Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Preview: SummerWorks 2014

SummerWorks Performance Festival

August 7-17, 2014

Over the past few years, the Music Series at the SummerWorks Festival has truly come into its own. Instead of just offering a band on a stage, the series' specialty has become its curation of unique events, pairing musicians and artists from other disciplines to create memorable one-off events.

This year's Music Series is curated by the fine folks at Silent Shout, who have their fingers on the city's electronic pulse. It's no surprise, then, that all the Music Series shows are recommended. Here's what's coming, with some selections from my live archives to give you a hint as to what you might hear from these musicians.

  • Brendan Canning / Brendan Healy: One Night, Two Brendans
    Broken Social Scene's Brendan Canning isn't resting on his laurels; instead of just playing nostalgia festivals he's also been exploring new directions in chill. Teaming up with Buddies in Bad Times' Brendan Healy, this night promises a "psychedelic dreamscape... and spectacular video art".
    Listen! Brendan Canning - unknown
    [Friday August 8, 9:00 PM @ The Theatre Centre Main]

  • Army Girls / Cara Spooner: Failure Fest
    Anyone wondering why Army Girls haven't released more of the songs from their repertoire now has a partial answer: the band recorded a full album, but were unsatisfied with the results and ultimately scrapped it. Meditating on artistic failure (and, just perhaps, the opportunity to find gems in the trash heap) Carmen Elle and Andy Smith are going to revisit that album, with Cara Spooner creating "performative disruptions with/on/for them". Omhouse and some other will be joining in as well.
    Listen! Army Girls - unknown
    [Saturday August 9, 9:00 PM @ S--------- Studio Theatre]

  • Weaves / Allison Cummings: Weaves Through Time
    Given that Weaves' Jasmyn Burke has been transforming into one of the city's most dynamic and theatrical frontwomen, this is a nifty bit of programming. Expect somethig dramatic to happen, even if it's not on stage (the venue "will be ransformed into a multi-level space where the bands' live music will be performed with no divide between Weaves, three dancers and their audience.") Choreographer Allison Cummings and set designer Hanna Puley join forces with the band's exploration of being situated in time.
    Listen! Weaves - Know About It
    [Sunday August 10, 9:00 PM @ Lower Ossington Theatre]

  • Lido Pimienta / Natasha Greenblatt: The Secret Garden of Lido Pimienta
    Lido Pimienta delivers her electronic experimentalism with a golden voice and a no-bullshit stance that speaks truth to power. It remains to be seen if her garden (an immersive installation by Natasha Greenblatt with artwork by Gustavo Cerquera Benjumea) is a place of peaceful repose or a survivalist's den of bared fang and claw.
    Listen! Lido Pimienta - Goodbye
    [Wednesday August 13, 9:00 PM @ Lower Ossington Theatre]

  • The Bicycles / Maggie MacDonald / Amy Seigel: Young Drones: A Graphic Novel Rock Opera
    It's intriguing to think of these projects as living, growing things. Young Drones — a fantastic tale of a pair of oilpatch-guarding aerial drones that become self-aware and fall in love — made its debut at the festival last year, and after a Long Winter re-mount, it returns in a more polished form with a multi-night run. That's excellent news, as Amy Siegel's "live performance animation" is just fantastic, and the music includes some of the band's best material yet. Even better, word is that the album version of the songs will be for sale at these shows!
    Listen! The Bicycles - Requiem
    [Thursday August 14, 9:00 PM; Friday August 15,9:00 PM; Saturday August 16, 9:00 PM; Sunday August 17, 4:00 PM @ Lower Ossington Theatre]

  • Light Fires / Adam Lazarus: Do I Have To Do Everything My Fucking Self?
    Ever since showing up under mysterious circumstances, Regina The Gentlelady has been burning up local stages as the high-kicking voice of electro-pop darlings Light Fires. Now, she's sharing her wit and wisdom in a one-woman cabaret that's sure to end with the audience members feeling just a little drrrty — and maybe having learned some lessons in feeling sassy and fabulous. Not to be missed.
    Listen! Light Fires - I Like To Work
    [Thursday August 14,10:00 PM; Friday August 15,10:00 PM; Saturday August 16, 10:00 PM @ Lower Ossington Theatre Cabaret]

[Music Series shows are $15, and available through the online box office and at Soundscapes. $10 tickets for those for 25 and under will be sold, subject to availability, five minutes before doors]

The Music Series is a huge opportunity for bands to re-approach and recontextualize their art — having time, expertise and other resources at hand to do something different is a real luxury. It's also a chance for music fans to encounter new kinds of art and broaden their horizons a little. And in that vein, it's definitely worth taking the plunge into the rest of the Festival. My m.o. is simply to pick a timeslot to commit to the festival and then just go see something new! — which is feasible when performances are a reasonable $15 (or less with various package options). Go see something that'll surprise you! That said, you can also have a gander through the listings for the various offerings on-stage and off. Plus, there were a few other things that caught my eye:

  • This Is Our Last Song: A conversation featuring Jonny Dovercourt, Brendan Canning, Jasmyn Burke, Allison Cummings, Silent Shout
    A sort of adjunct to the music series, this free talk looks at the walls that separate musical and theatrical performance. (For the curious, there are also several over talks in the Conversations series.)
    [Friday, August 15, 2 PM @ Theatre Centre Café/Bar]

  • Maracatu You!
    Aline Morales played the Music series a couple years ago, scintillating with her seductive Brazilian pop. This is a different take on the culture, "the story of how an Afro-Brazilian tradition functions in our city today as a celebration of liberation in the face of oppression." Expect that celebration to be rather boisterous — "Warning: Loud Percussion," offers the program guide in what might be an additional selling point for some.

  • The Water Thief
    Amy Seigel, who's helping re-mount The Bicycles' Young Drones also has a hand in this "haunting fable set in an abandoned East Coast town", which employs "film, performance, live music, shadow puppetry and dance". The music component is under the guidance of Snowblink's Daniela Gesundheit and includes a few other noteworthy locals as well (Alex Samaras, Cheryl Okrant and Evan Cartwright).

  • Common Fate
    I'm not entirely sure what's on offer at this entry in the "Live Art" series, which promises "dance, live music and animated projections" in a "a dream-like performance round". But it's overseen by local artist Zeesy Powers and includes an all-star music crew, including Isla Craig and Brodie West under the direction of Andrew Zukerman.

  • Fathers & Sons: Kamino Family
    I've encountered dancer Benjamin Kamino as a member of Sook-Yin Lee's ensemble LLVK, and here he's attempting a marathon, dancing for six hours straight while his father and brother stage complementary art-interventions around him. A Pay-What-You-Want, drop-in/hang out/come back later event that questions time, space and family ties.

  • Flowchart
    This "series of small-scale multidisciplinary performances" continues from an earlier iteration overseen by dance artist Amelia Ehrhardt. Mixing artforms, this is a great step into the world of dance for anyone curious about the form. [I don't know much about dance myself, so I asked Amelia some questions. Keep an eye out tomorrow for our conversation.]

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