JASON COLLETT at Lula Lounge (1585 Dundas West), tonight (Thursday, June 26). $8. 416-538-7405. Rating: NNNNN
for anyone familiar with jason Collett's long-running Radio Mondays singer/songwriter series, a goofily intimate "kitchen jam" (in his words) that gathers this town's best tune-slingers for stripped-down song circles, it's no shocker that the dude's obsessed with community - musical or otherwise. So Collett's recent incorporation into the amorphous musical collective that is Broken Social Scene seems like a no-brainer. His initiation started back in the fall, when Scenester Kevin Drew asked Collett to open for the band on a prospective tour. But "opening" takes on new meaning when you're dealing with such a loose-knit outfit. Collett started jamming with the crew and never stopped, even though the tour fell through.
Watching Collett rocking out with a blissed-out grin on his face during the sold-out Broken Social Scene show at Lee's Palace a few weeks ago, you felt like the guy had found his chosen family.
"We don't give much of a shit about Rolling Stone or Time Out, but we had scalpers outside Lee's Palace, and that was the big time for us," Collett effuses over the phone. He's just pulled back into Toronto after a whirlwind weekend in New York City, where his new band played two consecutive nights at the sold-out Mercury Lounge and drew over 400 fans to an in-store gig at indie record store Other Music (think Soundscapes in the Big Apple).
Sure, Collett admits, there are drawbacks to maintaining a band the size of a Toronto suburb.
"Our guest list is outrageous. Over 125 people on the guest list both nights at Lee's Palace! We've gotta get that under control, 'cause it's not like we're making money by doing that. But it is what the spirit of the band is about!"
Intriguingly, Collett's solo stuff stands in polar opposition to the meandering, atmospheric abstracto art jams that are garnering Broken Social Scene such praise. His newest disc, Motor Motel Love Songs, which dropped back in November and has just been re-released by indie major label Arts & Crafts (an EMI subsidiary and the brainchild of Drew, who teamed up with buddies Jeffrey Remedios and Daniel Cutler), is elegantly rootsy singer/songwriter craft, rugged vignettes that get Collett tagged as the Tom Petty of the BSS community.
Although the tunes on the disc were culled from two earlier bare-bones indie releases (1999's Chrome Reflection and 2001's Bitter Beauty), not one whiff of staleness emanates from its 12 tracks.These are rock-solid tunes that have the simple resonance of lasting classics.
Collett says that playing for new audiences has breathed new life into the songs.
"I feel like I've got a great advantage, being able to put out the 'best of' so far and have it be treated as a debut. But what made me able to do this in the first place was realizing that bands do this now. Even that Hives record that blew up, that was a compilation of seven records. Often when bands are released in other countries, they're doing the best-of so far. I just decided, what the fuck, nobody knows me outside Toronto. So we got lucky doing it."
Within Toronto, however, Collett is a mainstay. He's been around for two decades now, playing with folks like Andrew Cash in former band Bird and building up institutions like Radio Mondays. Musicians line up to participate in the singer/songwriter series, which thrills Collett, who started it up out of a desire to create the community he lacked growing up in Bramalea.
"I ran away to finish school in Toronto when I was 17 because I knew I couldn't live there any more. I hit my 30s and found myself wondering what happened to people I went to high school with. I felt this longing to actually revisit it, but there was nothing to revisit."