Photo by Jeremy R. Jansen, courtesy of CanvasMedia.
Come for the music, stay for the spoken word at Jason Collett‘s basement revue.
Indeed, the folk rocker and Broken Social Scenester makes a point of the multidisciplinary nature of the third-annual variety show, going every Tuesday night in December at the Dakota Tavern (249 Ossington Avenue). Noting high-profile BSS alums may initially attract more people—though mum on the total lineup, he says Kevin Drew will be there in earnest to host at least one night, and past revues have included Buck 65, Serena Ryder, and Apostle of Hustle’s Andrew Whiteman—Collett wants to showcase the local spoken-word artists (among them friend and co-organizer Kevin Connolly), poets, novelists, and even comics on the playbill.
The reason being, he says, that artisans of the printed word don’t receive the same credit and time in the spotlight as their musical counterparts, and it’s high time he does something to rectify it.
“You’re going to get to see a couple of big names, which allows me to reveal a couple of lesser-known names that should be known,” says Collett. “There’s incredible talent among writers in this country and they truly are the bottom rung in the art world.” (At this, Collett’s told he preaches to the choir; he laughs in turn.) “It’s pretty enriching to see a poet read not in front of a stuffy audience, but in front of people who aren’t even there for them, but really get turned on by it. That’s what really interests me in exploring this thing further.”
Music geeks can expect the odd impromptu jam session to break out, however. Collett notes such instances “expose what we do when nobody’s looking, the moments musicians are privy to in the privacy of a rehearsal space where we discover a hook or a harmony” which can often lead to albums.
Moreover, it’s an opportunity to sniff the guts of the burgeoning enclave of artists around Ossington and Dundas, a neighbourhood Collett and his family have called home for some six years since its bygone days of “a seedy strip bar, doughnut shop, and some drug exchange.”
It’s an art scene Collett believes is under threat from a “culture of safety” perpetrated in part by the bureaucracy of City Hall, citing strict fire codes limiting the amount of people able to attend a show and dispense revenue supporting the artists there as one example. The city’s role is to support and not strangle small business, he says.
In any case, with or without help, the culture will flourish, big money will move in, and gentrification will inevitably happen, says Collett. So enjoy it while you can, before the condos and coffee shop chains take over.
“Ossington has been under attack and unfortunately culture gets caught in the crossfire,” he says. “You take a poor neighbourhood and artists move in there and then the café culture starts. You can’t blame artists for that; they’re just going where they can afford to go. The culture flowers and then the big bucks move in, your Starbucks and whatever else.”
Jason Collett’s third annual basement revue goes every Tuesday night in December at 10 p.m. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 at Soundscapes and Rotate This! in advance, $25 at the door.