Monday, August 2, 2010

Preview: SummerWorks Festival 2010

For the third year, Toronto's long-running SummerWorks festival is supplementing its theatrical programme with a Music Series. This year the music portion finds a new home at The Lower Ossington Theatre (100A Ossington), and has expanded beyond just the concert-format shows of the past couple years to include Musical Works in Concert ("an opportunity for creators, composers, and lyricists with a platform to showcase musical work in development ") as well as shows in the Performance Bar (downstairs at the Ossington Theatre) where a bevy of musicians will be special guests to some manner of freewheeling drop-in improv.

It looks like a very well-chosen lineup that you can look over here. Many of the artists — both in the concert series and in the performance bar — will be familiar to readers of this blog, and I feel like I can recommend quite a few of them. Plus, I can back up my words with some live samples to give you an idea of what you might be in for.

If you want to read more about any of these artists, just click on the labels at the bottom of this post.


Mainstage: The Hidden Cameras

Leading things off with a two-night stand is one of the city's most theatrical bands, a perfect fit for this Festival. In fact, word is that the band will be doing a theatrical re-interpretation of last year's Origin:Orphan. The band's performances always have the sense of being an event, and this one looks like it might be something special.

Listen! The Hidden Cameras - Fear of Zine Failure (Recorded at the Opera House, December 5, 2009.)

Performance Bar: Allie Hughes

Allie Hughes has transcended past a flirtation with reality TV (as a contestant on How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria) to craft sophisticated pop that's smart enough not to alienate jaded listeners in Toronto's indie scene, daring to be a technically proficient singer in a milieu that often prefers the cough-ahem-authenticity of the rough-hewn.

Listen! Allie Hughes - Headmaster (Recorded at The Garrison, March 5, 2010)


Mainstage: The Hidden Cameras

see above

Performance Bar: Maylee Todd

Whether performing space-funk workouts with her band Pegwee Power or performing soulful solo jams on her harp, Maylee Todd brings star power to the stage.

Listen! Maylee Todd & Pegwee Power - Aerobics in Space (Recorded at The Drake Underground, March 25, 2010)


Performance Bar: Tasseomancy

Previously known as Ghost Bees, this duo of twin sisters Sari and Romy Lightman transfix with their spare folk stylings. A little bit of off-kilter spookiness that would go down well in any cemetery or haunted house.


Performance Bar: Laura Barrett

One of the city's best, Laura Barrett brings her kalimba-powered songs to bear on pressing issues of love, optimism, and other science projects.

Listen! Laura Barrett - Ferryland (Recorded at Jason Collett's Basement Revue, Dakota Tavern, December 22, 2009)


Performance Bar: THOMAS / Snowblink

Most recently gaining attention as Owen Pallett's on-stage co-conspirator, Thomas Gill — the band THOMAS' namesake — has in fact collaborated with many local musicians in addition to leading his own combo. With falsetto vocals augmented by Felicity Williams' soulful pipes, THOMAS dares to be soft in the face of a hard world.

The musical partnership of Daniela Gesundheit and Dan Goldman, Snowblink takes a beautiful voice and wraps it in reverb and antlers, then loops more voices around that. The band have been playing some choice new material lately, and often throw in a stripped-down cover recasting a song you thought you knew in a haunting new light.

Listen! Snowblink - unknown (Recorded at Poor Pilgrim Island Show 4 (St. Andrew-by-the-lake Church), July 18, 2010)


Mainstage: PS I Love You / Diamond Rings

Singer/guitarist Paul Saulnier of Kingston duo PS I Love You fills the stage with guitar and bass (courtesy of foot pedals), bringing a hard-edged rock attack with DOR attitude. Suitable for those who want to hoist their beers up in the air but not alienating those who want to dance.

