Friday, September 18, 2015

Festival: Intersection 2015

INTERsection 2015 (Saturday, September 5, 2015)

(feat. Flowers Of Hell / The Element Choir / Tatsuya Nakatani / Music In The Barns with #1000Strings / Not The Wind, Not The Flag / Taktus / Knurl / Christof Migone / Dreamed Meat

Here's a few thoughts about the event in general. Click on the names above to check out my recordings from the day.

A year ago, there was a feeling in the air that the Intersection Festival was ripe for renewal. As things came together, it turned out that precisely that thing came to pass, with the day-long festival returning as a stripped-down/noised-up affair. There was a bit of a conceptual pivot in the curation, focusing less on the new music/contemporary classical sounds that have been the festival's mainstay and presenting a broader gathering of experimental sounds.

This year's festival was presented in association with Burn Down the Capital, and the influence of BDtC's Tad Michalak could be felt in the day's programming. Thus, while the festival has slipped in some abrasive noise before (I have fond memories of seeing Disguises and Roman Pilates in YDS), there was a greater willingness than before to double down on distortion, especially in the day's earlier going. It remains utterly wonderful to know that there's even one day a year that the ad-bath concrete canyon can play host to something sonically disruptive.

It also represents a weird experiment in putting music that's usually hidden away in small DIY spaces in front of the general public. It's comforting, at one level, to witness how spectacularly ignorable pretty much anything can be, and nice to see that a few people, in approaching some strange sounds without baggage, can totally get into it. (There's also, admittedly, a bit of a thrill in freaking people out — one of my favourite moments of the day was watching a guy coasting through the square on his bike during Knurl's set, shouting, "this is fucking crap!")

The festival also put the music closer to the audience this year, working in three "stage" zones right on the floor of the square instead of up on the big stage. Except for during Flowers of Hell's closing set, this worked out very well. The apogee of this came during Music In The Barns' participatory presentation of John Oswald's "Spectre", which filled the square with violinists, cellists, violists and bassists, completely obliterating the performer/audience boundary.

Pivoting to a couple other large ensembles (Flowers of Hell and Element Choir) gave the night-side of the festival a bit more heft that the day's smaller-but-noisier ensembles couldn't match, and closing with Flowers of Hell's symphonic orch-rock (complete with operatic soprano vocals) linked this year's festival to its roots.

It remains a bit of a struggle to turn this into a "destination" event as opposed to a stumbled-upon discovery, but the fact that there was a lot of elbow room to hear this music serves as a most appealing feature to me, and this new configuration was very worthy as the one day of the year that I bother going out of my way to hang out in Yonge-Dundas Square. Kudos for Contact to have the vision to push beyond the Intersection status quo, and kudos to Tad Michalak for putting together an entertaining day out. There's so much room for growth here — music like this needs new and different audiences, and just as importantly, various strains of experimental and boundary-pushing music need chances to be in the same spaces and cross-pollinate.

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