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MMVAs: 5 things to watch out for

- June 15th, 2014

The biggest night in music (for Toronto, that is) has finally arrived and the stars are about to descend upon Queen St. W for Much Music’s annual MMVA’s.

The award show that celebrates and highlights Canadian artists, lumping some of the bigger name international stars into the show for viewers sake, has been talked about for weeks.

To say people are hyping themselves up for performances from stars like Lorde and Imagine Dragons and watching the youngest “Kardashian” sisters host their first big event would be an understatement.

Often times with massive spectacles like the MMVA’s, however, it’s hard to keep track of everything going on. Blink and you might just miss one artist diss another during an impromptu performance.

Here are a couple of things you’re going to want to keep an eye out for tonight:

1.)    Kendall Jenner messing up an artist…again

Twitter has allowed one simple mistake, broadcasted for millions, to live forever. During the Billboard Music Awards in May, Kendall was set up with one task: introduce the new hot boy band 5 Seconds of Summer as performers.

Looks like all those “acting” classes Jenner enrolled in didn’t help with her memorization –or reading- abilities. Instead, Jenner introduced One Direction…who wasn’t even there that night. Keep an eye out, folks. This may just happen again.

2.)    Iggy Azalea surprise appearance

Iggy Azalea went from being a D-list celebrity to one of the hottest stars in the hip-hop/pop world, flooded with collaboration requests from some of the biggest musicians.

A large part of her success is due to Ariana Grande, one of the performer’s at the awards show tonight, and their hit song, “Problem.” Azalea hasn’t said or tweeted anything to imply she’ll show up at the show tonight, but you never know.

3.)    Joint performance by Drake and the Weeknd

Not only is this plausible, it’ll be a bit of a waste if this performance doesn’t happen. Drake and the Weeknd aren’t just on the same label, they’re also great friends in real life.


Recently, Drake and the Weeknd staged a surprise performance for some lucky club goers in Toronto, playing some of their top hits and testing out new material. My bet? A mix up of “Crew Love” and “Live For” will be performed at some point tonight.

4.)    Jazzy performance from Lorde


Lorde is a pop star through and through, but earlier this week the singer tweeted how her fondness of jazz covers had grown since she’s been in T-Dot. From what I can gather, Lorde’s been trying out different styles of her songs at rehearsal, so keep an ear open for a fresh new take on an overplayed track.

5.)    Award shocks

The nominees this year are as diverse as they’ve ever been, with talents ranging across multiple genres of music. Rookie artists and veterans of the industry are, in many cases, up for the same award.

Although you might think Hedley’s got it in the bag, there’s a pretty big chance it’ll be swiped from their hands before they can say, “Thank you Toronto.”

Toronto’s PUP prepares to bring their punk rock to the world – after they finish their laundry

- January 30th, 2014

Stefan Babcock fronts Toronto’s most-buzzed about punk group, but at the moment, all he can think about is laundry.

Over the next few months, his band PUP – which stands for Pathetic Use of Potential – will travel to the U.K., Germany, Holland and Belgium, and then embark on a U.S. tour. Before they fly out, they’ll also perform in Hamilton, Toronto and Montreal.

“Today is our last day off for several months,” he says from his home base in Toronto. “During the past few weeks, I’ve been going to bed early, waking up early and doing laundry regularly. I’m trying to get all my downtime in before I never have it again.”

His laundry timer even goes off during the course of our interview.


A lot of things have changed for the quartet in the past half-year or so, when they decided to switch their name from Topanga – a Boy Meets World reference – to PUP, and infuse their tunes with a more aggressive sound. Their raw, energetic live show has earned them opening slots for bands like Hollerado and Billy Talent, and their hilarious video for the single Reservoir has garnered tens of thousands of views on YouTube.

In terms of PUP’s frenzied performance style, Babcock, 25, says he wants to give fans something more than just a recreation of the group’s recorded output.

“When we started this band, that was kind of like our M.O.,” he says. “There are so many terrible, shoegaze-y indie rock bands from Toronto that just stand on stage and don’t do anything, and just play their songs. To me, that’s pretty boring.”

The Reservoir video recreates a PUP live performance, and features bloody, exaggerated injuries to every member of the band – which also includes Nestor Chumak on bass, Steve Sladkowski on guitar and Zack Mykula on drums. Babcock says that the video’s directors, Chandler Levack and Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux, felt inspired to make it after watching the band suffer through mishaps at nearly every concert.

“There was one show where my amp literally caught fire and smoked out the whole show. There was another show where a guy was crowd surfing, but it was a house show – and there was a ceiling fan going – and he got all cut up in the ceiling fan. There have been shows where I smashed my guitar through my face by accident because I was rocking out too hard.”

