Saturday, July 9th, 2005
Free concerts are good. Free concerts taking place down the street from home are better. As part of the opening ceremonies for this year’s Celebrate Toronto! street festival, our fair city assembled a suitably eclectic (read: strange) lineup for a free show at Dundas Square last night. The big draw (for me, anyway), was Broken Social Scene’s closing set. The wild card, however, was something called Les Girafes, Urban Operetta.
Described as “ambulatory spectacle set to original music with elements of circus arts, theatre, dance and opera” and imported from France (duh), what it was nine giant (8-metres high) red giraffe puppet things winding their way through Dundas Square and up and down Yonge St while a clown and giraffe-master woman performed an opera of some description with attendent pyrotechnics and explosions of tissue paper confetti. I found it fascinating to watch these things, huge and elegant – they could have been dragons as much as giraffes – wind their way through the crowd and around the Eaton Centre. It’s rather hard to describe in words – here are some pics.
Not surprisingly, the local message board punters are falling over themselves to come up with clever ways to say how much they hated the giraffes. People around here complain about how dull and unimaginative Toronto is, and then when they do do something that is utterly bizarre and unique, they bitch about it. My take? People just like to complain far too much. Yeah, it’s unfortunate that the operetta went on so long as to cut into Broken Social’s set time, but I thought that witnessing something so utterly surreal was worth it. You’ve seen the band a dozen times before and you’ll see them again – lighten up, Francis.
When Broken Social did finally take the stage, it seemed almost as strange as the giraffes to see them in the white plastic tent set up at the front of the Square. I thought the elevated platform built at the southeast corner was supposed to be a stage? Why the need for a temporary one? The band also seemed to feel a little out of place at the venue, Kevin Drew asking the crowd if it was alright that they were playing there (but saying that got a big wad of cash for it) and Brendan Canning pointing out that one of the giant video screens displaying the show made it appear that they were sponsored by L’Oreal.
Playing with a compact lineup (at least for them) of six to nine members, the Scene on this night was bolstered by the presence of Torq, Amy and Evan from Stars who had just flown in from Stockholm that morning. I had feared that due to scheduling, none of the BSS ladies would be in attendence but Amy’s presence headed off any more “Broken Sausage Scene” jokes I might have made, and believe me, I’d have gone there. Also noteworthy was Evan’s dubious moustache. Uh, no guy. No.
Thanks to the giraffe overrun, BSS had to play a somewhat compressed set that incorporated new material and old – the new stuff sounds so good, Windsurfing Nation will simply destroy. Mark my words. But the abbreviated playing time meant that the band didn’t quite get a chance to get up to full throttle. They’re a jammy act and usually need a little time to find the groove, something they just didn’t have the luxury of on this night. And while the huge crowd was surely inspiring, the antiseptic beer tent stage with the “Toronto Unlimited” branding all over it couldn’t have been a real mood-enhancer.
But complaints seem discourteous. It was a gorgeous night, the crowd was into it, it was free and a lovely time was had by all. Unless you were trampled by a giraffe, but then at least you have a story to tell. I was a little ways back so my photos aren’t the most dynamic I’ve ever taken, but not bad either.
What do you get when you cross a guy with a camera and no compunctions with some makeout point in Japan? Hilarity. And rage. Actually a lot of rage.
np – Longwave / There’s A Fire