RHEOSTATICS with KEVIN HEARN at the Art Gallery Of Ontario (317 Dundas West), Friday to Sunday (September 4-6), 9 pm. $25-$65. ticketfly.com.
After their 2012 attempt at a reunion fell apart at the last minute due to Martin Tielli’s crippling stage fright, the Rheostatics assumed that was the final chapter of the story.
“It felt pretty permanent, and the idea was for it to be permanent,” says Dave Bidini while sipping coffee at a Bloor West cafe. “Maybe that was sort of a trial run for this, in a way.”
Because here they are again, deep into rehearsals for a string of performances at the AGO of their groundbreaking 1995 album, Music Inspired By The Group Of Seven. It’s not quite a full-on reunion: these might be the last times they’re ever onstage together. But that’s also a big part of why the shows are happening at all.
“Coming back into this wasn’t really about putting the band back together and being a band again. It was more an enthusiasm for this particular show and this particular music,” says Kevin Hearn, who was not an official member of the Etobicoke art rock band but collaborated with them heavily on this material and will join them onstage.
“It kind of seemed like a way to get together and make music, more out of a celebration of a recording than a celebration of the band,” adds Bidini.
The songs were originally written for a performance commissioned by the National Gallery of Canada as part of its Group of Seven retrospective. That went so well that they quickly went into the studio and recorded the material. Mostly instrumental, the album showcased the more
ethereal, abstract aspects of the group’s sound, and made extensive use of samples of Group of Seven artists and others speaking, as well as big sections of interviews drummer Don Kerr did with the artist Winchell Price, a family friend.
“He’s an old painter who wasn’t part of the Group of Seven and had a more classical style, but he was of that era and knew them,” Kerr explains. “It was great getting him talking about music and painting together.”
The spoken word samples will make a reappearance at the shows, and fans will have a chance to finally purchase the album on vinyl – Six Shooter has pressed it to wax for the first time. In the 20 years since it was released, it’s developed a significant cult following, despite not containing anything resembling a hit. Much of its appeal comes from how vividly it evokes the same sense of wonder toward Canada’s overwhelming natural beauty as the paintings that inspired it do.
“As Winchell put it in one of his quotes, [it’s about] ‘the many moods of nature,’” Hearn says. “It’s the brutality, it’s the power, it’s the storms. We cover all those things, and not just the nice calm lake.”
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