Canada Music Week 2011 (Toronto)

I’m finally back here with a new posting… 🙂

Today I have some images and words from a Photographer’s perspective from my experience at Canada Music Week (CMW) 2011.

Canada Music week is a festival held in downtown Toronto at various bars, Clubs and music venues over 5 nights. Starting on Wednesday the 9th of March and ending on Sunday the 13th, it comprised of over 800 bands at 57 venues… That’s a lot of live music!

The Peelies at The Silver Dollar

I attended the CMW with Mark Cousens, a good friend from the UK who was over this side of the pond writing for Artrocker magazine, and for his cool personal music blog Punk Rock Ist Night Tot

It was Mark’s idea to attend CMW, and he contacted me a couple of months prior to the event to see if I wanted to join him, and provide some photographic images of our adventures.

Lordy Lordy at Rancho Relaxo

Armed with media passes and my trusty Nikon D700, we visited multiple locations on each of the five nights, experienced tonnes of good music, lot’s of friendly musicians, and generally had a great experience. I can say this, despite the stamina required to stay out till the early hours of the morning 5 nights in a row, and aided only by the odd beer or three.

Lordy Lordy at Rancho Relaxo

Michou at El M0cambo

Michou at El Mocambo

I was soon to discover shooting in some of these smaller venues was going to be tricky. Room in front of the stage at any concert can be tight, but the bigger challenge was a distinct lack of light! Most of these shots were taken around iso 6400 with fast lenses and still I had trouble getting decent shutter speeds in order to freeze the action. Ok, so sometimes a shot with motion can look good, but most of the time a high shutter speed gives a much greater shot hit rate, and therefore more keepers when it comes to editing the wheat from the chaff.

Whilst I noticed other photographers around me were using flash, I prefer to use ambient lighting, as this gives a better representation of how the situation was actually lit, with much greater richness in colour.

Esben And The Witch at the Wrongbar

Occasionally however you get a shot that just seems to cry out to be finalised in Black and white…

Esben And The Witch at the Wrongbar

Also regarding lighting, some venues were a lot better than others. The Silver Dollar had an exemplary setup of a nice broad stage that could be viewed from a wide angle, and great balanced lighting without excessive hot spots and even worse, dark unlit areas. Here’s a pic from the Silver dollar below:

The Grounders at The Silver Dollar

And here’s a shot from a venue that left a little to be desired in terms of illumination (from a photographer’s perspective only). I will say the crowd and atmosphere at Sneaky Dee’s was as fun as any venue we visited.

Men at Sneaky Dee’s

Having said the above, occasionally, darkness and reasonable lighting can combine to give you this kind of shot below :

Karkwa at Wrongbar

Some bands exude coolness, like “My Little Cheap Dictaphone” playing at the El Mocambo on Thursday night… The only trouble was the place was a little devoid of punters, which is a shame considering how good there they were. With so many venue’s providing music, being a band from outside of North America (Belgium), can play against you perhaps. At Least I had plenty of space to move around the stage!

My Little Cheap Dictaphone at El Mocambo

My Little Cheap Dictaphone at El Mocambo

On all nights but Thursday night, I stuck to fast lenses, but on this occasion I had my super wide angle with me and in this situation it can really add impact to an image:

My Little Cheap Dictaphone at El Mocambo

Coming from Canada, and having a great reputation on the other hand brings in the crowds…

Zeus, Playing at The Horseshoe Tavern provided one of the major musical highlights of the festival for me. These guys were tight, melodic, and totally professional.

Zeus seem to be so popular that arriving at a venue 10 minutes before the show begins is a no-no. I made my way through the throngs of fans (following closely behind some tall guy who seemed to have the ability to part the waves of people), to a location three rows back from the stage on the left. In this situation when you can feel the excitement rising as the band performs it’s final sound checks on stage, you wonder just how persuasive one’s media pass would be if waved in front of people to gain access to the very front of the action.

