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Journey Of The Secret Guests CMW 2015

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Journey Of The Secret Guests CMW 2015

The secret guests at Canadian Music Week were a hot topic. Who was going to perform? Was it worth it? What if it was a farce? Tune in below to recount the ups and downs of the four secret guests featured in the festival. 

Secret Guest #1: THE DYING ARTS
Parts And Labour, May 6, 11:10PM
“Welcome to your first punk show, two more songs and we will be out of your face,” said Lead singer, Mike Portoghese of local punk band The Dying Arts, while performing to a crowd that clearly wanted nothing to do with them. 

Photo: Liz Gareri

Photo: Liz Gareri

The Dying Arts definitely played true to their name during their performance as the first secret guest of CMW at Parts&Labour. The band toiled through their set, performing in a venue that was too small for their sound and to a crowd that was there for the popular synth-pop sound.  The grinding punk guitar was clearly not wanted and The Dying Arts made it clear they hated the crowd just as much. 

Arguably, The Dying Arts would’ve flourished in their proper environment having had a great show at The Silver Dollar on May 1st and on the part of CMW, putting their first secret guest in front of an audience that wanted synth-pop was a rookie move. Better luck next time boys.

Secret Guest #2: THE ORWELLS
Sneaky Dee’s, May 7, 1:00AM

Next up was The Orwells. Mario Cuomo is the one of the most fascinating and frightening performers I have ever watched.  I don’t know that I will ever get the image of him laughing manically for over two minutes without blinking out of my head. What is even more unsettling is that I almost don’t want to. Cuomo as a performer brings out a raw, carnal energy that is incredible sexy albeit deeply disturbing. The only comparison I can make as a viewer would be to Tim Curry in Rocky Horror Picture Show, Cuomo also tantalizing followers with his erotic hip thrusts and lusty side glances.

The Orwells at Sneaky Dee's - Photos: Josh Carlan

The Orwells at Sneaky Dee’s – Photos: Josh Carlan

The performance of The Orwells as the secret guest at Sneaky Dees was beyond words. Following the performance of the OBGM’s, a stellar local punk band that caused a mosh pit so powerful that I chipped a tooth, the crowd was ready and waiting for The Orwells. There was crowd surfing, dancing on the stage and people reaching out their hands to touch Cuomo in an almost cult-ish fashion. He fed into that energy like a snake charmer and had the crowd at the edge of his fingertips. 

The Orwells CMW 2015 - Josh Carlan-2

Between the shaking floorboards at Sneaky Dees, Cuomo laying down and the crowd doggy piling him on stage and crowd-surfing while singing and not missing a beat, The Orwells undoubtedly put on one of the best shows I saw during CMW.

Secret Guest #3: LYON
Drake Hotel, May 9, 10:15PM

Next stop, The Drake. The blessed venue of eight dollar beers and young men in suits headbanging to light indie pop. This venue is known to host the talent of the moment and the night of the secret guest was no exception. Lyon took the stage an hour earlier than intended as one of the main guests, Coleman Hell canceled last minute. This affected the show tremendously as there was much confusion among the audience as to who was performing when and resulted in low numbers of attendance for Lyon’s performance. 

Photo: Katie Sadie

Photo: Katie Sadie

The confusion went as far as the stage manager present at the Drake for CMW informing me that Wolf Saga was the second secret guest alongside Lyon even though the CMW lineup showed that Wolf Saga was playing at the Drake. Hard to say whether this was a cover-up or confusion on the part of the stage manager.

Nonetheless, Lyon did take the stage after her set with Wolf Saga during their set and they played a cover of The Strokes called “you can only live once”. The combination of Lauren Malyon, or Lyon as she prefers, and Johnny Saga of Wolf Saga was interesting but did come across like a battle of the dueling keyboards. Lyon is classified as synth-pop, a popular music movement in the millennial generation and she leans heavily into using her equipment.

After her collaboration with Wolf Saga, I caught up with Lyon about the confusion of the night to which she responded, “We were in a rush but it all worked out. It was fun collaborating live with Wolf Saga. It’s easiest to go with the flow. It was fun, I played on Friday so it was a good opportunity for people who couldn’t make it out.  The Drake is also my favorite venue so it was great.”

I say, all the power to you sister. I’ll leave the suits and synths to you and stick to my grimy bars and live guitar.

Secret Guest #4: Swervedriver
The Bovine, May 9, 2:00AM
The final secret guest, Swervedriver filled the retro slot for CMW and gave many shoegaze lovers in their early 30’s a blast from the past. The set that Swervedriver performed contrasted greatly from the previous secret guests as it had the smoky feel of the distorted 90’s reality reminiscent of other greats such as Soundgarden and Monster Magnet.

Photo: Dagmar Yu

Photo: Dagmar Yu

As far as performance goes though, I could have swayed myself into a deep sleep if I stood still for too long. The band had very little energy in their performance, potentially a result of their exhausting career being dicked around by various recording labels. The lull of their onstage presence caused many sleepy-eyed wanderers to slurp their beers slowly and shoe-gaze to their earlier days. The Bovine was not the venue for Swervdriver, an environment ideal for energetic and wild bands that want their crowd to feel the veracity of being alive. It was mind-boggling to witness the quiet crowd in this venue and as I swayed and slurped, I wondered whether I had been transported into a dreamlike 90’s time-warp.

Overall, the secret guests at CMW were a mixed bag. The Orwells were a phenomenal choice and a resounding success. Swervedriver also had a full audience and was a popular choice though the venue was debateable. Lyon and The Dying Arts could have been successful choices if better time scheduling and venue planning had taken place. Overall though, the secret guest is decidedly an exciting add-on to CMW, giving great bands a second chance to play their set and lent the crowd even more reason to come out and enjoy the event.

Kaeleigh Phillips

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