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EXCLUSIVE with Much Music Host Scotty Willats at The Pacific Junction Hotel

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Post spinning an easy mix sprinkled with Kiesza, Scotty Willats over Budweiser’s at The Pacific Junction Hotel New Music Ten GIRTH Radio NXNE Party took time to give me a little exclusive on his set. Gregarious, quick and engaging. After our convo it’s clear how he landed his coveted Much Music title.

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New Music Ten Girth Radio Party - NXNE

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On long days, the kind that include heatwaves, multiple modes of transportation, full workloads and the English problem that is Wayne Rooney, what you really want is some place to completely turn off and unwind.

Midway through NXNE, the self-described first pop up shop of music, New Music Ten is hosting at the neighborhood hangout everyone drives themselves nuts to find, The Pacific Junction Hotel.

Cloistered under the patio twinkle lights, things are ramping up inside with the in house radio station (Girth Radio) and event beverage host Budweiser is drawing me back in with FIFA gear and drinks in matte limited edition bottles.

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Outside the glass recording booth nestled with a group of recent media friends dishing opinions over loaded seasonal soft corn tacos and towering nacho plates.

Bands in unplugged setups from the shag carpet laden station interior, Much Music Host Scotty Willat drops in to spin and backs me into a corner of ill made FIFA bets.

I’m still not discouraged.

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Old Man Canyon Interview - NXNE

Whether it’s the airy haunting of the group’s track Wiser or their momentum through celebrity hunter Perez Hilton’s praise, Old Man Canyon and their debut show no sign of stopping. After rave responses at showcases around the city, Jett Pace gave me his NXNE thoughts.

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Photo by Luca Zanello
É - A lot of people know your music from TV shows like Awkward and Suits. Why do you think your music blends so well in these places?
J - I think one of the reasons those two songs have fit so well in TV shows is because they paint a certain story lyrically and melodically. The words and the way they progress throughout the song just go well with imagery and scene changes. I could be totally wrong, but either way it’s been awesome to have our music be featured in those shows.

É - Has having your music placed in these shows helped when going about creating your own videos, specifically the one for Phantoms and Friends?
J - I don’t think it’s really helped my process of creating imagery for my songs, I’ve always been very interested in videos and that side of things so a lot of the time I will have a vision for a video while I’m writing a song. It’s been inspirational though to see my music in those shows, used in ways I would have never thought of.

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Photo by Luca Zanello
É - What is your takeaway from the NXNE experience?
J - It was amazing, if it was up to me I would like to only play these sorts of festivals. I think they host a far more organic experience for both bands and listeners. I love how places that don’t usually act as a venue become a setting for a show, it gives an intimate feeling that just doesn’t happen in bars and clubs. So overall, incredible to be apart of it and can’t wait for next year.

É - What is your one recommendation for attendees of the festival?  
J - Go to the Audio Blood Rooftop Rager, it’s dope.

É - What is your definitive NXNE moment?
J - The whole thing was a delight to be apart of and it’s hard to pinpoint one moment, but I think one of the coolest moments was playing the 159 manning BBQ living room. There was like 300 people squished into this tiny living room, it was sweaty and hot and you could feel every persons energy, great vibes all around.

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Interview with Daniel Carriere of Royal Tusk - NXNE

They’re optimistic, poignant and hailing from Alberta.I met lead singer Daniel Carriere of Royal Tusk during the hecticness of NXNE and was caught by his shyly charismatic stage presence and demeanor. He shared with me a little bit of the process behind Royal Tusk and the ins and outs of NXNE.

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É - Your past work (Ten Second Epic) left you with a deserved two Juno nominations. What can you take away from a project like that?

 
DC - I feel pretty lucky to have been part of such a group. You mentioned the Juno nods which are quite an honour, but what I most take away from my time in TSE is the importance of having one-anothers back and working as a team. From toughing it out on a long drive through Northern Ontario, to loading gear up 12 flights of stairs, to deciding which decision to make when dealing with labels etc, knowing your role and being accountable as a team player is a sort of kryptonite to any obstacle a band may face. 

É - You said Royal Tusk is very player oriented. How do you keep the flow of a writing democracy consistent?

DC - That’s true! Generally we all write our own parts in the songs. In that regard it isn’t a democracy at all. I mean, everyone has vested interest in writing themselves a part which is inspiring enough for them to be able to play on tour thousands of times. Therefore it’s the individuals own prerogative to choose what their part will be. The work flow is clean because the band usually starts writing their parts on nearly completed song ideas and structures.
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É - What is your takeaway from the NXNE experience?
 
DC - The rooftop parties! It’s so nice to be able to play outside in the sun when so often on tour you find yourself in a dark club. The free drinks don’t hurt either!

