CMW: Operators, Port Juvee, Grounders + more

by Michael Thomas

For those who chose not to sit through the Indie awards or end their CMW experience on a perfect note with Owen Pallett’s show at the Danforth Music Hall, there was still plenty of fun to be had. The last night of CMW was a night of electronic rock, sugary sweet pop, upbeat pop-rock and bro-rock debauchery, but not necessarily in that order.

Port Juvee
Port Juvee

The night began at Supermarket, with Calgary pop-rockers Port Juvee (née Bleachers). The set was one of several they played for CMW, and they showed no signs of being tired or slowed down. The five-piece bounced around and slowly drew the early crowd closer and closer. Their trade seems to be in propulsive rhythms, and they never let the energy falter even a little bit. The last song of their set upped the ante more and doubled the speed of their other songs, which sort of says that if they wanted, Port Juvee could be a punk band.

Motel Raphael
Motel Raphael

Then it was over to the Silver Dollar, in which Motel Raphaël was setting up shop. The seven-piece (!!!) band could feature three guitars, bass, drums, trumpet and vibraphone, and the band just barely fit onto the stage. Clara Legault, Emily Skahan and Maya Malkin led on vocal duties, sometimes pulling off wonderful vocal harmonies and other times just singing together. Their pop-leaning, but occasionally folky set occasionally teetered on being a little too sugary sweet at times, but the fullness of the band kept things in perspective. Whatever the case, the audience seemed to enjoy every minute of it.

Pkew Pkew Pkew (gunshots)
Pkew Pkew Pkew (gunshots)

What happened next threatened to tear the room apart, and that was the arrival of Pkew Pkew Pkew (gunshots), Toronto’s best bro-rock band. Think Japandroids, but if the band had been a five-piece and wrote songs about asshole pandemics, and you’ve got these guys. As their rock assault began, a huge mosh pit within seconds opened up, and things only got crazier as the group’s vocalist jumped on top of the bar, swung his microphone around, hugged people and got people to sing along with him. At least half the audience knew every word to every song and were happy to dance or fill in missing lyrics. Their brand of rock hits hard and fast and is over before you know it.

Grounders
Grounders

Calming things down a little bit was Toronto pop-rock act Grounders, who produce highly competent material that beats out many in their field. It’s hard to pinpoint what it is that the band does so well — perhaps it’s how the guitars seem to augment the keys. Maybe it’s just the low-key lead singer. Whatever the case, Grounders seemed like the perfect act to go on right before Operators, and while they weren’t tearing the room apart like the previous act, they did more than enough to  impress.

Operators
Operators

And then it was time for Operators, who played their third and final night of CMW at the Silver Dollar. It’s a new project by Dan Boeckner (Wolf Parade, Handsome Furs, etc.) that is very hard to pin down. Occasionally the band had a few guitar-heavy tracks, but many were based off of a big and complex electronic board. It’s not quite sparse enough to be synth-pop, but far exceeds that with the addition of live drums. It was the electronic songs that really got people dancing, and Operators probably without fail made a fan of everybody in the room.

As if that wasn’t enough, the last song of the set was a Wolf Parade cover; and joining them was Japandroids, who apparently did the same on the two previous nights. The audience screamed for one more song but couldn’t get one due to festival time constraints.

After that set, it didn’t seem right to see anything else, lest it spoil the mood. It was fitting end to the craziness of CMW.

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