Cross-Country Sounds of Canadian Music Week: A Geographical Guide

It’s Day three of Canadian Music Week and let’s face it: Toronto is up there in having one of the best music scenes in the world. With a plethora of up-and-coming bands, collective and creative musical minds and enthusiastic fans right at its feet, it’s basically the main reason I came back from my extended worldly travels – I couldn’t get eargasms from anywhere else. Plus I missed bumping into members of Broken Social Scene on the street.

But this Canadian Music Week, it’s time think outside the box and explore the country through your eardrums with these CMW picks of bands outside of Toronto. They’ll have you ditching your 9 to 5-er to hit up a road trip across Canada.

Montreal, Quebec 
Yes yes, Montreal gave birth to Arcade Fire – even our children will still be stating this well-known Canadian fact. A “hot music scene” for what seems like ages, other bands like Stars and Wolf Parade have put Canada on the international map. Having caught last night’s La Belle Province Night at El Mocambo featuring lovely Montrealers like Martha Wainwright and The Dears, an exact “Montreal sound” is difficult to define. But the city’s eclectic culture, amazing community and small-size equals more members in a band – which equals more instrumentation and fresh sounds. 

CMW Pit Stop: Pop Montreal Showcase (8:30 pm) at the Drake Underground (1150 Queen St. W.) on Saturday and M for Montreal (8:30 pm) at El Mocambo downstairs (464 Spadina Ave. on Saturday. 

Nova Scotia and the East Coast
Ditch the stereotype of associating St. Patty’s Day with the East Coast music scene. That’s offensive. While Nova Scotia is known for its folk music and Scottish-influenced sound, don’t forget artists like Joel Plaskett and Wintersleep came out of this humble scene. Now with new East Coast cats like Ben Caplan from Halifax and Raccoon Bandit from Charlottetown, PEI, the East Coast is getting more and more experimental and innovative while still maintaining its roots.

CMW Pit Stop: East Coast Music Association Showcase with Ben Caplan and the Casual Smokers (6:35 pm) at Sneaky Dee’s (431 College St.) on Friday and Music Nova Scotia Showcase (5 pm) at Rivoli (334 Queen St. W.) on Saturday.

The Prairies
The music of the Prairie Provinces – Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba – makes me swoon. Though known for its vast areas, the part most cross-country Canada road trippers dread, stop by one of its major cities and I guarantee the music scene is far from mundane. It’s literally a smorgasbord of sounds that make the Canadian music landscape epically, well, Canadian. Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, The Guess Who, Weakerthans – yup, all cultivated their style while living in the Prairies. They’re country, but not and the exciting part is that it’s ever-changing.

CMW Pit Stop: Prairie Music Showcase (8 pm) at The Gladstone (1214 Queen St. W.) on Friday and Pipers Lounge (6 pm, 100 Front St. W.)  on Saturday

British Columbia and the West Coast
I’ve never been to the West Coast of Canada, but my friends discourage me from going – they think I may never go back to Toronto. With British Columbia’s gorgeous mountains and outdoorsy culture, Vancouver’s rock and pop scene ruffles the city’s chilled-out reputation with bands like Japandroids, The New Pornographers, Destroyer, Mother Mother and our newest love affair, Dan Mangan. 

CMW Pit Stop: Music BC Showcase (8 pm)  at Rivoli (334 Queen St. W.) on Friday and the Indies with Dan Mangan at Fairmount Royal York Hotel’s Canadian Ballroom

~ Desiree Gamotin

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