Friday, August 15, 2008

SummerWorks music, part 1.

Wednesday and Thursday nights I was out at the Theatre Centre at Queen and Dovercourt for SummerWorks concerts. The nights featured Will Currie & the Country French, the Diableros (both Wednesday), Claire Jenkins avec Band, and one of my most favourite groups, the Rural Alberta Advantage (Thursday). Overall, Thursday was a better night than Wednesday, but I loved the headliners on both nights.

The venue hosting the shows is usually reserved for theatre, I take it (and the name implies). It's a neat little place, with a high stage, space for a dance floor in front, and then rised seating. The first night, we sat on the risers; the next, there were chairs set up.

Wednesday things got going at about 10:45pm, making things late but not too late. Will Currie and co. had a bunch of sound problems. I couldn't tell, but they were clearly frustrated by it, and I thought could have done a better job at handling the situation. There's no need to let everyone in the room know your troubles. Also, guys, you could really work on your between-show banter. Tell us about your record, about shows you've played out of town, etc. You know, something better than the name of the song and can we please have more vocals in the monitors. But, anyways. They played just fine. I preferred the second half of their set. I've seen this band three times now. They are good, and certainly have a different sound than other indie bands, but they don't really do it for me. At least not this night. Think the record is pretty good, though.

Next up, the Diableros. This was one of my favourite acts that I saw during NxNE, and just happens to now include (since the winter) two friends of mine. So it's a real treat to see them not only because I love the band's sound---live, and on record with a different lineup---but because I get to see them play! It took a couple songs for me to get really into things, but once I did, wow. What a great set. It was a bit short, at less than 30 minutes, but the last few songs were amazing. The crowd had thinned out a bit, so a few of us had no problem sitting on the floor and looking up at the band on stage. A great way to experience them (for me) but a shame for the band---these guys are awesome! They really should be filling venues. I look forward to seeing them again on a better night. It won't be as intimate, but they energy they'll create with the right crowd will be something else.

Which brings us to Thursday. Another good lineup, this time with a band I'd never seen before followed by a band I've seen a good handful of times. Claire Jenkins et al. got going a good 30 minutes later than they ought to have. Without knowing for sure, I think the band itself is to blame for 20 minutes of that. Usually, this isn't such a problem, but starting an opening set at 11:15pm at a venue not on the subway line isn't really such a smart idea. Good thing I enjoyed the music. Claire herself is a lovely singer and animated performer. Not too over the top, but there were theatrics and props. If it'd been two hours earlier, I would probably have eaten it all up. But as midnight approached and there were candles lit, toasts made, band members introduced, and curtains set up, I started to get a wee bit annoyed. It was well after midnight when they finished playing. Not cool, to my mind. But I'd recommend seeing them if you get a chance. In the right setting they'd be charming. Beautiful songs played by skilled musicians who know how to perform for an audience. I just wish they'd been more aware of the time.

Finally, the RAA. This is a fantastic band. It's three members (Nils Edenloff, Amy Cole, and Paul Banwatt) all are perfect in their roles, and work marvelously together. It really is a treat to see and hear them. Their set list started slow, built up at bit, took a break for a beautiful solo---a cover performed by front-man Nils Edenloff---then got fast again, ending with their goodnight song, performed in the middle of the room to a silent crowd. Awesome, in the true sense of the word. They are at heart a folk-pop trio, but with a real energy that enlivens a room and demands clapping and dancing. Looks like tonight they sold a few records---the 100 percent excellent "Hometowns"---signed autographs, and won over a bunch of new fans. Good. As it should be. (Why are they not signed and selling that disk to people all over the world?) Too bad they were forced into such a late start. Subwayers had to leave a few songs shy of the end.

So, SummerWorks. Good on you for adding a musical component. It's nice to see this kind of crossover between theatre and music, which introduces local indie bands to people who might not know of them otherwise. The lineups for each of the 8 nights of music were all chosen very well. I take it the sound problems are improving, and the light issues that plagued the Diableros' set---why turn the lights completely off a few times? WHY?---had been worked out by Thursday. I look forward to the next two nights, and to next year's festival. By then the technical and scheduling/timing issues should be all fixed, and we can all just enjoy the shows.

No comments: