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Top Music Acts to Catch at Canadian Music Week 2017

This week I fly out to Toronto (unfortunately, on United Airlines…wish me luck) for my third Canadian Music Week, the annual music business conference and festival.


In addition to having the pleasure of being on the panel, “Brands in the Music Space: A Debate on the Pros and Cons” (sorry, couldn’t resist the plug), attending sessions, reuniting with our unofficial music festival family (you know who you are), and hearing Live Nation’s Michael Rapino speak, catching local Canadian bands and international acts is a top priority.

Having gone through all 402 tracks on the CMW 2017 Spotify playlist, I’ve narrowed my picks down to the following below and have personally curated a Kaffeine Buzz playlist for CMW 2017.

In no particular order, but first on the list is…

Birds of Olympus – April 19 10:30pm – at The Underground, The Drake Hotel / April 20 9:15pm at the Great Hall

Birds of Olympus is one act that I personally have to catch, having missed them at SXSW even though they had five performances checked off their ‘to do’ list by the time they left Austin. Plus, the five-piece from Dublin will not make it back to North America for a space of time in order to focus on releasing more music.

Speaking of music, they’ve got just one single out thus far, “Vine of the Soul,” but that’s all it took to hook a lot of music critic’s ear like myself, BBC 6 Music’s Steve Lamacq, and the booker from SXSW who caught Birds of Olympus’ set last year in their hometown.

In an interview during SXSW with RTE Lyric FM, Spud Murphy (vocals and synths) explained their creative and business approach to the future of their new musical venture, “It’s important to know what you want and know how to get it. You have to set some sort of goal.” He also stated that the goal doesn’t always equate to getting a record deal, which traditionally and for far too long, has been a given band’s pot of gold. Murphy believes, “If you’re creating something that’s good and you believe in it, I think it will find its way anyway. You don’t necessarily need to go down the label route.” He doesn’t deny that securing a label can indeed contribute to a band’s success, BUT as far, far, far too many bands have discovered after the fact, a record label deal “can also be detrimental to the whole situation.”

The music, as I mentioned, has some lovely hooks, with influences of Air’s ‘Moon Safari,’ an iconic sonic trip, and Beta Band, as cited by Murphy. There is a tradition in Austin and during SXSW, where people board a river boat to float along the waters of the Colorado, typically with drink in had. As the sun twinkles and dances atop the aquatic landscape, the feeling of gratitude, alignment, and clarity washes over you, “Yes, life is good.”

That is the feeling Birds of Olympus brings about, and I can’t wait to experience the aural trip in person. The band is playing two nights, first at the Music from Ireland Showcase at The Drake on April 19 and the following night at the Great Hall.


Duchess Says – April 21 – at Baby G with Not Of, Bike Theifs, and Hoan

This no wave, new wave, dark wave, and tidal wave of electromagnetic music magic band, Duchess Says, is also a SXSW alum, performing nine shows in Austin last month, including a spot during the Burger Records showcase at Hotel Vegas. Having formed in 2003 the five-piece are not newbies by any stretch. Members have perfected their stylistic clamor and clank percussions, rip some mean keytar and dank basslines, moshing noise from the back alley to center stage with vocalist A-Claude leading the crowd into a rebellious frenzy.

Thus far the Duchess Says’ dance card is filled with Canada-only tour dates, starting with their CMW slot on Friday, April 21 at Baby G. But I’m hoping a return to the U.S. in the works. And since they played the Burger Records showcase, a slot at Burger Boogaloowould festival in July would be way cool, or simply a stop in L.A. for the Part-Time Punks weekly at The Echo would be fitting.



Flasher – April 19 – at Baby G with Smokes, NOBRO, Monomyth, MIMICO

The Washington D.C. trio Flasher, comprised of Emma Baker on vocals and drums, Taylor Mulitz on vocals and guitar, and Daniel Saperstein on bass and vocals, layer black and white noise, lofty vocals over matter-of-fact-ish spoken word and razor-sharp guitar lasers. It’s a trip down post-punk memory lane via Basquiat’s 1981 LES while venturing into the future of the underground.

Flasher is prepping to release a new 7″ “Winnie b/w Burn Blue” May 5 on Sister Polygon, the follow up to their self-titled 2016 full-length.


Casper Skulls – April 22 at Lee’s Palace with Weaves, Twist, Ponys, Vallen

Unlike some of us, Casper Skulls’ commute to CMW is fairly short, given their home town is Toronto. It’s a well-deserved break, given the group has already racked up quite a number of miles during their 50+ U.S. and Canada tour dates over the last year; an impressive feat for their baby-band status.

Casper Skulls’ 2016 EP Lips & Skull on Buzz Records (dig the label name) set the stage for press adoration, from FADER to MTV, and all points in between. Spreading their biting flavor of post-punk while growing their live set reputation with each show, the quartet secured a number of dates during SXSW, furthering the hunger for their full-length debut due out in the fall.


Greys – April 21 at The Garrison with Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs, NOBRO, New Sears, Solids (Dine Alone Records Showcase)

The first, second, and third listen to Greys“Minus Time” took me back to my college radio days, specifically 1997, spinning “Echo” from Plastisized, the only full-length release (to my knowlege) from L.A.’s Pink Noise Test, or ten years further back to Jesus & Mary Chain’s “April Skies.” It’s filled with pedal-heavy, dirgy, eyes-closed type of rock envelopment that penetrates your insides and makes your ears ring so good.

The band released their second album, Outer Heaven, on Buzz Records/Carpark Records in 2016 and have collaborated with fellow label mates, Casper Skulls. Lyrically, frontman Shehzaad Jiwani believes bands today need to be using their musical talents to create substance and meaning. “You have to be saying something. If you’re not, get out of the way and make room,” he told FADER. Listening to “If It’s All The Same To You” and “Complaint Rock” from the latest album will solidify Greys’ substance stance while powerfully planting their punk rock stake in the ground.

Caveboy – April 19 at Silver Dollar with LOLAA, Tess Roby, Good Kid, Bossie, Exit Someone (NeXT & POP Montreal Showcase) / April 21 at Adelaide Hall with Little Destroyer, Ria Mae

Soon after CaveboyMichelle Bensimon (Lead Vocals, Guitar, Synth), Isabelle Banos (Synth, Bass, Backing Vocals) and Lana Cooney (Drums, Backing Vocals) – released their 2015 debut EP, new opportunities for musical reach began to flow in, including TV synch deals for Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black,” Syfy’s “Killjoys”, and MTV’s “Awkward” in addition to securing showcases at CMW, CMJ, SXSW, and Pop Montreal.

Caveboy’s angelic vocals and electro-pop layers make for a perfect soundtrack to gazing out an aircraft window as the clouds billow and blow far above the ground, with flickering light and colors floating in rhythm, making their two upcoming CMW shows highly anticipated.


For a FULL list of all the CMW Shows go here.


And for your listening pleasure, 66 acts playing CMW that I wish I was able to see but will no doubt be on my radar for this year’s music festival and touring schedules.


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