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With files from Mark WigmoreVish Khanna and Kim Fox.

A music festival can be overwhelming. With 900 artists from 40 different countries, playing shows at 75 different venues, you just have to put your head down, charge through it and embrace the sensory overload. CBC Music was out among the crowds at Canadian Music Week in Toronto taking it all in. Here are our highlights.

Wednesday, March 21

Joel Plaskett

Canadian Music Week kicked off with a bang with Joel Plaskett showing off songs from his new album, Scrappy Happiness, and some old favourites at a show up high in the CN Tower.

Plaskett, who just finished the "Rock 'n' Roll in Record Time" project with CBC Music, where he produced and sent out a track a week for his new album, tried some of the songs out on stage. We're happy to report the transition is seamless. After a charming and funny opening set by Ben Caplan, Plaskett launched his set with "You're Mine" and kept the energy up throughout.

Listen to Joel Plaskett on his CBC Music artist page.

Blackie and the Rodeo Kings at Massey Hall

Blackie and the Rodeo Kings brought in the ringers for their Massey Hall debut. Ron Sexsmith, Amy Helm, Murray McLauchlan, Mary Margaret O'Hara, Holly Cole and Serena Ryder all took turns on stage. But the trio came out swinging hard, on key and on message -- they don't need anyone else on board to handle Massey Hall.

Listen to Blackie and the Rodeo Kings on their CBC Music artist page.

Thursday, March 22

Martha Wainwright, The Dears and more

Radio 3 joined forces with Bande à Part to bring you "Sirius XM's Salute To La Belle Province!" Thursday, an absolutely stellar lineup of Québec artists hit the stage for a concert Radio 3 broadcast live from the venerable El Mocambo. Adam & The Amethysts, Ariane Moffatt, Half Moon Run, Galaxie, Martha Wainwright, and The Dears all marched to the mic over the course of the night. 

Listen to Adam & The Amethysts on their CBC Music artist page.
Listen to Ariane Moffatt on her CBC Music artist page
List to Half Moon Run on their CBC artist page
Listen to Galaxie on their CBC artist page
Listen to Martha Wainwright on her CBC artist page
Listen to The Dears on their CBC artist page.

Ian Kamau

Friends and colleagues have been raving about Ian Kamau's live show and we finally got to see why. He's a great storyteller and a passionate performer, drawing from something deeper than your average MC. Highlight of the night.

Cold Specks

One of the top draws for day two was the Cold Specks show at the Music Gallery. It's Etobicoke's Al Spx, who is already drawing rave reviews in the UK, and had mouths hanging open tonight, amazing people with her powerful voice. It was a raw and beautiful performance. Her guitar playing and band will probably get tighter with time, but her talent and charm overcame any hiccups, as her soulful determination eclipsed her shy demeanour. She cracked little jokes between song, and even slipped in a soulful rendition of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. The crowd ate it all up. She has the ability to turn a '90s TV theme into a beautiful bluesy southern ballad. Definitely one to watch in years to come.

Listen to Cold Specks on her CBC Music artist page.

Friday, March 23

The Inbreds at Sonic Boom

The Inbreds

It was a blast from the past as '90s indie rockers The Inbreds played a free in-store at Sonic Boom. The store's lo-fi set up suited the band, who were loose but great going through songs like "Drag Us Down," "Yelverton Hill," and "Amelia Earheart" among others. It was a fun, sweet set and just a primer for their headlining show at Lee's Palace on Saturday night.

Listen to the Inbreds on their CBC Music artists page.


catl played throughout the night, putting in short sets between the acts at a country-fried rock and twang evening at the Comfort Zone. They sampled songs from their upcoming album, Soon This Will All Be Gone, which arrives next month.

The concrete bunker that is the Comfort Zone can be a little unforgiving to sound, but their set of straight-out roots rock had the crowd jumping. Check out their Q&A with CBC Music for a preview of "5 Miles" off the new album.

Listen to catl on their CBC Music artist page.

Daniel Lanois

Elsewhere, to celebrate his induction into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame, CBC Music brought Daniel Lanois to the Great Hall in Toronto for two intimate performances. He played his first show Friday night, harnessing all his musical skill for a fantastic performance in an intimate space. Here he teams with drummer Brian Blade to perform "Fire," during Friday night's show.

Listen to Daniel Lanois on his CBC Music artist page.

Spoek Mathambo

One of the best times at the festival was provided by Spoek Mathambo. The South African artist has been praised for his bold, musically eclectic style. The room started shaking as soon as he hit the stage, a packed floor gyrating to the Afrobeat-infused music and Mathambo's mesmerizing raps.

Saturday, March 24

The Canadian Independent Music Awards

The Indies aim to honour the achievements of Canadian and international independent artists, and the winners are revealed at a big annual concert. This year featured performances by Pavlo, The Pack A.D., Young Empires, Treble Charger, Dan Mangan, The Sheepdogs, and post-awards performances by Rich Aucoin, and electro-poppers Passion Pit. The Sheepdogs were the big winners, taking home awards for favourite rock group, favourite live group, and favourite group period, as well as bringing home the guitar (if you win an Indie, instead of a statuette you get a guitar) for single of the year for their song "I Don't Know."

Indie rockers of yore Treble Charger were given the Indies' hall of fame award, although there is no physical hall of fame. Dan Mangan took home the guitar for best solo artist, F***ed Up for best punk group, deadmau5 for electronic and the Weeknd for best urban artist.

Reversing Falls

Reversing Falls blasted through a set of post-grunge punk that conjured Mission of Burma, Girls Against Boys, and yes, Hole, whose "Malibu" they covered (everyone but Courtney Love, see above). It was all so unexpectedly rewarding -- a collective release that had the disconcerting effect of galvanizing the shiny techno people and the unassuming indie rockers, who danced/moshed together. It was unquestionably powerful and good. Punk's not dead but it is dancing with disco now, so....

Listen to Reversing Falls on their CBC Music artist page.

You can see a recap of the week in our CMW social media feed. If you were at CMW, share your pictures with the CBC Music Flickr group, and let us know who you saw and what you liked in the comment section.

Related links:

Canadian Music Week in Photos

On the ground at CMW with CBC Music

CMW 2012: Canadian Music Week goes (a little bit) country

[CMW] Allow me to reintroduce myself: MC Suffa of Hilltop Hoods

[CMW] 88 Days of Fame and Fortune

[Video] Daniel Lanois performs 'The Collection of Marie Claire' live at the Great Hall

[Video] Daniel Lanois performs 'Fire' live at the Great Hall

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CMW wrap: Daniel Lanois, The Sheepdogs, and more

With files from Mark Wigmore, Vish Khanna and Kim Fox. A music festival can be overwhelming. With 9…


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