CMW 2012: Why Sheezer @ Sneaky Dee's Sums Up Everything I Love About Toronto's Indie Scene Right Now by Adam Bunch

FRIDAY – Okay, so I suppose I should probably start with a little bit of a confession: I've never really been a big Weezer fan. Somehow, despite the fact that I was a nerdy, music-obsessed, suburban teenager growing up in the '90s, I kind of mostly missed the band at their height. I mean, I knew who they were. I knew some of their songs. You couldn't miss them; they were everywhere. I had friends to whom Rivers Cuomo was something of a bespectacled god. And that video for "Buddy Holly" was pretty neat. But for no particularly good reason they were never really one of my bands.

So, uh, you're probably going to think it's a little weird when I tell you that a Weezer tribute band has become one of my favourite bands in the entire city.

I guess even before I'd seen them play, I did think the idea of Sheezer sounded fun – for Weezer fans. They first formed back in 2009 because, as the story goes, once they'd come up with a great name for an all-female Weezer cover band they figured it was just too good not to use. So they put together a supergroup of Toronto musicians – from The Hidden Cameras, The Bicycles, By Divine Right, The Phoenemes and Young Governor – and debuted with a New Year's Eve show. It went well, they kept playing together, and my friends who were Weezer fans starting getting really excited. (At SoundProof, I believe Cody McGraw – our little red Managing Editor – began his first review with, "There are no words to describe the amazingness that is Sheezer".)

Hell, I know long-time Weezer fans who like Sheezer more than the original. And with reason. The band pretty much sticks to stuff off Pinkerton and The Blue Album, leaving out all the mediocre crap. (They've never put Hurley on an album cover either.) And as a group of successful indie rock star women singing those songs, they turn the teenaged misogyny of the lyrics on its head. ("I want a girl who will laugh for no one else... When I'm away she never leaves the house"? Seriously, Rivers?) So for anyone looking to get their '90s nostalgia on, Sheezer always seemed to me like a pretty fun way to go about it.

But here's the thing: now that I've seen them play a bunch of times, I'm not so convinced that Sheezer are really, in the end, as much about the past as they are about the present. I mean, I'll admit my brain is still fried from the festival – I'm still tired, euphoric, exhausted, not thinking straight – and that's probably a crazy thing to say about any tribute band. But sometime a little after three in the morning last Friday night, as I danced in the middle of the sweaty mass of humanity packing Sneaky Dee's from one graffiti-ed Tex Mex wall to the other, drunkenly jumping up and down and shouting along to lyrics I still really only half know, the floor threatening to collapse beneath us at any moment, it seemed pretty obvious that while Sheezer might be playing songs written by another band almost two decades ago in Los Angeles, they are themselves very much of this moment and of this city. In fact, they kind of sum up – maybe better than other single group – what I love about going to indie rock shows in Toronto these days.

Weezer is, of course, the catalyst at Sheezer shows. They wrote ridiculously catchy and energetic songs. And because they were super-giant-crazy-famous just about everyone knows at least some of the words. And that's, y'know, kind of useful for drunken sing-along purposes. But the whole concept of Sheezer encourages that atmosphere too. It's already a fun and silly idea. And when the people on stage clearly aren't taking themselves too seriously, it's a lot easier for the people in the audience not to take themselves too seriously either. "It’s a community celebration instead of a typical indie rock show," guitarist Robin Hatch recently explained to Canculture. "It’s more of a party event."

And that, right there, is what makes a Sheezer show so damn much fun: it's a party. In Toronto. At an indie rock show.

Joyful partying is not, ahem, exactly what Toronto's indie rock scene is traditionally known for. Hell, if Weezer themselves had started here in the '90s, even they probably would have faced room after room of crossed arms and barely bobbing heads. (Maybe an occasional mosh pit once they'd been included on a Big Shiny Tunes?) But these days... well... it's not a coincidence that Sheezer would play this particular CMW showcase, hosted by a music club that takes its name from a Constantines song with lyrics like "O young lions, this is your kingdom... Make your love too wild for words... Loosen your collar, shake off the wires. Run like a river, glow like a beacon fire." Or that they'd play back-to-back with Rouge for the second big festival in a row, another band who can turn a full room into a joyous riot, whose own late night NXNE set at Sneaks last year ended in a drunken sing-along dance party on stage. And these bands are not alone. There are, amazingly, despite our stuffy reputation, a whole hell of a lot of people in Toronto's indie music scene right now – bands, fans, writers, bloggers, promoters throwing shows not just in bars, but in garages, in basements, in the park – who are more interested in having fun, in dancing, in partying, than in taking themselves too seriously. And what better example of that could there possibly be than a tribute supergroup of musicians playing songs by a nerdy band from 15 years ago to a room full of drunk, dancing, euphoric fans singing along at the top of their lungs in the oh-so-wee hours of the morning?

So. I downloaded the Blue Album recently. I've been listening to it a bit this week – and it puts a smile on face. But not because I'm thinking back to high school, to those few Weezer-related memories that I do have from those days. It's because I'm thinking back to the Sheezer show last Friday, jumping and sweating and dancing and singing along with my friends at the top my lungs. Weezer might never have been one of my bands, but Sheezer sure as hell are.


Find all our coverage of Canadian Music Week 2012 here.

Photos: Carmen Cheung

Adam Bunch is the Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at


Peter Rowan said...

my only complaint about this excellent piece is that there isn't a better picture of Lysh. I wish they did Sheezer lunchboxes; I'd have one for every work day.

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