É - What is the best thing you can do to survive and enjoy NXNE?
 
DC - Just go with the flow. There are so many bands and schedules at NXNE so things can get really stressful and hectic. I suggest rather than worrying about getting a 40 minute sound check, just get up there and have fun. Besides, a band having a great time on stage translates to the audience much stronger than pristine sound….most of the time :)

É - What is your defining NXNE moment?
DC - Having just played a legendary venue like The Horseshoe was a pretty cool experience. What’s more was watching The Odds take the stage after us and deliver some classic Canadian rock accompanied by members of Sloan and The Barenaked Ladies. When they busted into The Beatles ‘Hey Jude’ I was pretty floored. Sharing the stage with all of these dudes that I grew up listening to was definitely humbling.
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Partisan X Norm Li Art Reception - NXNE

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I don’t go to enough galleries. This is a fact.

My mum has a degree in Art History and when I was young I lived to read through the monster size leftover textbooks. So when I get the chance to explore an art reception I’m going to take it.

Norm Li renders architectural visualizations, Partisans is a design syndicate and together they show NXNE how new architecture works.

The NXNE Art Lounge presented by Samsung Galaxy hosted the invite only event.

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Speedy bartenders and in depth conversations with artists about perspective and infinity mirrors.

It’s easy to stay stuck watching the back and forth of the 3D printers make a miniature city in primary colors.

I keep to the dim lit side room. A space swallowing piece of hanging translucent layers with assumed comets connecting together. Like romanticism in the words of cellophane.

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Foxy Shazam at Lee’s Palace

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Typical Toronto in late June, it is muggy, post rain and humid. I avoid the impending hair frizz as much as possible and head to downtown staple Lee’s Palace.

I heard Foxy Shazam initially 4 years ago while staying in Brooklyn. Quickly they became the overplayed song of our car and my friends and I consistently chimed in union with the tracks. “Keep on keeping on.”

It’s my first time to Lee’s which is surprising. I’ve made my way around the downtown clubs (even Holy Joe’s/The Reverb before it burned down) but never yet to the 2 story alternative haven in the heart of the annex.

One of the best venue layouts I’ve seen. Club geographics are tricky things. Enough space to dance, enough space to sit, intermediate ground. Lee’s checks all of the above and then some.

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It fills up quickly but not with the crowd you’d expect. There’s a strong rockabilly vibe filling in and I don’t get it….until the opener comes on stage.

I have never seen a crowd so crazy for an opener. Not Cyndi before Cher, not Mars Volta before The Chili Peppers. Never.

Larry and His Flask, in all their moonshine rock folk punk goodness. I’m quickly won over, bobbing with everyone else (actually everyone else was basically bouncing off the walls) mainly because I seem to be a sucker for anyone that shouts “Banjo time!”

They are energetic (understatement), well rehearsed, engaging, full of gritty bluegrass lyrics but the contrast to the workout gear wearing, mustache touting, drama of the headliners is more than a little off.

The break is made. The crowd changes over ushered in by smooth jazz over the sound system while color coordinated pink mic stands are set up by one of the most thorough roadies I’ve seen.The band comes on.

"20 bucks says nobody here can kill me."

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If you’ve seen the music video to Oh Lord, if you’ve seen Lessons with Foxy Shazam, if you’ve seen their UK tour update, you think you have a pretty good idea what you’re getting yourself into. 

I was so unprepared.

Like David Bowie on acid and every lost scene of Velvet Goldmine.

If there is a mic trick frontman Eric Nally cant do, I haven’t seen it.

They open with the title track from their ambitiously self released, produced and one room recorded in running order and free to download album, Gonzo. Despite only being released in April the crowd is shouting back every word.

If you don’t like pelvic thrusts and aren’t a fan of the cover of the Scissor Sister’s album Night Work, you wont like this show.

For the many that in the past compared the sound readily to Freddie Mercury now have that comparison ripped right out of their mouths.

The look has shifted, the sound has changed but the campy sexuality and larger than life package remains the same. Lyrics sung out in Tragic Thrill match the sentiment “I’m finding out who I was, who I really am”.

The aggressively optimistic lyrics, “If you know what you want, stay where you are…If you don’t know what you want, then shut your mouth” showing the range to hint on the tender tones matched back to back with the darkly sharp chorus of Have The Fun.

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Nally calls for singles from the merch stand. He’s shredding and tearing, showering the crowd in money confetti.

But to call him the star is not only wrong but unbelievable. From the chanting from bare chested horn player Alex Nauth, the cape wearing of Schuyler White, the completion between Loren Turner and Daisy Caplan and the intention in Aaron McVeigh, it’s not a place to call favorites.

