Canadian Music Week 2018: the best of the fest so far

Reviews from the festival so far, including standouts like Cupcakke, Nate Husser, Lydia Lunch, Jaunt, Yonatan Gat and more

Nate Husser - Photo by Samuel Engelking

STEVE GUNN at the Great Hall, Monday, May 7. Rating: NNNN

Steve Gunn took his time fingerpicking his way into his solo set, explaining, “I need to wake myself up and remind myself that I’m playing a show.” The New York songwriter had driven 11 hours to be here and looked zonked. But a few songs in, Gunn shifted toward new songs, which seemed to focus him and the audience. Between them he played a cover of Michael Chapman’s beautiful Among The Trees at the request of Toronto guitarist Matt “Doc” Dunn before getting even more cosmic with the open-tuned bluesy slide guitar and just-loud-enough distortion of his own Mr. Franklin. SARAH GREENE

MOSCOW APARTMENT at the Rivoli, Tuesday, May 8. Rating: NNNN

Moscow Apartment were stoked for their CMW set, and for good reason: if they weren’t playing, they wouldn’t be allowed in. The high-schooler duo of Brighid Fry and Pascale Padilla – backed up for some songs by an equally teenaged rhythm section – skirt the lines between folk and indie rock. Their harmony-rich songs tackled topics like unrealistic beauty standards, people who believe in ghosts and periods – plus covers of Big Thief and Radiator Hospital – with the unjaded wisdom of youth. “Sometimes it’s hard to be a teenager, I don’t know if you people remember,” Padilla said in a bit of charmingly goofy stage banter, which continued throughout. “Is anyone here underage?” Trick question. RICHARD TRAPUNSKI

BEAMS at Lee’s Palace, Wednesday, May 9. Rating: NNN

Beams flew through a set of bracing mini epics, a folk-inflected sprawl that unfurled into noisy crescendos, while a listless audience receded to the back of the room for not-so-muted conversation. It was a bummer, although a mild one considering that this is pretty much the archetypal Wednesday-night CMW experience, which tends to cater more to the music industry than the city’s organic community of fans.