It may be getting darker a little earlier in the day, but the indie music world has some ways of bringing a little light to the world. Cue in Indie Week 2016, one of Toronto’s most notable celebrations of indie acts. To get the week off blazing, the Indie Week Launch Paty 2016 just about blasted out our eardrums with an impressive line up including: the Southern charmer Caleb Lovely, the multi-talented Grace Park, the steadfastly soulful Joshua David, the ever-energetic hey!dw, the psychedelic WUZI, and the amped-up Ascot Royals.
Last year, I was lucky enough to mingle with a room full of VIPs and others in the industry, slowly losing that buttoned-up image of cold professionalism thanks to the beers by Mill Street Brewery and the whiskey and cokes courtesy of Jack Daniels. The same sponsors made a reappearance last night, setting this party’s unrelenting force held at the Burroughes. The age shows in the structure, which makes sense since this venue was once a department store in 1907 but now sets the stage to various events both commercial and personal (like weddings, more than anything).
It turned out that arriving shortly before seven was a good idea since the line stretched out down Queen West not long after I showed up. It would be a while of standing amongst hipster haircuts and art savants while passersby were wondering just what the hell was going on before I got it.
A few of us were shuffled into an old rickety elevator up to the main floor. Two seasoned festival goers ruminated about acts they remembered and bands that “just weren’t the same.” The doors opened up to a few camera flashes and a man in a suit with a company smile, making way to a bustling party. My first impression was that they’ve really stepped things up since last year: VR headsets for anyone to check out, a photo booth with an old man statue who turned out to be company founder Jack Daniels himself, an auction table with various band merchandise and a few extras (stuff from sponsors – most notable the Jack Daniels guitar).
People quickly swarmed the pizza table as soon as any hint of free food was put out there by the staff as Nashville-based Caleb Lovely kicked things off with a sound test. People were still taken in by the features out in the main room while Lovely was playing out smooth R&B sounds with a hint of country.
Another Texas native to hit the stage was the meek Grace Park, who appreciates all forms of art, especially the musical and visual variety as she tours to promote her music and art gallery openings. It was her first time in Toronto (amazingly, she had only come from Pearson Airport about three hours prior to getting on stage). She briefly wondered aloud if Torontonians ever see anyone from the cast of Kids In The Hall around the city, and brought pure acoustic bliss to the performance hall.
Joshua David was another one of these acts that leaned heavily on the acoustic sound. According to his biography, he’s been performing venues like these since the age of eight, being no stranger to the stage. If the name sounds familiar, then it might be because of his song “Last Goodbye”. His folk tales of whiskey and heartbreak charmed the crowd, bringing a few would-be fans to the front of the stage to enjoy his originals, but they really swung their hips to his cover of the late Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”.
The party had a change of pace with the thundering sounds of hey!dw, who came all the way from the UK (like a few other acts and party-goers) to showcase her blend of hard-hitting drums and carefully synthesized computer magic. I was really stunned how she was able to pull off this one-woman band by running back and forth on the stage, hitting every note with ease like she learned this before learning to walk. Her bouncy tunes were accompanied by a cheerleader outfit, bringing the crowd to head bobbing with bass-y vibes.
WUZI followed that act. They were the band from Manchester that won the fan’s choice award of the UK Indie Week Festival, their prize being that they come over to North America to dip into a wider audience pool. By the end of the festival, we’ll have a Canadian act going over there to do the same. I think they’ll find an audience here, being a great blend of psychedelic rock and grunge sounds. They got a special intro and were greatly received in the hall.
It was a great night and I know it will set the mood for a great rest of the week. For more information on the festival (because you’ll probably want to get in on this), check out the Indie Week official website.