As I jumped into my car en route to Toronto on Thursday, March 3rd, the first song to reach my ears was Foreigner's 'Cold As Ice.' I couldn't decide if CKTP's early morning song was a good omen, because I love the song, or a bad omen. Regardless, my trek to the highly touted Canadian Music Week Festival (CMW) continued onward.
For those unfamiliar, CMW represents the spirit of independent music within Canada. It provides an opportunity for unsigned artists to be recognized for their fan support, radio play and overall success. The highlights of the weekend include showcases by hundreds of artists, industry awards, radio awards, seminars and "The Indies," otherwise known as the Canadian Independent Music Awards. As a manager, publicist and artist, I was excited to partake.
I was only eight years old the last time I visited Toronto, so my impressions of the city were free to be molded. I immediately appreciated the great highway system (no sarcasm) and the all urban radio station - The Flow 95.7 FM.
I found myself running late as I drove into Toronto on Friday, so I parked at the first lot I found. I was flustered to have to shell out $20 for parking, but later I would realize I had chosen the Air Canada Centre parking lot. I quickly gained an appreciation for the green 'P' parking.
I trekked down to Guvrnment to check out the Urban showcase, but unfortunately the doors didn't open until 11:00 pm - much later than all the other showcases. Disappointed, I headed back to CMW central - the Fairmont Royal York Hotel.
Here I met up with John Gavin, who runs AtlanticSeabreeze.com and plays the biggest role in spreading the word about Atlantic Canadian music throughout Toronto via his newsletter. He gave me a quick update on the Canadian Independent Music Awards results. Atlantic Canada took home three awards:
Favourite Album: The Trews "House Of Ill Fame"
As well, my brother Colin's place of employment, Metalworks, won Recording Studio of the Year at the industry awards.
Pumped up about the wins, I eagerly awaited the Atlantic Canadian music showcase at Pipers Pub, which was to include performances from NB's Jessica Rhaye and Hot Toddy, as well as NS's Dave Gunning, Steven Bowers and Andrea England.
Jessica Rhaye could easily be New Brunswick's best kept secret. Based out of Saint John, her song 'Only One' was the regional winner for CMW's national songwriting competition, which included an all expenses paid trip to CMW.
Rhaye's Friday night performance wooed the crowd, as she tuned up for her Saturday night performance with the other songwriter finalists. Her contemporary folk music is highlighted by her amazing voice and skillful writing. Check her out at JessicaRhaye.com
As it approached Hot Toddy and Steven Bowers's performance times, neither had yet arrived, so fearing they would be no-shows, I decided to head over to El Mocambo to see Sixtoo.
Sixtoo is originally from Truro, NS, and was part of one of the best hip-hop groups to ever come out of Atlantic Canada: Hip Club Groove. Despite technical difficulties, including loss of power, I wasn't fazed by his slow start and lack of a band. I thoroughly enjoyed his fusion of different styles of music with a distinct hip-hop centering.
Saturday provided a long day filled with many great panel seminars including the Urban Summit series hosted by The Flow, UMAC and The Bounce. The most captivating seminar involved Mathew Knowles, who is the father and manager of Destiny Child's Beyonce Knowles. His Sanctuary Urban record label includes a long list of big name artists including Floetry, Xzibit, Mary J Blige, O'Jays, De La Soul and more.
Knowles' interview and question/answer period was nothing short of inspirational as he stressed three important things in his life: family, spirituality and money. His wisdom provided enlightenment for all in attendance.
"I think successful people will have success at whatever they do because there are common traits," says Knowles. "They love what they do with a passion, they think out of the box, they work smart and hard and they'll go that extra mile to achieve their goals."
The day allowed me to meet a large number of big name urban personalities. Mr. X, who is Canada's premier urban video director sat directly in front of me during the session. I contemplated asking him to produce a Pimp Tea video, but decided not to bug him.
Other thrilling big names I met up with include Maestro, Choclair, Jelleestone, Suni Clay, Jesse Plunkett (HipHopCanada.com), Masia One, Jesse Ohtake (CyberKrib.com), David Click Cox (Universal A&R), Ivan Berry, DJ Dopey's manager Jody, Mark Kesten (Sweatshop Union's manager), Chris McKee (SL Feldman & Associates - booking agent of the year), Darryl Rodway (Urbnet Records), Harris Rosen (Peace Editor), Thomas Quinlan (Exclaim), Wendy Vincent & Aisha Wickham (Urban Music Association of Canada).
My two night stint in Toronto ended perfectly on Saturday night with a trip to Reverb and the Horseshoe Tavern, the highlight of which was Oliver Black - a female led rock group out of Houston, Texas.
My trip to Toronto was a memorable one, but I think I'm developing a sweet tooth for these big time music conferences. Next up, North by North East - June 9-11.