PUP released their self-titled debut album in the fall through Canadian indie label Royal Mountain Records, and they recently scored a U.S. distribution deal with SideOneDummy Records. The group worked on the album with producer Dave Schiffman, who is known for his work with Weezer, Vampire Weekend and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

So, big things are obviously happening for these guys. But for the next day or two, Babcock says he plans to “lead a banker’s life,” which will consist of getting enough sleep, staying away from alcohol and packing for the months to come. And finishing his laundry, of course.

“I’m doing the exact opposite of the punk rock thing right now,” he says. “I’ll be like, ‘Sorry guys, I’m not coming out to party tonight. I think I’m going to drink some tea and go to sleep at 10.’ ”

The ultimate Rob Ford music playlist

- December 3rd, 2013

When embattled Toronto mayor Rob Ford pulled up to City Hall a few weeks back blasting the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” in his car, it got me wondering what other poignant songs he has on his playlist.


And since I don’t wade into politics too much here (I’m just the music guy), I thought I’d make some healthy (and some unhealthy) suggestions for RoFo and his musical menu.

Ford’s here to stay until October — unless he goes out in handcuffs or a gurney – so play along at home and switch up these gems as the saga unfolds. And feel free to enter your own personal requests in the comments section below!

Here we go:

Rehab, Amy Winehouse

This fairly obvious one (which is why we have it loaded up first) could be the theme song to his last few years in office. After all, what’s wrong with having a few beers in the basement? Yeah…

Rehab by Amy Winehouse on Grooveshark

All Apologies, Nirvana

Sorry seems to be the easiest word for Rob Ford these days, so what better tune to have commemorate his blanket apologies than this classic from Kurt Cobain and company.

All Apologies by Nirvana on Grooveshark

Because I Got High, Afroman

Suggested alternate lyrics include “I was gonna go to a public bathroom, but then I got high,” or “I was gonna go to City Hall and save taxpayer’s money, but then I got high.”


I Got High by Afroman on Grooveshark

Liar, Henry Rollins

“I’ll come to you like an affliction/and I’ll leave you like an addiction/you’ll never forget me/you wanna know why?cause I’m a liar.”

Maybe RoFo should, instead of rehab, have a little sit-down with the former (and very intimidating) ex Black Flag frontman and scare him into tip-top shape.

Liar by Henry Rollins on Grooveshark

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother, The Hollies

This one comes as a special request from his loyal brother, Doug Ford.

“So on we go/His welfare is of my concern/No burden is he to bear/We’ll get there.”

Pass the tissue and a cool bevvy.

He Ain't Heavy… He's My Brother by The Hollies on Grooveshark

Just a Friend, Biz Markie

We all were witnesses to RoFo’s colourful denial of sex with a staffer. Hell no, claimed Rob, he said she’s just a friend. Chow down on this hip-hop masterpiece.

Just a Friend by Biz Markie on Grooveshark

Drugs in My Pocket, The Monks

This 1980 hit by the U.K. band is dedicated, via this column, to Rob Ford’s “driver” and go-for Sandro Lisi.

Drugs In My Pocket by The Monks on Grooveshark

Sorry For Party Rocking, LMFAO

Rumour has it that this particular song was playing at Toronto’s Bier Market when Rofo decided to shake his ass on the dance floor on St. Paddy’s Day a few years ago. Very fitting.

Sorry for Party Rocking by LMFAO on Grooveshark

The Shape I’m in, The Band

This could also serve him well as he works out with his “personal trainer.”

The Shape I'm In by The Band on Grooveshark

The Gravy Train, Ian Brown

“It ain’t cocaine running through your veins/Beluga caviar on the Gravy Train/It ain’t cocaine as you sip champagne/As you toast high times on the Gravy Train.”

Is this the gravy train that Rob Ford speaks of so eloquently?

The Gravy Train by Ian Brown on Grooveshark

Workin’ For the Weekend, Loverboy

When Ron Burgundy hilariously did a salute (see below) to Rob Ford on Conan by singing Loverboy’s classic hit (or as Burgundy explained, Ford’s “campaign song for his re-election”), it became a shoo-in for this list.

Workin' For The Weekend by Loverboy on Grooveshark

Cocaine, Eric Clapton

This stupor song from Slowhand is the perfect way to end the list for obvious reasons. That is all.

