Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Recording: Germaphobes

Artist: Germaphobes

Songs: Door in the Floor + She's in the Heat of Her Life*

Recorded at Pia Bouman School for Ballet and Creative Movement (SummerWorks Music Series: Heat Shuts Off Overnight), August 13, 2015.

Germaphobes - Door in the Floor

Germaphobes - She's in the Heat of Her Life

The SummerWorks Music series, evolving since its inception in 2008, feels to have really and truly settled into its identity both as another way for SummerWorks to celebrate its growing foregrounding of interdisciplinary art and as a unique feature of the city's live music scene. After a couple years of just stuffing some bands down in the basement to provide an après-play gathering space, 2010's Hidden Cameras spectacular (featuring a "dramatic retelling" their Origin: Orphan album) pointed the way forward — but it wasn't really until 2012 that the festival started to ramp up the practice of pairing musicians with artists from other disciplines to create unique, one-off events.

It was finally in 2013 that the "mature" music series fully emerged, with stand-out events from Maylee Todd and Snowblink. Since then, collaboration has moved to the centre. Last year saw the series' first visit to the Pia Bouman School at the edge of Parkdale, which became their home this year, giving the Series its own space (and a cool pop-up venue). Adam Bradley and the returning Andrew Pulsifer have played to the series' strengths with their musical curation, and all of the works this year felt like good additions to a series whose legacy includes the future memories of these one-of-a-kind shows.

In the tradition of The Bicycles' Young Drones, a band with songwriting energy to burn showed up at SummerWorks with a full set of new material, and a multimedia stage show to match. More of a loosely-defined concept album than a full-on rock opera, Heat Shuts Off Overnight nevertheless gained a reasonable amount of narrative heft thanks to the projection/puppetry work of Sarah Fairlie and Erin Fleck as well as Joanne Sarazen's acting as the band's on-stage avatar, an ennui-laden near-future urbanite looking for entertainment (or salvation) in her virtual-reality goggles. The storyline was left non-didactically loose, but the visual interplay of memory and desire was quite expressive enough — as well as the message that in the end, maybe what you need most is someone to dance with. (Not even some technical difficulties could derail the live presentation — in fact, in context of the show's themes, a couple ghosts in the system felt totally appropriate.)

Musically, Neil Rankin and Paul Erlichman have added keyboards to their core group since I last saw 'em, and added some additional musical heft with special guests Sean Dunal (a.k.a. Sexy Merlin, percussion) and Karen Ng (alto sax, flute) joining them for the whole set. But besides pushing their sound away from the garage and towards New Wave glory (there was no shortage of Talking Heads in this set), the biggest conceptual leap forward was in the songwriting, with the band moving from snark to sympathy. Still, most of these songs could easily slip right into their regular setlists — though hopefully someone will take the initiative to mount a restaging of this ambitious enterprise. (And in the meantime, let's hope that the band strikes while the iron is hot and records these tunes, preserving this creative outburst as a concept album, just as The Bicycles did.)

* Thanks to Paul for passing along the titles to these ones.

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