Area: One schedule
Sunday (July 22), 3 to 11 pm, the Docks (11 Polson), $55-$65. 416-870-8000.
3:50-4:30 pm The New Deal
4:50-5:35 pm The Roots
6:05-7:05 pm Incubus
7:35-8:45 pm OutKast
9:20-10:40 pm Moby
2:30-3:30 pm Rinoçerôse>>
4:30-6:30 pm Carl Cox
6:30-7:30 pm Orb
7:30-9:30 pm Paul Oakenfold
9:30-10:40 pm Kevin Saunderson
you can be sure that torontotrio the New Deal never make the same mistake twice. That's because they never play the same set.Frontman and keyboardist Jamie Shields says their playing is so on-the- spot that they use only a loose slate of reference points as a set list.
"We have about 10 or 12 themes that we'll play every so often. They're like touchstones between improvisations, giving a flow to the set. They also give names to the jams."
Shields, drummer Darren Shearer and bassist Dan Kurtz make dance-happy, electronic house samplings verging on the ambient and jazzy converge with a completely improvised, organic jam. The result is a funky, hypnotic groove that takes fresh directions with every tempo, teasing the tune beyond the 20-minute mark and compelling beat junkies and jam-band seekers to dance together.
They only join in on the Toronto stop of Area: One's 16-city tour, but they'll also be part of the whopper roster of DJs at the Mekka Electronic Music Festival hitting Molson Park, Barrie, August 5.
It's appropriate that the New Deal take the stage after a DJ, since you never know what they'll dish out to audiences. Shields says their jams create the kind of vibe that appeals to followers of the Grateful Dead and Phish, junkies of long, mostly improvised sets.
"When we started to play the U.S., we never really understood our appeal to that crowd except for one thing, that our music is totally improvised," he says after a flight from Quebec City and a nap.
"Because so much of our set is based on interaction with the audience, whatever energy they're giving us we tend to give back in some musical shape."
No wonder Shields experiences some frustration when he tries to describe the New Deal sound.
"We're too live for electronic music and too electronic for your standard live act," he says.
Each member of the threesome paid his dues playing in bands like One Step Beyond, Gypsy Soul and Que Vida before starting the New Deal in 1999. From humble roots playing jazzy gigs at the Comfort Zone, they soon signed a major-label deal with Jive/Electro. Their first creation under the label's aegis is a four-track EP -- each track is only about five minutes long -- titled Receiver, available July 24.
Taped from their winter American tour, it's an enhanced CD project that also contains a mini-movie featuring performances and interviews from their Opera House gigs last May.
It was obviously not a simple project, since their improv leanings demand deep audience interaction. Shields solved the problem by interweaving live shows and studio recordings into a fluid compilation.
"We've done hundreds of hours in the studio, but found we needed the feeling of an audience. When we were sitting in the studio staring at brick walls, there was such a dry vibe. So we recorded all these shows and sat down with 120 hours of music."
Now they're back in their Toronto studio to record their self-titled debut, slated for shelves September 25. Two songs from the Receiver EP, Sub Sky and Moonscraper, will appear on the full-length.
To record their live gigs with studio-quality sound, last December they invested their label's advance into a mind-blowing mobile recording rig. The unit's cost ran somewhere around $20,000.
"For a lot of people who hook up with a major label, that's their catering bill," he says. "We're extremely low-risk and low-maintenance that way. We'd told Jive/Electro that if they'd give us the ability to record, we would."
Taping shows is something they've strived for since day one. Back then, they recorded on analog cassettes. Then they moved to DAT and mini-disc, and now they burn right onto CDs, taking live recording technology to the next level.
Since their formation two years ago, Shields has played band librarian, cataloguing their live recordings. He now has over 1,000 hours of music from about 300 shows and boasts he's captured at least 250 of them.
"I'm a big proponent of having it, so I gotta put my money where my mouth is," he laughs while peering into his filing cabinet of material. "I don't have time any more to listen to all of it, but I make a written note at the end of the show if I really like something."