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Jason Collett’s Basement Revue, Thursday, December 13. Rating: NNNN
Soul-folk songwriter and guitarist Bahamas (Afie Jurvanen) was the headliner for the second installment of the sixth annual Jason Collett-curated Basement Revue, but even he didn't know that until he showed up at 8 p.m. "Jason's serious about the mystery aspect of the night," he said. "He keeps us as in the dark as you."
Collett - who was away for the first concert last week (when Buck 65 filled in for him) opened the evening with a couple acoustic songs, setting the tone for what turned out to be a thoroughly high caliber coffeehouse-style evening at the Dakota.
Fiver (Simone Schmidt from One Hundred Dollars' solo project) played early to allow the songwriter to get to another gig, followed by BookThug's Jay MillAr, who read excerpts from poetry he had emailed to himself from the desk of a job he was about to leave.
PEI's Al Tuck, who had recently played a few other dates in Toronto and Peterborough, was a nice surprise. Collett introduced him as a songwriters' songwriter, listing off a who's who of fans (Jurvanen later joked that he'd like that intro too). Tuck lived up to the hype, though in his signature unpredictable, shaky way - he had to circle back on some of his lyrics on Stranger At The Wake and closed with a new gospel song about how there is a god - the Toronto crowd didn't seem to know what to make of that.
The audience was, however, impressively receptive to the literary guests - more so than literary crowds typically are to musicians - and poet Jeff Latosik read, as did Pasha Malla (who pulled out a pot-inspired fantasy letter to Michael Cera).
The only poppy full band of the night was Molly Rankin's group Always, who've been together about a year, and are getting better and better ("I don't know how we got this gig, we're still grubs," she said). I overheard someone comparing them to Best Coast, but these young East Coasters in Toronto aren't as garage.
At the end of the night Jennifer Castle - somehow more magically earthy and poised than ever before - played a batch of new songs from her upcoming record, and Bahamas followed suit with new songs of his own.
This is the series' sixth year, The last show at the Dakota (December 27) is already sold out, but there will be a show at the Great Hall on Thursday December 20, which Collett says you will kick yourself in the ass for not going to if you don't go to it (once you find out who the mystery guests are).