Listen! P.S. I Love You - Facelove (Recorded at Wavelength 494, The Garrison, December 20, 2009)

Quickly becoming a sensation, Diamond Rings (a.k.a. John O'Regan of local rockers The D'Urbervilles) has gained notice and rapidly-increasing audiences not because of gimmicks or eye-catching videos so much as from bringing some top-notch pop songs to the stage. Presented with increasing assuredness, O'Regan knows how to meld melancholy bedroom pop with electro-glam bombast, pulling off more than a few anthems in the process.

Listen! Diamond Rings - Something Else (Recorded at Owen Pallett's 30th Birthday Party, Lula Lounge, Sunday, September 6, 2009)

Performance Bar: Grand Analog

Reggae and soulful flourishes complement Odario Williams' ecumenical hip-hop, brought to life with an energetic live band. A guaranteed party-starter.

Listen! Grand Analog - Not Enough Mondays (Recorded at Daps All-Ages V, Kapisanan Philippine Centre, April 10, 2010)


Mainstage: The Wilderness of Manitoba

Those who came to folk-rock via Fleet Foxes will find as much to like in this band as those who came to folk-rock via Crosby, Stills & Nash. Featuring warm harmonies and banjo, this band has advanced their craft pretty rapidly in a fairly short time. (appearing with The Mountains & The Trees, Entire Cities and The Weather Station)

Listen! The Wilderness of Manitoba - Evening (Recorded at The Garrison, January 21, 2010)


Mainstage: Picastro / Evening Hymns

The two adjectives that come first to mind when describing Picastro would be "sleepy" and "downer" — this is not music to listen to while operating heavy machinery. But there's a melancholy beauty in the slowly-spun arrangements behind Liz Hysen's songs. Highly recommended for those who don't finch in the face of interiority.

Listen! Picastro - Hortur (Recorded at Wavelength 500 (night 4), SPK Polish Combatants Hall, February 13, 2010)

Jonas Bonnetta's Evening Hymns, meanwhile, also have a bit of a haunted quality to them, evoking ghost-filled forests and abandoned cabins. Working in a roots-y vein, Bonnetta is capable of creating striking music on his own, but fleshed out with a band works toward a ragged grandeur.

Listen! Evening Hymns - Dead Deer (Recorded at the Out of This Spark 3rd Anniversary Party, The Garrison, January 22, 2010)

Performance Bar: Nifty / Bob Wiseman

A one-man band with a laptop and bin full of electronics, Matt Smith (a.k.a Nifty and/or Nif-D) is also a master of the looping pedal, folding layers of his own vocals into his real-time electronic compositions. Equally capable of creating ambient soundscapes and dancefloor bangers, Nif-D never plays the same set twice.

Listen! Nif-D - Centre of Gravity excerpt (Recorded at Centre of Gravity, November 21, 2009. Bite Your Tongue #2)

Returning to the music programme after presenting his musical/theatrical hybrid "Actionable" in last year's SummerWorks, activist, bon vivant and Canadian music legend Bob Wiseman may bring some or all of these elements to this show: guitar, accordion, keyboards, storytelling, outrage, short films, love songs.

Listen! Bob Wiseman - The Disappearing Trick (Summerworks Festival (Factory Studio Theatre). Saturday, August 15, 2009)


Mainstage: Bocce / RatTail

Last chance to dance! As kinetic and mildly chaotic as the sport that they are named after is not, this synth-rockin' crew will probably leave the Lower Ossington Theatre in a sweaty mess.

Listen! Bocce - Disco Juan (Recorded at Lee's Palace (Friends in Bellwoods 2 release party), Friday, August 28, 2009)

Purveyors of a smartly-torqued indie-rock sound, trio RatTail features guitarist Jasmyn Burke's vocals, with a flattened monotone affect that veers off into yelps, as the most immediately arresting element in their arsenal. They fit well against the lean post-punk groove of the music, with Ryan Mounsey's bass often seizing the melodic lead space against the slashing guitar lines.

Listen! RatTail - George Mounsey (Recorded at Wavelength P.S. Kensington, May 30, 2010)

No comments:

Post a Comment