Fest organizers crank up Canadian Music Cafe

The Toronto Film Festival hasn’t put much focus on music — until now.

Sure, the Canadian Music Cafe has been around for five years, but this time organizers hope to create a bit of buzz among industry heavyweights at the fest.

The live showcase of some of Canada’s hotter new music acts runs in the afternoons for three days starting this Tuesday at Toronto’s Hard Rock Cafe (279 Yonge St.). Venue is not far from fest screenings — a good spot to kick back for an hour or two, have a drink and discover some new talent.

Highlights include brooding Victoria-based rockers Jets Overhead (Tuesday, 4 p.m.), Montreal singer-songwriter Jason Bajada (Wednesday, 1 p.m.), blue-collar Hamilton rock outfit the Arkells (Wednesday, 3:15 p.m.) and Stars’ chanteuse Amy Millan (Sept. 17, 3:15 p.m.).

The initiative is well-timed, given that Canadian rock — particularly of the alternative variety — is getting more recognition than ever, thanks to hip acts such as Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, Metric and the Dears.

Chip Sutherland, who manages Canadian artists Feist and Sloan and is financing the lion’s share of the Music Cafe this year, believes the venue should not just exist for music supervisors but all industry creatives. He says it’s often the filmmakers themselves who make key music decisions on films.

His clients, Halifax alt-popsters Sloan, got three songs in Sofia Coppola’s “Virgin Suicides” for the simple reason that Coppola had caught the band live in L.A., dug them and realized their sophisticated tunes were perfect for her soundtrack.

Similarly, Feist’s music turned up in Gallic auteur Michel Gondry’s docu “L’Epine dans le coeur” because Gondry himself called his pal, Paris-based Canadian musician Gonzales, a frequent Feist collaborator, who in turn got Sutherland to bring Feist onboard.

Sutherland, who is also exec director of the Radio Starmaker Fund, which hands out around C$6 million ($5.4 million) to Canuck artists annually, sees the Music Cafe as a gateway to finding the next breaking act from north of the border. “It’s basically one-stop shopping for what’s out there,” he says.

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