that Toronto had to offer: 16 venues, well over 100 independent bands and a 4 a.m. last call.

The only fault of Indie Week was that it tried to provide too much of everything. For 2010, organizers added new venues to the bill to accommodate the growing number of performances and Bread and Circus in Kensington Market was one of these. A small café/theatre venue, I had the chance to catch both Hamilton’s Ascot Royals and Montreal’s Vinyl Hero here, but unfortunately for both bands – the venue did them no favours. The floor was clogged with tables and chairs, which pacified the crowd, and the sound and acoustics of the venue were also very flat.

The Ascot Royal advanced to the finals at The Hideout on Saturday night and the difference in their sound was like night and day. They have an upbeat pop sound that is danceable and energetic and for them to play in front of a seated audience, awkwardly clapping along to the beat, was a real disservice to them and the festival. Hopefully next year the organizers will think of quality of venues rather than quantity. Boasting about having 16 venues is kind of lame when four of the 16 don’t compliment the acts booked.

Thankfully, the Irish showcase took place at The Hideout, which along with Rivoli and Tattoo Rock Parlour, is one of the best venues Indie Week has to offer for ambiance and acoustics. A highlight from the showcase was Nightbox; a Toronto-based band with Irish roots. Lead by charismatic frontman Jake Bitove, the band captivated the packed Hideout dancefloor at the end of the showcase. Their syncopated bass rhythms, combined with the use of electronic sound and up-tempo percussion work, melted perfectly with the melodic guitar work of James Tebbitt. Nightbox fed off the crowd and each other, delivering one of the most impressive performances of the week.

Although they were a hard act to follow, Toronto’s These Electric Lives won the overall prize and will get to tour Ireland in April 2011.

A great week of music overall, but organizers will hopefully push to have more bands play Toronto’s better live venues for Indie Week 2011.

For all the latest on Indie Week: http://www.indieweek.com/

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