They stop mid way for an intermission costume change.

Nally challenges the crowd again. This time for cigarettes. Packages litter the stage and he shoves multiple in his mouth and lights up from the crowd.

Tearing apart the clothes he just changed into.

Fan favorites of past albums are played with their splashy horns and bounce. Then back into more off the new album.

image"This song’s about time travel….I wrote it next week."

Ending as they opened in a wave of fantastical theatrical confusion as the most quotable concert I could attend.

"Remember kids if the world didn’t suck you’d fall off."

Fozy Shazam had kept on keeping on.

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MMVA Vocab Gifting Lounge

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"You’re not getting past that."

My cabbie was right I wasn’t.

If it’s June, you’re in Toronto and there seems to be a hundred roadblocks and screaming crowds it means the MMVAs are just around the corner.

Like any award show the actual performance night is just a part of the whole bigger picture. A blink away from The Much Music Studios is the 6th annual MMVA VOCAB Gifting Lounge.

Thrown by Chrissy Newton head of VOCAB Communications, curated companies and celebrities out and about come together to meet, greet and bask in the glow of a good party.

Light pouring in and two stories of guests already going strong in the fitting Umbra Concept Store. There’s a mini parade in black Mary Kay (the brand partner for the event) uniforms all waiting to take guests including my lucky self around the party.


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Bright, littered with quaintly indulgent home add-ons by Umbra, elegantly futuristic bauble light chandeliers - very vogue War of the Worlds - follow the staircase to the second floor.

The DJ is spinning The Contours’ Do You Love Me classic. Everyone’s dancing.

Cosmetics in candy, candy that looks like sushi, Canadian cider that tastes like the English kind, vintage sunglasses that are actually brand new. The companies describe like a happy riddle.

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Brand partner, Mary Kay can’t help but stand out in the party commotion. Long gone are the days of pastels on your mother’s makeup counter. Now come luscious cheeky corals and fuchsia, shimmery palettes and a CC cream that will make your heart and imperfections melt.

For those that prefer grab bag convenience in their routine, Luxe Box is stationed just a few feet away. The monthly subscription service serves up the best of nails, hair, skin and beauty care to your door. Amazing unknown brands and true standards such as dearly loved Butter London all wrapped up in the sweetest of white gold embossed boxes.

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Buzzing with conversation and celebrity sightings of Jeff Timmons of 98 Degrees, Fefe Dobson and Matt Web of Mariana’s Trench, newcomer brewer Brickworks Cider is being doled by their scruffy tattooed representatives keeping everyone happily hydrated.

It’s hard to pull myself away so I stay for ages, mesmerized by head chains from Banoo by Mesa (hello festival wear), patterned bow ties and deeply engaged in a talk about which juice cleanse I need in my life with The Raw Juice Guru.

A coffee, FIFA check (slim win Italy, SLIM) and I’m home diving into the bag full of goodies fit for the MMVAs.

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The Pink Party 2014

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What do a nearly 100 year old theatre, a Grammy award winning hip hop group, a Rolling Stone cover gracing rock band, 3 DJs, a small screen beauty and a group of underwear models have in common? They’re all pink…or at the very least were last night.

April 11th marked the 5th annual Pink Party event in support of The Breast Cancer Foundation hosted at Castlefield Theatre.

Pulling up in my black Uber SUV, also an extended courtesy of the event, the entrance seemed that of a movie premiere.

Glitzy, bubbly attendees eagerly bustling in from the street. The dress code of the evening of course pink and I’m in a tiered dress in shyest of bubble gum shades looking very happily somewhere between a Carrie Bradshaw favorite and a fashion cupcake. Upon entry the grand multi floor room is awash in blush lighting. Even for those that have never had a rose tinted glasses kind of outlook on life organizers made sure you knew what that would look like.

The room filled and the stage commanded by Dr. Draw’s electric violin. Followed by joining DJs Tom Wrecks and Megan Daniels filling in between mingling.

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The sea of people, a rainbow of shades in the color of the hour passing through the massive silent auction, the returning bra bandit game (just as tongue in cheek as it sounds) and the playful candy bar.

A familiar face steps onto the stage in electric colored checkers and a soft grey jacket. Paul Etherington who I had spoken to online previously in arrangement for the evening is what you would expect of an orchestrator of this type of event. Smiling, charismatic but serious in his message. He’s joined by the celebrity cohost of the event Kirsten Kreuk immediately recognizable from her days on Smallville.

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Paul asks “Who here by show of hands has been directly or indirectly affected by breast cancer?””

I turn. My raised hand is matched sadly by almost half of the hundreds on hundreds present.

It’s a quiet moment between everyone but an important one.

