Brampton Indie Arts Festival Rose Theatre, Brampton ON - February 14 to 17

Brampton Indie Arts Festival Rose Theatre, Brampton ON - February 14 to 17
Photo: Carrie Musgrave
Moving theatres afforded the BIAF more space but this year’s ambitiously eclectic and expanded line-up of films, art and music was hampered by unfortunate technical issues. A small rotunda held the "Alternative to the Alternative Series” where Feuermusik’s Gus Weinkauf showcased solo bucket percussion skills and endearing bassoonist Jeff Burke interpreted Metallica’s Master of Puppets. The secondary space was an echo chamber but some performers shone regardless. As he is wont to do, Geoff Berner won a (predominantly teenaged) crowd over with dark humour, and Polmo Polpo swayed onlookers with disorienting grooves. Quirky genius Laura Barrett was simply stunning; a rapt audience absorbed plaintive new songs by Baby Eagle; and the Acorn conquered Brampton with wit and chops. Bizarre comic-musician PDF Format ended an amusing set dancing with an unsuspecting woman, but nothing out-yucked the hilarious Jaws-inspired musical, Giant Killer Shark, which rightly earned a standing ovation. The main hall was sonically ornery and musicians setting up ahead of the curtain on the deep stage fared the best. Parade of Noises featuring Guelph’s Contemporary Music Ensemble was cute and, as always, it was a joy to see BIAF puppet MC, Curtains, moving things along all week. Introducing a slew of new songs, Final Fantasy’s instrumental prowess was mind-boggling, whereas equally mind-boggling guitarist Marc Ribot played it cool for his meditative late-night set. Performance/video artist Istvan Kantor was an intense spectacle, destroying a drawer cabinet with his bare hands to the tune of a live, discordant soundscape and gesticulating angrily to hapless soundmen, as varied snuff-style films screened above him. On the main stage proper, the slick Bebop Cowboys and bluesy improvisers Kevin Breit & Folkalarm displayed genuine virtuosity and — flanked by demonstrative musicians and back-up singers — Andy Kim evoked old school showbiz. Beautiful vocalists were often lost; Ohbijou’s Casey Mecija and Violet Archers’ Tim Vesely were tricky to decipher, while Jon-Rae and the River simply blasted through a raucous set, lifting the room. Flashbacks of the Faceless Lazers’ brilliant This is Your Brain on Drums mixed media extravaganza should be fun. Noise rock legends the Nihilist Spasm Band told morbid jokes about deceased members during a stellar appearance, and Elliott Brood were so inspiring, kids danced in the aisles. The much-hyped Q&A video-link with Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh was reduced to an amusing cell phone-to-microphone exchange. The BIAF ended with the Friendly Rich Show and, even if we couldn’t make out Rich’s words, his band’s scrappy spirit and vaudevillian jazz perfectly encapsulated an intriguing but unsatisfying week.