I decided three rows back was close enough and did the best I could nabbing these two shots :

Zeus at The Horseshoe Tavern

Zeus at The Horseshoe Tavern

Zeus, playing at the Horseshoe was one of those gigs were everybody comes out afterward with smiles on there faces, and nattering about their favorite aspect of the band/performance. Well done guys!

Sometimes, in fact numerous times we were treated to something unexpected.

We actually arrived a little early to see “Men” play at Sneaky Dee’s, and caught the dance performance of Cherie Lily as a bonus…

The sound was a cross between workout music, and err, house? with strong motivational lyrics provided by Cherie as she pranced around on stage encouraging everyone to join in on the exercise style movements. I almost didn’t photograph the show, but thought I best had just for journalistic sake.. cough!

Cherie Lily at Sneaky Dee’s

Cherie Lily at Sneaky Dee’s

As I was toweling Mark off from the last event, Men came on stage.

This trio from the USA are obviously quite popular and the crowd was almost as entertaining as the band…

Men at Sneaky Dee’s

Being originally from the UK, it was nice to catch a couple of British acts during the five days, one being The Lines, at The Hideout.

Great sound, and friendly lads, it was just a shame they had to perform to an audience that on a Saturday night at 2am, seemed more interested in looking good and the DJ’s dance music that followed the show.


The Lines at The Hideout

Apparently they played again at another venue on the same night at 4am… way to go guys!

The Lines at The Hideout

Back to Canadian Music, featuring two 2 piece bands at the wonderfully named “Bovine Sex Club”

The Pack Ad at The Bovine Sex Club

Molten Lava at The Bovine Sex Club

I have to say, this second band “Molten Lava” totally kicked *r$e. I never thought I’d enjoy what amounted to a 2 piece thrash metal outfit, but these guys were the highlight of Friday night for me. Armed with some great attitude chat between songs, rapid but tight work on the Lead Bass guitar, and some of the loudest/fastest drumming (again tight), all week. These guys could not be ignored!

Molten Lava at The Bovine Sex Club

Also from Canada we had Ryan Warner :

Ryan Warner and The Moonlight Ride at Rancho Relaxo

The Skirt Chasers :

The Skirt Chasers at Rancho Relaxo

The talented Crimes in Paris :

Crimes In Paris, uplifting.

Crimes In Paris, uplifting.

Sadie Hell :

Sadie Hell

Sadie Hell

And the wonderful Azores band :



Finally, I’ll finish up with two more great bands, one from Denmark Alcoholic faith Mission who produced a lovely layered sound of vocals and instruments check them out here.

Alcoholic Faith Mission at Rancho Relaxo

Alcoholic Faith Mission at Rancho Relaxo

And one, coming from Japan, who were no word of a lie, Fantastic!

The Zoobombs at Comfort Zone

With all that the Japanese are going through right now, I knew this would be an emotional show. This four piece band, were humble, playful, solid, and Wild!

This was without doubt the highlight gig of the five days for me, and probably Mark too. The crowd’s reaction said it all. I watched from my place to the side of the stage as a fellow photographer got lost in the mosh/melee of dance in the central area, and thanked my luck for my choice of position away from the hotspot.

Again this was one of those performances were people flood out on to the street afterward and there’s still an electric buzz in the air. Strangers smiling and talking to each other expressing their collective experience. I can’t wait to see these guys again when they come back to Toronto (as they often do apparently).

Check out their Myspace page here

The Zoobombs getting a great crowd reaction at Comfort Zone

The Zoobombs at Comfort Zone, Wow!

Well, that’s all I have right now. I could add many more images, but perhaps this article is long enough already.

I hope this article gave a taste of the event, as for me even stuck behind the camera, CMW 2011 Rocked!

Bring on CMW 2012!


For more words written by Mark on our experiences during the five days with sound clips, check out these links from Punk Rock Ist Nicht Tot :

Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4 Day 5 .




  1. MattMatt03-18-2011

    This is a wonderfully written and photogrphed journalistic documentary of what that week must have been like. For those of us who had other obligations and could not be there, thanks greatly for sharing. Oh what i’d give to own a D700 and some of those fast lenses.

  2. KevinKevin04-29-2011

    Thank you Matt 🙂

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