Thursday, July 23, 2015

Recording: Ronley Teper's Lipliners

Artist: Ronley Teper's Lipliners

Song: Love

Recorded at Harbourfront Centre – Lakefront Terrace ("Harbourfront SoundClash" finals), July 11, 2015.

Ronley Teper's Lipliners - Love

Harbourfront's SoundClash contest has always seemed like a bit of an odd beast to me. Stuck with the baggage of a million cruddy Battle of The Bands, the whole thing feels vaguely opaque. (Who's behind this, and why? What's being judged — a band's conceptual "talent", or this particular live performance? How are the winners picked? If the festival brags about the quality of its judges, why does it keep them anonymous? Does the online balloting really matter, or is it populist window-dressing? Should online voting count when almost no-one saw the actual competition? Doesn't that inherently favour the net-savvy, or bands with pre-existing and motivated fanbases, who will click on a vote link spread through social media?) I'd never gotten involved with the whole event before, but given the undoubtable across-the-board quality of the five finalists this year, I decided to check it out.

Another weirdness: given the not-insubstantial sum invested in prize money, one would have thought this would have been set up to garner as much attention as possible instead of being tucked away. Shuffled into the Lakeside Terrace on a busy weekend, the performance environment discouraged passers-by from stopping to check it out, and was more than a little sterile — but at least it was equally so for all of the bands. That said, it also gave everyone a chance to play in a technically-controlled environment, and the three sets I saw all sounded very good. (Note to Harbourfront: this is a really nice room to see a band in — why not host some gigs here on non-super-busy summer weekends?) Rather than a contest to win the affection of the masses, the vibe here was old-fashioned "industry" — a closed-off showcase for artists to impress a secret cabal. It's to the musicians' credit that they still managed to spark some energy and give good performances.

Sometimes a Lipliners show can be a party, with a talented pick-up band learning songs on the fly while the singer vamps (and dashes from the stage to serve drinks!), everything teetering on the edge of falling apart in the most awesome manner possible. For this show, Ronley Teper called in her A-team of backing musicians and kept things fairly steady, playing some of the band's older, well-established material. That solid foundation left a lot of room for Teper to let her radiant personality shine, joking, ad-libbing, talking to members of the audience, and even taking to the floor to encourage a singalong. Singing sometimes like a grumblin' and moanin' Howlin' Wolf, and sometimes like an innocent waif, Teper's material isn't easily pigeonholed. This set (a short thirty minutes for a band that could go for hours if they felt the urge) pulled from both ends of the spectrum, but in this sedate environment, the quieter stuff (like this, and its companion "Faith") really shone, feeling like soundtrack-of-your life moments that you could imagine playing as you walked along the lakefront, slowly pulling back from your own heart's lament into a gigantic crane shot revealing everyone singing along. [This set won Teper second place in the competition.]

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