CMW: Day 1 – Free Times Café Showcase feat. Jack Carty and JP Hoe - Toronto, Canada (09.03.11)

Canadian Music Week got off to a killer start last night with a selection of showcases across a wide variety of venues in Toronto, Canada. We decided to kick off our 4 nights of live music and conferences with one of the smaller bills on this list, heading along to the Free Times Café to catch up with our good friend from Sydney - Jack Carty (pictured).

Jack opened up proceedings at this intimate café, in which guests were seated at tables, enjoying a selection of local drinks and some tasty eats. It made for a truly enjoyable evening, in which we went against our original plans of moving on to another venue, and remained there for the full evening, enjoying all five artists showcasing.

Being from Sydney, much like myself, Jack Carty is not accustomed to minus degree temperatures as sleet falls from the sky, covering the roads and walkways in a wet, icy, sludge like composition. The result of this unpreparedness? Wet shoes and socks. Jack opted as such to perform his beautiful acoustic set barefoot, giving the crowd a taste of his new album One Thousand Origami Birds, as well as some older tracks of EP Wine and Consequence.

Always a talented guitar player, this new material showcases Jack at his best, tackling more challenging riffs, and evoking more powerful lyrics. Having caught Jack a few times in Sydney over the last year or so, it was a thrill to see him so far outside his comfort zone, yet embody the space so perfectly. “Atoms on a New Planet”, “The Tempest” and “One Thousand Origami Birds” were highlights of the set. A brilliant start to an evening full of extraordinary talent.

Sweden’s Christine Owman was next, performing a one woman DIY set that would give Xavier Rudd something to smile about. With obscure movie projections from the 20s & 30s in the background, Cristine whipped out the saw, the cello and the ukulele while she sung through effect pedals, as an interpretive dancer made it something truly theatrical. Vocally, in spite of a truly unique musical experience, she embodied the sprit of many female performers who have come before her: Melissa Auf de Maur, Cat Power, PJ Harvey, Bjork and many more. It’s rare to use the word unique these days when describing an artist – but Owman definitely holds true to its very definition, creating some pretty damn entertaining music in the process.

Highlight of the evening, however, went to our next performer – acoustic singer/songwriter JP Hoe from Winnepeg, we recently made waves playing the One Movement Showcase in Perth (check out our interview with the artist here). At times Sufjan and Andrew Bird-esque, at others reminiscent of David Gray and John Mayer, JP Hoe’s talent is quite outstanding. There is true power in his voice and words, in an instance where he simply makes it look easy. Make sure you check this guy out when you can.

The second and final Canadian artist of the evening followed, Vancouver’s Louise Burns. She was yet another singer/songwriter who performed an acoustic set that was truly beautiful. With so much already said of a similar nature about the other artists, I’m starting to feel like a broken records – but the talent tonight was just that good. A consummate performer, totally comfortable on the stage, with a talent that is second to none. Her set ended with a beautiful cover of Leonard Cohen’s “The Gypsy’s Wife”.

Closing out the night was an artist far different to the rest of the performances. Hailing from Buenos Aires, Argentina, Peter’s Songs took us on a Latin American journey of an undefined genre. At times, I was reminded of Gotan Project, at other times, of The Sims soundtrack. Utilising a bevy of instruments, and singing in his native tongue, frontman Pedro Menéndez was supported by two musicians whose medleys were as hypnotizing as they were enjoyable. It was an unexpected but very welcome way to end this cold, rainy evening and the first night of Canadian Music Week 2011.