Brampton Indie Arts Festival Heritage Theatre, Brampton ON - February 2 to 6

Brampton Indie Arts Festival Heritage Theatre, Brampton  ON - February 2 to 6
One of the most ambitious and eclectic arts festivals in Canada may not be Brampton's best-kept secret for long. A crowded box office caused night one's amalgam of art, film, and music to start late. After an endearing introduction from hilarious puppet-host Curtains and BIAF founder Friendly Rich, the excited crowd was greeted by the dense, contrived noise-experimentation of OFNSVORNGe. The tragic documentary Who's Rights Anyways? profiled Canada's persecution of Muslims and Arabs since 9/11. Kat Burns's husky voice was a welcome respite but the night belonged to Milton's the Most Serene Republic, whose engaging theatricality and artful command of post-punk arrangements had the in-the-know crowd clamouring for more. There was a comedic thread to virtually all of the BIAF programming, which included a macabre piano piece by Brampton's James Oliver Biljak and a virtuoso performance of "Once Upon an Accordion" by Kimberly Pritchard. Next up was the humorous animated short Let's Sue Stuff by the Phallic Moose collective. Beginning with "Sitting in the Kitchen," folk hero Bob Snider had the crowd in stitches, prompting the Rheostatics to include some improv comedy in their excellent 2067-heavy set. A live rogue bat took saxophonist John Oswald's project Joust literally by surprise, swooping down on stage to torment trombonist Scott Thomson. It takes more than flying rodents to faze Cuff the Duke, whose closing set Friday added to their growing fan base. Saturday night's crowd was treated to innovative performances by guitar experimentalist Aidan Baker and the phenomenal Singing Saw Shadow Show, whose set was remarkable visually and sonically stunning. Three short films followed, including Alyson Mitchell's socially conscious tribute to vegetarianism, Precious Little Tiny Love. Broken Pencil editor Hal Niedzciecki's decision to read a drawn-out passage from his new novel, The Program, was bound to be a let down. After all, he followed the evening's highlight — a performance by the Lollipop People. Host-with-the-most Friendly Rich led his large band through demented compositions as he writhed passionately on-stage. Curtains was eventually upstaged by the Kids in the Hall's Scott Thompson, who was hysterical in his Brampton homecoming. While the Halifax hip-hop documentary The 902 is an absolute must-see, Thompson couldn't resist lampooning its star, Buck 65, by molesting Jim Guthrie's face after the latter's power-trio wowed the audience. Bob Wiseman embodied the BIAF perfectly with his charming pop songs and varied short films. In a reversal, Wiseman sought backing piano from old friend Ron Sexsmith to close out his stellar set. During his own solo turn, Sexsmith had Wiseman return the favour on Grand Opera Lane songs like "Trains." It was a rare reunion and just one of many amazing moments at the BIAF, one of the most visionary indie gatherings around.