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One of the last shows of the "political" Protest the Hero era

As puberty set in, Protest the Hero were coming off of a re-release of 2003’s A Calculated Use of Sound, now retrofitted with the one-off anti-war ‘anthem’ “Soft Targets Dig Softer Graves” wedged awkwardly in the middle of its track list. “Soft Targets”, originally released on one of Underground Operations’ Greetings From the Underground samplers, was written and recorded over a year after the release of A Calculated Use of Sound and it showed. Rody wasn’t shouting anymore. His singing voice still wasn’t where it is now but for the first time he wasn’t simply yelling at the top of his lungs. The band had gotten a little heavier and a little more technical, too; there was less focus on Moe’s drumming and a higher emphasis on the guitar trade-offs between Luke and Tim and Arif had taught himself to finger tap on the bass. But the musical evolution evidenced in “Soft Targets” is unimportant to what I want to touch on. What matters is it was the end of Protest the Hero’s political era.

That became clear when they debuted “A Plateful of Our Dead”, then known simply as “Kezia”. In its infancy, performances of the song would always begin with bassist and lyricist Arif Mirabdolwhatever introducing it with the preface, “this is a song about a little girl standing in front of a firing squad”. When the album finally came out,…

Sunday was the big finale as far as scheduling goes but a pretty barren night as far as the actual schedule. With only ten shows to choose from, my decision was obvious: Dillinger Escape Plan.

SputnikMusic and its staff have been drooling over Dillinger Escape Plan’s new album, Option Paralysis, since we got our promo copy a few weeks back. Having been a huge fan of the band through their first two albums and the Irony is a Dead Scene EP, but also having been majorly let down by Ire Works, I was endlessly excited to see Dillinger. It was also somewhat of an anniversary for me, since I hadn’t seen them for about 6 years when I watched them destroy the now-defunct Rockit club about a week before Miss Machine came out. But Dillinger was just one of four bands listed on the bill, the others being Animals as Leaders, Iwrestledabearonce and Darkest Hour.

Waiting for Animals as Leaders to set-up it became very clear pretty quickly that, uh, they weren’t. Doors to the Opera House were at 7 and at around 730 I saw some instruments being shuffled about and drums being set up, but it wasn’t Animals as Leaders. Instead Iwrestledabearonce was opening and, as suspected, they later announced that Animals as Leaders couldn’t make it. I guess they had a problem crossing the border.

Iwrestledabearonce are a band with a clearcut gimmick, their off-the-wall aesthetic and shtick made

Friday night was up in the air as far as plans. There was only one band I’d really planned to see, Gypsophilia, so I made sure to get to Rancho Relaxo early enough to ensure I didn’t miss anything. Climbing up the narrow flight of stairs to the restaurant’s upper floor I felt like I was waking into a time-shift. I immediately heard what was the cacophanous sound of a 7 piece sound check, and the venue itself was not as I’d usually seen it. Any time I’ve been to a show at Rancho, it’s been one of those sweaty, curse-the-ceiling-fan kind of gigs. This wasn’t the case. It was about quarter to 9, so I had time before their set to scope things out. What I saw was the crowd was much older than the typical Canadian Music Fest variety: there was more than one set of sons and daughters with mothers and fathers. And there was a coat hanger, not coat check, and there were tables and it was just surreal. Well, not surreal, just atypical. I waited for a friend to arrive and quickly spotted the band members sauntering about. To say they stood out wouldn’t have been a stretch: the trumpetist, who must have been at least 8 feet tall, was wearing a suit with matching pork-pie hat. The bassist came off as Matt Stone in costume: pinstripes, bowtie and moustache were all there. But the image fit the bill, something that took just a few…

For better or worse, Canadian Music Week is always a cluster fuck. First off, the performances were all crammed into “Canadian Music Fest,” which is exactly the same thing as Canadian Music Week; they’ve just decided to compartmentalize it this time year. Secondly, you’ve probably seen a few non-Canadian names headlining the bill on the festival’s main poster. Now we should get it straight, Canadian Music Week (and therefore Canadian Music Fest) isn’t just about showcasing Canadian music. International acts have always been highlights (as you’ll read later), and there’s always been an element to exposing these cross-national acts to Torontonian ears. But Ke$ha and Daughtry, the two most damning names on the Canadian Music Fest poster, are not Canadian, nor are they in any need of exposure. The thing is their inclusion on the poster is consequential: Ke$ha was playing a “Fan Fest” for Chum FM, the “mom jeans” of Toronto radio stations. So the wristbands, which sold for $60 and gave access to every non-VIP Canadian Music Fest concert, didn’t actually get you into Ke$ha. Colour me heartbroken.

Daughtry? Well honestly, I don’t know how that happened, where it happened or even if it happened. If it did, I wasn’t there.

Here’s where I was.

On Wednesday, otherwise known as the first day of the festival, I was nowhere. I went down to the Royal York Fairmont Hotel to pick up my wristband and that was pretty intimidating. I walked in and was immediately surrounded by guys who…

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