Snappy Cameras

Toronto pop orchestra's gay folk church takeover

HIDDEN CAMERAS opening for
PEACHES at the Horseshoe (370
Queen West), tonight (Thursday, January
10). $8. 416-598-4753.

Rating: NNNNN

there are, at last count, 10 peo-ple in the Hidden Cameras, not including the group’s two balaclava-and-underwear-clad go-go dancers.In the year since singer/songwriter Joel Gibb began recording charmingly titled songs like Ode To Self Publishing Fear Of Zine Failure and Steal All You Can Motherfucker on his home four-track, the group have gone from a quaint home studio project to a full-fledged pop army that many are calling one of the bands to watch in 2002.

Featuring rattling tambourines, organ, violin, horns and harp but rooted in Gibb’s acoustic strumming and plaintive singing, the Cameras call their soft pop “gay folk church music.”

“People like to label your music,” Gibb explains over a lunch of fries and baked beans, “so why not be creative and do it yourself? The folk thing’s fairly obvious, but the other two words get people confused sometimes.

“We have a churchy aesthetic. There’s a lot of organ and singing, and it’s celebratory. It’s joyous music. It’s not just gay, it’s gay.”

It’s at their shows that the Hidden Cameras have been garnering a reputation for being one of the T.O.’s most unusual bands. Over the past 12 months the group have played sets in art galleries, a porn theatre, a church and a Jewish seniors home.

Charming renditions of songs from the Cameras’ scratchy Ecce Homo debut are offered, but the band also gets fans involved through coordinated dance steps, encouraged audience participation and a general good-time feeling. It’s strikingly different from the crossed-arm crowd reaction at most live music shows in Toronto.

“Everyone says people never dance at shows in Toronto, that everyone seems like they’re in a bad mood, but we’ve never had a show like that,” organist Justin Stayshyn laughs. “The first show we did was insane, with people leaping around and the windows fogging up.”

“A lot of those people are our friends,” Gibb adds. “They don’t have a lot of inhibitions, and they get people going. The dancers help, too, and they’re in their underwear, so you can’t really hold back. Even in the church show, someone was crowd-surfing in the pews.

“Playing in bars is fine, but the atmosphere’s always the same. When we played in the seniors home as part of entertainment week, we played our own music as well as some Jewish folk songs. I thought it went over really badly because half the crowd was asleep, but some people were clapping and singing along, so I guess it worked.”

The real challenge now will be capturing that spectacular energy on record when the Hidden Cameras head into Andy Magoffin’s House of Miracles studio later this month.

This will be the first full-band recording for the Cameras — Ecce Homo was just Gibb and his four-track — and the singer’s got some appropriately epic ideas.

“I want it really lush and grand,” Gibb confirms. “Four of us are initially going to the studio, and then we’re going to add horns, strings, the harp, a choir and a church organ. I think it’ll be a lot of friends who come by to help. We’ll get 10 people together for some soft humming or something.”

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