Photo of Bob Wiseman courtesy of SummerWorks
Walking into Actionable, one of the first things you’ll notice is the Warner Brothers logo projected onto a screen…only the letters are reversed, spelling out the initials of performer Bob Wiseman. The backward order also represents the backward, frustrating ways of the music industry that Wiseman has experienced over the course of his career. Over the course of the stories and songs that make up Actionable, you’ll learn that lawyers from the major labels aren’t amused when you jokingly decide to pick up a name that a star is not using at the moment, claim relation to an industry executive, and drop the name of a major soft drink manufacturer when singing about 1970s Chilean politics. No wonder a former Rolling Stones manager once called the business “the industry of human happiness.” While often amusing, a melancholy tone underlies much of the material, especially during one song about personal identity.
Wiseman’s songs are accompanied by a series of entertaining, mostly silent films, ranging from re-captioned clips of One Million B.C. to a charming puppet show which makes cancer sores seem cute. Longtime collaborators pop up in the clips, though we were worried for a second that a backwards-shuffling Feist was about to be knocked over by a car in a European alley. It does help to go in with a sense of music history or a passing familiarity with some of the incidents brought up.
The last performance of Actionable is today at 6 p.m.
SummerWorks runs until August 16 at various locations around the city. Check back for Torontoist’s daily coverage throughout the festival.