Cocaine by Eric Clapton on Grooveshark

The best of the rest:

Fight the Power, Public Enemy; One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer, George Thorogood; White Lines, Grandmaster Flash; Blurred Lines, Robin Thicke; Livin’ on the Edge, Aerosmith; One for the Road, Arctic Monkeys; Tear In My Beer, Hank Williams Sr.; Brother Down, Sam Roberts; I’m Goin’ Down, Bruce Springsteen; Too Drunk To F***, Dead Kennedys; Gin & Juice, Snoop Dogg; Smoke It, Dandy Warhols; F*** Tha Police, N.W.A; Changes, David Bowie; Maggot Brain, Funkadelic; 10 Crack Commandments, Notorious B.I.G.; Crack Music (feat. The Game), Kanye West; The Pee Song, Donovan; Crack, 2 Chainz; I Want to Take You Higher, Sly and The Family Stone; Roadhouse Blues, The Doors; Ramble On, Led Zeppelin; Call Me, Blondie, Feel Good Hit of the Summer, Queens of the Stone Age.

Twitter: @johnwillms

Beyonce books two more Canadian dates

- June 24th, 2013

We may need to refer to her as the hardest working mom in showbiz.

Pop superstar Beyonce has added an additional 14 dates to her already jam-packed Mrs. Carter Show World Tour itinerary, and it includes two Canadian stops.


The new leg kicks off on November 30 at the Rogers Arena in Vancouver, winds its way to Toronto’s Air Canada Centre (again) on December 16, and ends just before Christmas on December 20 at Boston’s TD Garden.

Tickets for both Canadian shows go on sale July 8.

Beyonce’s previously announced summer tour hits T.O. on July 21, and Montreal’s Bell Centre on July 22. Both shows are sold out.

Here’s the new North American leg schedule:

Nov-30, Vancouver, BC Rogers Arena
Dec-2, San Jose, CA HP Pavilion at San Jose
Dec-3, Los Angeles, CA Staples Center
Dec-6, Las Vegas, NV MGM Grand Garden Arena
Dec-7, Phoenix, AZ US Airways Center
Dec-9, Dallas, TX American Airlines Center
Dec-10, Houston, TX Toyota Center
Dec-12, Louisville, KY KFC Yum! Center
Dec-13, Chicago, IL United Center
Dec-14, St. Louis, MO Scottrade Center
Dec-16, Toronto, ON Air Canada Centre
Dec-18, Washington DC Verizon Center
Dec-19, Brooklyn, NY Barclays Center
Dec-20, Boston, MA TD Garden

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Update: Rolling Stones unveil tour dates

- April 3rd, 2013

In what could be the most uneventful tour announcement ever, the Rolling Stones unveiled details for a nine, yes, nine-date North America tour.

This comes after rumours circulated for weeks that the band would be hitting 18 cities. There’s just one Canadian stop.

The tour, called 50 and Counting, will start in Los Angeles next month (tour kickoff date will be announced soon), and will make its way to Toronto on May 25 at the Air Canada Centre. Tickets for the T.O. gig go on sale April 8 via and at 10 a.m. ET.

UPDATE: A second show has been added for Toronto at the Air Canada Centre on June 6. Tickets go on sale on the same day as the original date.

Here’s hoping you are getting a nice tax refund this year – the top ticket will run you a whopping $624.50 and the cheapest one will be $166.50.

The short trek ends in Philadelphia on June 18. This is just a hunch (sarcasm alert), but expect more dates to be added once the nine sell out, which will match the original rumoured 18 dates.

The band will also play London’s Hyde Park on Saturday, July 6 following a headlining appearance at UK’s Glastonbury Festival on June 29.

“’50 and Counting’ has been pretty amazing so far,” lead singer Mick Jagger said in a statement on Wednesday.

“We did a few shows in London and New York last year … and had such a good time that we thought…let’s do some more.”

Mick Taylor, who was a member of the Rolling Stones from 1969-74, will be a special guest throughout the tour.


The dates were unveiled via video message from the band on YouTube (see below).

Rolling Stone reported that Mick, Keef and co. will be paid $4-5 million per show.

50 and Counting tour dates:

TBA Los Angeles Staples Center TBA

May 5 Oakland Oracle Arena On sale April 8 @ 10AM PST

May 8 San Jose HP Pavilion On sale April 8 @ 10AM PST

May 11 Las Vegas MGM Grand Garden Arena TBA

May 15 Anaheim Honda Center TBA

May 25 Toronto Air Canada Centre On sale April 8 @ 10AM EST

May 28 Chicago United Center On sale April 8 @ 10AM CST

June 12 Boston TD Garden TBA

June 18 Philadelphia Wells Fargo Center TBA

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