Thursday, June 28, 2012

10 Canadian Bands

In the Canadian media, be it television or radio, you're required to play content that has been created by Canadian artists and made right here in the great white north.  It's a condition of licence and the percentages are pretty high.  The abbreviation to this rule is CanCon.

Hate it or love it this is something imposed by the governing body that is the CRTC and companies must ensure they meet these percentages in order to continue doing business.  There are other countries that have similar rules including Australia, Israel and the UK to name a few.

For me growing up in Canada this rule introduced me to many artists I would never have heard of otherwise.  There was a period in the 90s when I don't know if I could have told you if a band was Canadian or not.  There was simply so much amazing Canadian music on the airwaves and it didn't matter if it was Canadian or not.  They were being played alongside the biggest acts from all corners of the globe and they sounded like they belonged.  Remember this was a time when the likes of Nirvana, Soundgarden and Weezer were breaking through.  To hear a band like Pluto, Rusty, The Gandharvas  or Esthero just meant they deserved to be book ended by those international acts.

In 2012 the competition is even tougher.  The opportunities to breakthrough are slimmer and harder than ever before.  Yes there are more outlets and avenues to be heard - but that just means only a handful will get their chance to break through the clutter because anyone and everyone can stick some music up online.

I have the luxury of being able to see and hear many of this countries finest on a daily basis.  Some make it internationally like Drake, Justin Bieber, deadmau5, Metric and Carly Rae Jepsen but for each of these success stories there are thousands more incredible talents that have yet to break through.  It's not to say they aren't successful as there are endless acts that have made it here and continue to do so each year.

Here are 10 Canadian bands/artists I love and feel should have made it on an international level.  Many have had some success elsewhere - but they really are world class and should have gone further.

The Junction



The Mark Inside

Young Empires

Marianas Trench


Kathleen Edwards

The Sheepdogs

Down With Webster

As we approach Canada Day I'm reminded how great this place really is.  The people, the culture and music are like nothing else on earth and we should be proud.

Happy Canada Day.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

More Rock Please

Do you remember when Nirvana came out?  Do you remember when The Strokes released their first album?  What about the first time you heard Blind Melon's 'No Rain', Silverchair's 'Tomorrow' or The White Stripes 'Fell In Love With A Girl'? Do you remember the last time a rock n roll band went to #1 on Billboard and took over the world?

It's been a while but it's not like there's been a lack of Rock n Roll to be had.  It's simply that the charts on radio, online and television are currently being controlled by pop music.  Pop music meaning popular music is in it's most bubble gum POP form.

In my opinion Hip Hop's been pretty terrible in recent years too.  With the exception of Jay Z & Kanye, Drake and now 2 Chainz and Tyga.  The rest seem to have leaned more on the pop side with a touch of hip and sprinkle of hop.  If anything they're dance songs that feature rappers.

Rock's also been pretty crap in recent years featuring more hooks, drum machine loops and synthesizers than ever before.  What's missing is the simple rock formula that consists of guitar, bass, drums and vocals.  Perhaps a tambourine or harmonica.  Is it too much to ask?

There are so many great rock bands out there but they just can't seem to garner the attention of the masses the way they once did.  A&R departments are sticking to formulas that work right now and prolong them in an attempt to capitalize on the trends.  It's an age old tradition but it just makes it longer periods of time between great transitions.

It pains me that when albums like Port of Morrow by The Shins come out it only they don't get recognition.  That album is incredible and should have been a defining moment for the band.  Albums like this plummet down charts and you may not hear much of them until the next album comes around.  If you have not heard this song then please give it a spin now...

or Kasabian's 'Re-wired' seen here...

or Montreal's own Sam Roberts Band seen here...

I guess the only massive one I can think of, in recent years, that's taken over all media and demos alike would be The Black Keys.  Rightfully so and finally after all these years.

*one of the greatest videos of all time :)

Anyway - bit of a rant but here's to some great rock n roll to come in the next while.  It's time and I for one welcome it.  I leave you with these amazing rock n roll track by Arkells and Metric.

Thanks for reading/listening.

Gregg Stewart

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Summer 2012

It may not officially be summer as yet - but shorts and music outside mean summer up here in the great white north.  It's mid June and it's a very exciting time of year.

One of my all time favourite places in the summer is the lawn of the Molson Amphitheatre in Toronto.  I've seen some of my favourite shows there including the likes of RadioheadOasis, City and Colour  and The Up In Smoke Tour.  You may not have the best sight lines from the lawn but when the weather's right and the sun's going down - the acoustics and atmosphere are tough to beat.  I've actually left better seats on a few occasions retiring to those lawns.

Toronto isn't actually known for its outdoor festival scene but this year looks to change all of that. Alongside the regular announcements at the Amphitheatre there are many others popping up across this fair city.  From Downsview's latest stage (Foster the People and Kimbra will be debuting on June 19th) to Old Fort York for Hard Toronto on August 4th - there's something for everyone in 2012.

It all kicks off this week as NXNE Music Festival  takes over Toronto's clubs and outdoor spaces like Dundas Square.  I truly wish this festival were a week later as I never get to enjoy it because of our music awards at MuchMusic on the Sunday.  *Please move it by a week if you read this Andy and Yvonne:)

I will however be lucky enough to see Metric this Tuesday as they make a rare club appearance.  The band's latest offering is being released that day and so it'll be awesome to hear the new songs first hand in their home town.

I'd be remise if I didn't tell you how excited I am for this Sunday's MuchMusic Video Awards at 9 ET / 6 PT (plug).  It's the biggest spectacle on Queen Street each year and boasts the biggest stars in the world.  This year we've got Katy Perry, LMFAO, Justin Bieber, Carly Rae Jepsen and many more.  Like them or not - these artists realize how unique of an award show it is and bring their energy ten folds.  I'm excited for all the acts but especially pumped to help introduce Ed Sheeran to the Canadian viewers.  He will be a superstar soon and rightfully so as he's fantastic.

There are many more shows and festivals to check out this summer.  Here's a quick list of shows I recommend as I'll be trying my best to get to them all.

I truly hope you're able to get out and see some live music this summer.


PS - Catch The 2012 MuchMusic Video Awards Live Sunday June 17th at 9 pm :)