CMW 2013: Live Near Bellwoods

By Elena Gritzan

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Nestled quietly in the afternoon during the midst of Canadian Music Week, the Live Near Bellwoods sessions brought a wide variety of musicians to a small space to play acoustic sets. There were shows running from the Thursday to the Saturday, no admission required (all you needed was a taste for a wide selection of what Canada’s music scene has to offer, and a willingness to sit cross-legged for a few hours). The lobby of Queen Street’s Toronto Institute for the Enjoyment of Music is no bigger than most living rooms, giving a comfortable and intimate atmosphere to the showcase.

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The final day, Saturday March 24, began with electro-singer-songwriter Adaline. Her most recent album, Modern Romantics, is full of delicately drawn-out guitar solos and sliding electronics, but her acoustic set showcased the strength of her sensual voice against simple piano arrangements of her usually complicated songs. The result was mesmerizing. She excitedly proclaimed that she has just recently quit her day job as a waitress. If that gives her more time to write more songs like “The Noise” or “That’s What You Do Best”, she has definitely made the right decision.

Variety is the best thing about going to a showcase like this: with each act only playing four to five songs, you have time to experience a lot of different music. Over the course of the afternoon, the fifty or so people in the room were treated to indie pop band Rococode, the soulful electronica of Paradise Animals, and the percussive rambunctiousness of Whale Tooth.

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My favourite discovery of the day was ALX, the newest evolution of theatrical Toronto-based singer Allie Hughes.  She is joined by Maddy Wilde (Moon King, Spiral Beach) and Kelly McMichael (Rouge), and the combination of their powerful voices induced chills.  With only one song released so far (the creepy, obsessive “I Will Love You More”), this is definitely a band to watch. You can download the song for free on their bandcamp page, but watch out: only a week later and it is already the third most played song on my itunes.

The show-stealer, though, was raspy-voiced jazzy folk singer Ben Caplan. Despite only being able to play two songs (he had to run off to another show), he brought a large amount of volume, passion and aggression to his music, attacking the piano and committing completely to his musical stories. Ben Caplan highlighted everything that the Live Near Bellwoods sessions, and Canadian Music Week in general, should be about: love for creating and sharing music.

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