JASON COLLETT with ANDRE ETHIER , WAYNE PETTI , JULIE FADER and CHAD ROSS as part of Radio Mondays at Supermarket (269 Augusta), Monday (March 21). $8. 416-840-0501. Rating: NNNNN
Talk to the members of the loving but dysfunctional family that is Broken Social Scene and there's a general consensus that Jason Collett is the glue that holds 'em together.
Since agreeing to open for the Scene on tour led to the singer/songwriter and trained woodworker's absorption into the mighty morphin' power band, Collett's become a level-headed dad figure to counterbalance the histrionics that are the nature of the Broken beast. If they were the Monkees, he'd be Mike Nesmith.
Although Collett doubtless perfected his talent for mediation through child-rearing (he has two teenage kids), he most likely learned to navigate drama-queen-musician personalities and build community while running his much-loved Radio Mondays series, a songwriters' circle showcase that thrived at Ted's Wrecking Yard (R.I.P.).
Collett's re-launching his popular Monday-night series during his Broken hiatus, partly cuz he misses the intimacy of letting listeners see artists as human beings.
"Radio Monday is about what you don't see, what goes on in kitchens and rehearsal spaces and studios," he explains. "I like putting on a show where audiences see performers they know with everything totally stripped down, totally vulnerable.
"A lot of the bigger names who've come close to doing it have chickened out. Jay Ferguson (of Sloan) said he'd love to do it, but he was too afraid. When Gord Downie went solo a few years back, he was so nervous that we tried a crazy experiment where he played with his whole band but the members participated as songwriters.
"But once you get over the fear, it's really enjoyable. The more mistakes there are, the better. Everybody laughs, the tension is broken and everyone loosens up."
That anything-goes ethos has resulted in some pretty crazy shit - like Lindy's humongous single-evening booze tab or Deep Dark United's Alex Lukashevsky's jaw dropping when Haligonian drifter Al Tuck did his thing, or friendly competition escalating into an all-out slagfest after too much lubrication (ask him about the time Carolyn Mark was called a "fucking slut").
He's especially happy when participants really fuck with preconceived notions about the medium, like the Monday that featured Three Gut savant Jim Guthrie's turn with a Sony PlayStation.
"It's not like an anal folk thing," insists Collett. "It's about songs."
The timing of the -relaunched Mondays series is particularly smart, since Collett's got a new album tentatively slated for a June release. Though he's been dying to release something new, like, forever (his last disc, Motor Motel Love Songs, was actually just a collection of material from his earlier indie releases), he's had to be strategic.
"There's so much traffic at Arts & Crafts, and we've been trying to keep it as far away from the Social Scene stuff as possible, which is difficult, because nobody knows when those albums are gonna be finished, although they're aiming for August," he laughs ruefully. "It's plural now - there are two or three records being made at once."
This time round, Collett teamed up with stellar sad sack Howie Beck - whom he calls "the Woody Allen of rock 'n' roll" - as a producer, instead of long-time collaborator Andrew Cash. The album covers some of the same turf as the tunes on Motor Motel Love Songs, namely Collett's lingering trauma over growing up in the godforsaken suburban hell of Bramalea. The stuff he previewed, appropriately enough, at the Toronto Public Space Committee benefit, was great - a lot of intense shit about smoking pot, getting to second base and Catholic guilt.
Collett's songs deal so openly with his wild youth that you've gotta wonder whether he feels weird about his kids being exposed to their father's foibles.
"Naw, as a parent, I've chosen not to have too much mystique around stuff like sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. Last summer I was sitting in my kitchen with the band, and my daughter wandered in. Kevin (Drew), who's like an uncle to them, grabs her and says, 'Olivia, your father's in the hottest rock band in Toronto. Don't you think that's awesome?'
"She just rolls her eyes into the back of her head and says, 'You guys are such losers,' and walks out.
"They kick my ass that way."