CMW 2015: Sunday

Johnny Active (Media Photo)

By Ayla Shiblaq

This night would mark the first CMW showcase I would attend — for Esquire Fresh — and thankfully, the first that I didn’t actually have an issue getting into with my wristband. (Miracles happen, people.) Located in the Parts & Labour basement, reminiscent of the Smiling Buddha’s grimy charm, I was immediately taken aback by how reverberant the space was. Yes, it is technically an empty basement, and yes, it’s not exactly Massey Hall, but the way sound travels in this venue would distort any performance.

Look, I’m really sensitive… to sound (I also have a lot of feelings, which is besides the point). That should technically serve as an asset to the act of music appreciation, but on this particular night, that was not the case. Let’s just say, anyone having a conversation in the space could be heard, and the conversations held throughout the night bled into the sound of the performance, making it extremely difficult to enjoy what was going on.

Although the venue did not serve as a positive accessory to the musicians, the performances were actually quite good. I missed the first two acts (Haviah Mighty and Blackboltt) and the headliners, which was unfortunate and entirely due to my lack of time management skills in actually locating a food vendor — my body eventually gave out. The first act I did see was King Visionary, an experimental hip-hop artist out of Detroit. His versatility in sound was truly captivating and nothing was really lacking, whether it be his singing, his flow, his lyrics, or his production. Although I took personal preference to his flow over his singing, his vocals and production worked incredibly well. (I definitely had moments when I turned to my friends and said, “Damn, that production.”) Although the venue wasn’t particularly full and people carried on with conversations throughout the performance, King Visionary was effective in keeping me interested and creating some converts. It is especially hard in hip-hop to add a performance element to truly captivate new audiences, and King Visionary really has something great going with his interactive performance philosophy and his sonic versatility. I’m keeping my eye out, and you should too.

Next was Johnny Active, a local rapper with an impressive Toronto following. I felt as though his production was kind of lacking, with disjointed transitions into different samples, but all in all I felt as though his music truly catered to relevancy through his sampling of Top 40 favourites. His flow was smooth and so were his tactics for boosting audience participation. Note to self: people really enjoy free t-shirts.

All in all, with this being my first strictly CMW show, I can’t say I was impressed by how everything was organized. I find the best parts of festivals are showcases and opening acts, as many up and comers are discovered this way, but the festival’s organization shows a clear disregard for this. Putting a showcase in an out-of-the-way venue (in addition, on a Sunday when nearly every nearby food vendor is closed), and one that is not particularly suited for the music itself, is not only making it more difficult for new artists to interact with the audience, it’s also making concertgoers who want to discover new music miss out on some talented acts. I’m hoping that my next experience will prove that this showcase is an exception. Until then, check out the acts on various social media (Soundcloud, Twitter, etc.) and I promise you will not be disappointed.

Featured image: Johnny Active (media photo).

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