(We would like to welcome musician, publicist and writer Dave Chinner to the Rock and Roll Report team as our new Toronto-based correspondent. And what better way to start things off then throwing him into the midst of the colossal Canadian Music Week and see what gives!)
Ok, maybe the title is a bit of a stretch… Ok it’s a huge stretch, considering Gene doesn’t even drink, and even if he did, he probably wouldn’t drink with the likes of me. But I decided to roll with it, since I needed a smoking headline for this, my first Rock and Roll Report piece, and I personally think its way more catchy then say…. “Drinking in the same hotel as Gene Simmons sort of…..”
Now I find myself sitting in front of my laptop for the last hour, as the Canadian Music Week dust settles, trying to decide which piece of wisdom to share with the RRR world. In the last week, I’ve done everything from appearances on reggae radio, to 3am Chinese food with CTV comics, to award shows including the Indies and Canadian Radio Music Awards. I’ve met everyone from Dave Foley from The Kids in the Hall, to bassist Tommy Mac of Hedley (honorable mention to Gene of course). The week was a whirlwind of activity, and everywhere I went could have likely produced enough “wow factor” to justify an article, but what I found most strange, is that no one thing really blew my mind. There’s a significant possibility that I’m just an asshole, and I’m certainly not implying that there was nothing good to see. I just think, it’s silly when the biggest star of the week, is such that would encourage forty-something’s with mullets to paint their faces and head to the Royal York Hotel. Nothing against KISS or their fans, but let’s face it, nobody can hog a spotlight like Mr. Gene Simmons, and for a festival showcasing 45 venues, I would have liked to see more media attention given to the independent artists who desperately need it. So rather then writing yet another “OMG Gene Simmons” piece, I’m going get real with you here, and share with you some of my observations as a writer, publicist and musician.
The first hint about CMW is that it doesn’t run from the 11th to the 15th. That may be true for the wristband sales and advertisements, but in reality this event began for me on the 8th. The hustle and bustle in the streets and in the hotels lends a contradictory argument to the common sentiment about the music scene dying. People rushing around, fingers a blur as they work blackberries, securing meetings, interviews and show schedules. People trade business cards like baseball cards, and will occasionally show off their spoils if they we’re able to catch a chat with one of the larger then life celebs in attendance.
The music biz is definitely not dead, but there is no denying the change in the air. In a world hammered by a recession, and an industry plagued with evil downloader’s, there’s nervousness in the air unlike any I’ve felt in years passed. Even Rogers, the events primary sponsor decided not to spend their money this year. The festival was a success, though largely unorganized in my opinion. It seemed to me, that the event catered primarily to the industry types, leaving the Artists and fans somewhat on the outside looking in. The wristbands available to the public were way too expensive at $50 a pop, and most of the bars had covers of $10 and up for those without. Like most, I went into CMW with a schedule, a hit list of bands to see if you will, but that all fell apart within the first few hours of the first night. Scheduled set times we’re almost never adhered to, and with the distance between CMW venues sometimes being as much as 30 minutes by taxi in busy downtown traffic, it was almost impossible to be where you had to be, to see the artists you wanted to see. There were 45 venues included, but when you consider that most of the “must see” acts were all competing for the same 10-12 on Friday or Saturday night, for every good band you caught, there were 44 you missed. It’s not all doom and gloom, but you have to feel sorry for bands that we’re showcasing far off the beaten path at some of the more obscure venues.
The real action at CMW, takes place from 10am,-6pm at the Royal York Hotel, which is fucking gorgeous by the way! If I was to pass any piece of wisdom to emerging bands, it would be to save your money, take the week off, and book a terribly expensive stay at the Royal York. All the major awards shows take place there, anyone who’s anyone has a room there, and all the speakers and conferences also take place there. It’s simply media Mecca! Print up a few hundred CD’s, and network your ass off, and remember… This isn’t the music business, this is the relationship business. One handshake at CMW could be the difference, so for all its faults, CMW is still a must attend event for anyone wanting to take it to the next level.