Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Preview/Contest: SummerWorks 2016

SummerWorks Performance Festival

August 4-14, 2016

The SummerWorks Festival's Music Series is no more. In the interest of promoting the increasingly interdisciplinary nature of the the festival's offerings, the separate streams for music and dance have been folded into the greater whole. This proves a point and reflects an on-the-ground reality, but the conceptual elegance of this approach can make it feel like a bit of a slog to a music fan trying to dig through the undifferentiated mass of offerings in the festival schedule.

That said, the same team of Adam Bradley and Andrew Pulsifer (who did an excellent job with last year's music offerings) are back at the helm this year, so once again there's a lot of excellent music content in the festival. To make things a little easier, I'm going to break down the music offerings here — and then offer some suggestions for a few further avenues that curious ears might go exploring down.

[These shows all take place at the Pia Bouman School for Ballet and Creative Movement, not far from Queen and Dufferin. The songs tagged with Listen! below are live recordings from the MFS archive.]

  • Inamorata sees the awesome musical force that is Maylee Todd celebrating the release of her third record by having La-Nai Gabriel rearrange its songs to be performed by an all female band. Todd turned the Great Hall into a Musical Planetarium at her previous SummerWorks appearance. That one encouraged her audience to bring their own blankets and lie back in quiet contemplation; this time out things will probably be more raucous.
    Listen! Maylee Todd - I Can't Stand It
  • Summer Drift Speaking of lying on the floor, this afternoon-long drop-in/drop-out drift promises that "yoga mats and pillows will be provided so the audience and performers can lie down, relax and take in the immersive sounds." Read that again and note that this one is going to be so laid-back that even the performers have the option to lie down. The new age/ambient meditative sounds and drones will be distributed throughout the room, so those that do want to remain ambulatory can create their own "mix" simply by shifting their location. Conceptualized by Brandon Hocura, he'll be joined by an all-star team of local musicians, including Craig Dunsmuir, Jonathan Adjemian, Vic Cheong, Matt Shaw, Randy Gagne, Andrew Zuckerman, Sandro Perri, and the members of Doomsquad. Not to be missed!
  • D'BI. & THE 333 Live Concert The fiercely-multidisciplinary d'bi.young anitafrika (an internationally celebrated African-Jamaican dubpoet, playwright-monodramatist, arts-educator and more) focuses her energy in a musical direction here, fronting a band composed of some top-notch players from across several different scenes, mixing her conscious lyrics with dancefloor grooves.
  • Glitter Jesus / GOGGLES MUST BE WORN AT ALL TIMES This double-feature brings together a couple different flavours from two faves in local indie rock circles. Kurt Marble's glam-grunge pop-shred sounds fall headlong into concept-album territory with the tale of the Glitter Jesus, while Zoo Owl, who has always given equal conceptual space to both his visual and musical output presents a high-concept cinematic tech demo.
    Listen! Kurt Marble - Replacement
  • Sound Circuitz More than just a pair of performances from Baby Cages and Special Costello, this production from Basement Studio Project (Natalie Logan, Heather Rappard, and Baby Cages' Halloway Jones) deploys "sculpture, light, and mirrors to create an immersive environment inspired by early computer generated animations." Live a life of virtual reality well outside the uncanny valley.
    Listen! Baby Cages - In Time
  • High Blood is a joint effort from electro/RnB crew DATU and dance collective HATAW. Members of the Filipino-Canadian community, both groups celebrate traditional elements of their culture while also responding to new technologies and their own diasporic context. In performance, these crews are dynamite; having a chance to present a "participatory theatre experience inside an immersive world of Filipino superstition, mythology, and ritual that clashes ancient Philippine customs with North-American swagger" should make this a memorable experience.
    Listen! DATU - Halo Halo Man


Thanks to SummerWorks, I am giving away two tickets to any of these music shows — your pick! To enter, shoot me an email to mechanicalforestsound@gmail.com, with "summerworks" in the title and your name and choice of show in the body. I'll randomly draw a winner on Friday, August 5th at noon.

Meanwhile, outside the now-imaginary constraints of the music series, there are a few other things that caught my eye:

  • Bleeders Besides performing with her band, d’bi.young anitafrika brings this "Afro-futurist dub-opera" (set in a far-future post-apocalyptic Toronto) to the festival.
  • Duets for Beginners Clayton Lee's series of intimate pop-up performances will see him making his grandmother's wonton recipe, chatting with strangers online, and joining with his mother to attempt to animate her entire collection of wind-up toys.
  • Tomorrow's Child Billed as "a one-of-kind audio-only theatre experience", this presents an adaptation of a Ray Bradbury short science-fiction story to a blindfolded audience.
  • Empire of Night A sleepover party for grown-ups, this night-long event "enacts an eight-hour dreamscape structured around the biological rhythms that make up a good night’s sleep." Created by theatre artist Adam Paolozza, musician Matt Smith (aka Prince Nifty), sound/video artist Charles Ketchabaw, and dance artist Kari Pederson.
  • No Context Although this solo dance improvisation from Amelia Ehrhardt is developed out of the formal constraints of meta-commentary on past artistic practices (the original commission was to create new work inspired by archival documents from one of Canada's seminal experimental dance groups from active the 1970s) I wouldn't expect it to be academic or merely dry historicism. Indeed, it's more a launching point for some of Ehrhardt's personal concerns, with a text composed "while drunk for the past year and a half" and read by Catherine Ribeiro. ("The work touches on, but is not about, gender imbalance, frustration, city council, bureaucracy, The Creative Process, desire, and pop music.")

The fine print: single-performance tickets are $15, and there are various pass options available. You can find all the ticket information here. Remember (even for those music events!) that the festival runs on theatre time, so do not be fashionably late!

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