Since current artistic director Michael Rubenfeld took the reins of the SummerWorks Festival, there have been some significant changes. It’s become a Queen Street West corridor festival (as opposed to the Fringe Festival’s focus on Bathurst); it’s grown even further from its local theatre festival roots to embrace a national perspective; and, in its audacious programming, it’s courted controversy.
But one of the most significant changes Rubenfeld has wrought was the establishment of the SummerWorks Music Series, a concurrent concert series that, in many ways, reflects the focus of the theatre programming; it features a curated selection of some of the best local performers and creators from Toronto, with a smattering of out-of-town acts (the National Series).
For the past three years, for help with programming the festival, Rubenfeld has turned to some of Toronto’s best independent music promoters and programmers, including Evan Newman of Outside Music, Eric Warner of the Over The Top Festival, and Kevin Parnell of the Wavelength music series. This year, the programming is by Lauren Schreiber, the independent promoter behind the celebrated No Shame series. We sat down with Schreiber for an interview about her programming and the bands she’s selected.
Light Fires plays the SummerWorks festival’s opening party at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art tonight.
“The SummerWorks Music Series has been the event in the city that’s best jived with my own musical tastes,” says Schreiber, who notes her own fondness for theatrical musicals, reflected in SummerWorks’ Musical Works in Concert program. “That’s mostly due to the bookers from the past few years—Evan Newman, Eric Warner, and Kevin Parnell—all people I respect a great deal.”
When we note that the festival’s had fortuitous timing, with many of the bands in the news—openers Hooded Fang‘s new album Tosta Mista receiving rave reviews, Bruce Peninsula‘s first full show since bandleader Neil Haverty completed treatment for leukemia—Schreiber smiles. “That’s no accident—that’s strategy. Hooded Fang are touring, Bruce Peninsula are going on the road in September for their new album [Open Flames, due October 4]. Smart bands don’t wait for opportunities to promote themselves; they take them.”
That said, Schreiber reached out to all the acts on the Music Series bill, including many performing at tonight’s opening party and the festival closing bash—save for one notable exception. “I was at an Evening Hymns/The Acorn show at the Black Sheep Inn in Wakefield [Quebec], and Tim Bruton of the D’Urbervilles (now MATTERS) pulled me aside and said, ‘I have this idea for an epic superband—could it play SummerWorks?’ Tim’s one of those people you trust and don’t ask details of. You just say, ‘Yes, go, do.’ And the people in this band [House League]—Jonas Bonetta from Evening Hymns, Leon Taheny from Bruce Peninsula and Germans—are amazing.”
Miracle Fortress, who played the 2009 SummerWorks Music Series, returns on August 12.
For the rest she did reach out to, “Great Bloomers, The Ruby Coast, Green Go… these are acts I have a history with. If you’ve been a regular at No Shame shows, you’ll be able to look at the Music Series line-up and know I programmed it.”
And that’s where the series is distinguishing itself from plenty of local up-and-coming music festivals, she notes. Much like SummerWorks’ theatre programming it features many established theatre companies and creators: “This year isn’t featuring a lot of brand new artists, but it’s old favourites entering new chapters—Bonjay returning from Berlin, Lioness and Green Go’s first Toronto shows in over a year, The Ghost is Dancing reinventing themselves as Powers…” If these acts are new to you, then the chance to catch them at the Music Series may be your last before, like past Music Series acts The Rural Alberta Advantage and Diamond Rings, they’re filling concert halls and getting profiled by Rolling Stone.
Whale Tooth plays the SummerWorks Closing Party on August 14.