The crowd is brought back with cheekiness of leggy barefoot models parading to RnB in summer ready Calvin Klein unmentionables.

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A few hair flips, black lace and high cuts later and the runway is removed. Attendees pushing forward to the front in anticipation.

Five come onto the stage looking exactly what you wanted the pinnacle band in Almost Famous to be.

Even in cocktail wear the energy of the Saskatoon homegrown band is so closely matched to the audience it’s easy to forget Coachella is going on in a completely different country.

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Swaying and dancing the festival sweet tooth of the crowd has been satisfied in gritty vibrant answers.

I find it hard to think the potent intensity of everyone can be raised yet another time but I’m caught off guard as Naughty by Nature erupt into the situation.

Call and answers hype shouts of Pink Party, once again cocktail attire is forgotten and hundreds are jumping. Malleable to the excited voice of Vin Rock of the group.


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Moments after finishing people are still catching their breath.

I finish up with a final drink and my favorite party pastime of people watching.

Pink ties and handkerchiefs, pink shoes and hats, pink drinks and ribbons.

Sometimes when thinking of fundraisers there is a bit of distancing from the reality. Money having a positive effect gets overshadowed by drinks and frill and glitter. Then there are also those events so entrenched in the heart of the cause that no amount of party decorations can cover the down turned feeling.

I’m stuck on this as I peer over my vodka ginger ale through the hanging lights and bras to the crowd.

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The evening didn’t fit either of the two thoughts. No passing over the hard topics and no dwelling on them either. In the simplest of ways this was a celebration of time and living. An extension of what people can put forward for others and a hooray for all the happy moments in between.

Just a commitment to help and enjoy. A genuine happiness and thankfulness and most importantly a genuine optimism.

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Jonathan Estabrooks - These Miles - Release at The Drake Hotel


It’s a drizzling day, the train is packed with baseball fans off to see a Yankees Jays showdown and I’m headed to the Drake Hotel’s underground for a Juilliard graduates album event.

Jonathan Estabrook’s album These Miles is a fusion project of cover pieces by the likes of Edith Piaf to Simon and Garfunkel. It is officially released April 8th but tonight the Ottawa native is giving Toronto a pre-emptive taste.

Headed to coat check murmurs of sound check leak from next door.

To say Jonathan’s jazzy sound and the speak easy - esque underground of the Drake are a perfect Gatsby match is an overused modern analogy but correct in this case nonetheless.

I stay upstairs for a quick drink before the doors open. The rain has let up but the skies are still streaked grey. A vodka sour later I meet the line extending up the stairs waiting to get inside to hear the opera trained baritone.

I grab a few minutes preshow with Estabrooks. He as well as his band in charcoal suits, bebop playing over the sound system. Estabrooks engages me with notes on his busy schedule and his thoughts on success being an elusive idea when I mention his past performance at the Lincoln centre.

The stage is ready and within minutes the seemingly empty room’s cabaret style seating is filled.

The track progression from the soon to be released project is mimicked on stage.

Having the chance to listen to the album beforehand, the on stage Instrumentation thanks to a stellar band is identical to the recordings. Strings, horns the works done through only a guitar bass keyboard, drums and unapologetically Estabrooks’ voice.

A quiet but very interested crowd is greeted by Estabrooks.
“I’ve been dating my album for a year…feels like I climbed 3 pyramids to get here.”

Wonderful and calming there is a moment the mood breaks in an energetic moment as he heads into a Cyndi Lauper cover.

"More booze!" He chimes at the crowd. The demographic is a touch older but the moment of jest and warmth from this exclamation starts a roll of laughter in the audience that send happy shouts back for the rest of the show.

On the Street Where You Live is tucked into the set followed by opera. It’s this versatile and appreciative approach to multiple musical genres that shows wide spread taste, interest and a genuine love of music.

There’s a moment you could even believe he’s lip syncing as the voice is effortless in its body and boldness.

Though I’m standing for the both sets there is never a lull or a tedious turn. It is engaging and the audience clearly understands this. My sentimental heart sticks on Willie Nelson cover and the mash up of All These Things (Hymne à l’amour) to the point my dreaminess leads me to almost drink the candle fluid instead of my vodka. Yikes.

The perfectly paced collection goes into the sole original of the set and album which is co-written with his brother do you know his name. I think of the conversation I had with his kind eyed father during intermission. He told me about his four part harmony folk band playing Froggy Went A-courting from youth. It’s clear the love of music is engrained in the family.

An endearing address of thanks yous, Vaudeville like dance moves explode from him in the final minutes of his set.

Coming to a close with the standard Any Place I Hang My Hat is Home I’m brought back to those first murmurs of the undeniable in sound check i heard through the walls.

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