3 min

Canadian Music Week: loud and proud

Three queer acts heading to Toronto

Diamond Rings Credit: Norman Wong
Every great music festival is full of wild parties and mind-blowing performances. And where there are crazy parties and great performances, there are bound to be some kickass queers. Canadian Music Week hits Toronto March 19 to 24 at various venues throughout the city, and there are several queer acts worth checking out. Xtra’s Matt Thomas recently chatted with three of them.
Mount Moriah lead singer Heather McEntire
XTRA: How would you describe Mount Moriah’s sound?
There are a lot of different styles interacting with one another: country, soul, classic rock, folk, gospel, pop. 
What’s been your favourite queer-centric gig?
My favourite was probably the Rally Against Amendment One, which I helped organize last spring in a parking lot in Durham, that Amy Ray [Indigo Girls] headlined. Unfortunately, the amendment eventually passed, but it felt incredible being with our community of people who were fighting for equal rights. I think we all needed to feel that love and unity, even if our state as a whole voted to uphold a very narrow-minded and discriminatory amendment. 
What are some of the themes explored in your songs?
The South, conviction, forgiveness, sexuality, religion, gender identity, fear, family, geography, youth, rebirth, confrontation, love and letting go. 
What’s your favourite fan moment, tour tale or show?
We have the best fans and supporters and community. I especially love when we can play all-ages shows so kids can come. Last night, we played a record store for our release day, and there were about a dozen kids there, ages two to 10. I teach kids at Girls Rock NC, so I always love seeing them experience live shows. 
Wed, March 20, 11pm Drake Underground 1150 Queen St W Limited CMW wristbands accepted, or tickets $11
Diamond Rings, aka John O
How would you describe your sound?
Populist electronica.
Are there any queer artists that act as influences, inspiration or that you just plain love?
I was lucky enough to share the stage with an early incarnation of Austra at Toronto Pride 2010. Katie has always been a big influence. I’m also a fan of Azari & III, Pet Shop Boys and Owen Pallett.
How would you describe a Diamond Rings show?

It’s an open and inclusive celebration set to what I hope is interpreted as uniquely engaging music. I want to create a safe space for my fans to be themselves and build a positive experience together.

What’s your favourite fan moment?
So many. I have a really great fan in Ohio named Chase, who is taking art at college (which is what I majored in), and he gets so psyched for every gig. Last time he wore a custom leather jacket like mine from the “Runaway Love” video. He sends me pictures of his assignments, and I try to give him decent advice, too!
SiriusXM Indie Awards, with Metric
Fri, March 22, 10pm
Kool Haus, 132 Queens Quay E
CMW wristbands, or tickets $49.50
The official SiriusXM Indie Afterparty, with Diamond Rings DJ set
Fri, March 22, 1:30am Wrongbar, 1279 Queen St W
Hunter Valentine drummer Laura Petracca
What has Hunter Valentine been up to recently?
Touring, touring, touring! We started out a three-month tour when our third album, Collide and Conquer, was released in the fall. We were lucky to share the stage with fellow Canadian band Sum 41 in the beginning of 2013 on a US tour, and we just shot a video for the song “The Pulse.”
What’s your favourite queer event you’ve played and what did you enjoy about it?
It’s always hard to choose your favourite because they are so different. We have played large Pride events, like Toronto Pride, San Francisco Pride, and always have a blast. But the ones that really stick out are events like the most recent one Kiyomi and I did in Brantford. We played an acoustic set, during a crazy snowstorm; people trekked through the snow (like good Canadians!) and came out to help raise funds for this year’s Brantford Pride.
Are there any queer artists that act as influences, inspiration or that you just plain love?
I have always secretly loved Erasure. But in terms of inspiration, I love any artist that is willing to support the LGBT community, queer or not. We need to help the entire world realize that it’s not wrong to be who you want to be and love who you want to love. Oh… and shhh, I have a major crush on Lucas of The Cliks.
How would you describe a Hunter Valentine show?
It’s gritty, raw, in-your-face… sometimes literally, depending on how feisty Kiyomi is. And sweaty.
What’s your favourite fan moment, tour tale or show?
In the last couple of tours, we have had a few beautiful wedding proposals during the middle of our set. I will admit, I did cry every time. It’s just so amazing to be a part of one of the most important moments of a couple’s life! And how ballsy for a partner to pick such a moment, to have the guts to get up in front of 300 people and propose to your partner. I have the utmost respect for that.
Wed, March 20, 11pm The Great Hall, 1087 Queen St W
CMW wristbands, or tickets $15