JANA HUNTER with LESSER GONZALEZ ALVAREZ, JOHN TIELLI’S METAL KITES and PETE SAMPLES at Rancho Relaxo (300 College), tonight (Thursday, August 21), 9 pm. $5. 416-920-0366.
Until Baltimore's Michael Phelps swam his way to an unprecedented eight gold medals at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Maryland's "City That Reads" was better known as the hometown of John Waters, the Preakness Stakes and perennial American League also-rans the Orioles.
Bmore's music scene hasn't had much to chirp about either, but local electronic artist Dan Deacon has a grand plan to raise awareness of his city's blossoming creative arts community. The Baltimore Round Robin puts more than 60 of the most exciting artists on the road for a seven-stop tour (coming as close as Pop Montreal October 4 and 5) in which the players form a perimeter encircling the audience and knock out songs one after another, relay-style.
Transplanted Texas singer/songwriter Jana Hunter, currently residing in Baltimore, will be riding with that caravan of veggie-powered vehicles, so we'll get a preview of what she has in store for her Round Robin appearances when she's joined by her Bmore crew at Rancho Relaxo tonight. The low-key Hunter sounds atypically upbeat about participating in the travelling extravaganza.
"Have you heard about all the bands that are doing the Baltimore Round Robin thing?" she shouts down the line. "Besides Dan Deacon and us, there's Beach House, DeathSet, Creepers, Blood Baby, Nautical Almanac, Teeth Mountain, Double Dagger, Lexie Mountain Boys and just a ton of other great people. It's an exciting concept.
"Since I moved to Baltimore about a year ago, I found that the music community is really, really strong and active, so it's been a lot more fun for me than anywhere I've lived in Texas, particularly Houston."
Coming from Hunter, who left Austin for Baltimore, that's saying a lot. Yet recalling the puzzled "Jana who?" looks I got from hipster record store clerks in Austin when I inquired about the split 12-inch Hunter released jointly with Devendra Banhart on the Troubleman Unlimited label in 2005, it's doubtful anyone in Austin is aware that Hunter was living there, let alone knows she's relocated to Crabtown.
"I found Austin to be very haughty and cliquish, and I'm not a big fan of that. It's a city that's aware of how cool it is, and I definitely don't get that feeling from Baltimore. I really like it there. I'm planning on recording my next album in Baltimore, some time in December maybe, once I get through all this touring, which should take me right through November."
All the roadwork Hunter has put in with her band since the release of last year's fab There's No Home (Gnomonsong) disc will definitely have an effect on the shape of the full-length follow-up, which will likely sound less like a solitary endeavour than anything Hunter has issued under her own name since her Matty & Mossy days.
"Playing the songs from There's No Home with this band I've got now and seeing how the songs have developed has been an interesting experience. I'd like to write the next album with an ensemble in mind and make the whole thing more of a group effort rather than something I've created in isolation. With the possible exception of the core writing, I'd prefer the next album to be entirely collaborative.
"I grew up working in the ultimate group experience of playing violin in an orchestra from the time I was nine years old. I didn't start playing guitar and writing songs until I was 15, and maybe because I was a teenager, the whole process of writing in isolation
felt therapeutic and cathartic.
That continued through my early 20s, when I realized I no longer needed to write open-wound songs alone in my
A Goblin, A Goblin (Jana Hunter)
There's No Home (Jana Hunter)