On Friday I had a chance to sit down with Reg Vermue AKA Regina the Gentlelady, the face of Light Fires- to talk about upcoming show DO I HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING MY FUCKING SELF? The show is running Aug 14-16 through the SummerWorks Music Series featuring collaborative works between musical performers and performance artists including theatre, dance, installation, and video art. This show features Light Fires teaming-up with Adam Lazarus. Tickets are $15, or $25 if you want to do a double feature with Young Drones- A Graphic Novel Rock Opera by the Bicycles, Amy Siegel, and Maggie MacDonald.
(tip you may want to get tickets in advance for this one, as this show sold out at the Rhubarb Festival)
interview sketch provided by Ehab Arafeh.
greetingsfromtoronto: So, this isn’t your first time playing the SummerWorks Music Series.
greetingsfromtoronto: Why don’t you tell me what you’re going to be doing for this performance. Are you going to be playing Faces, or have you written some material specifically for this performance?
Reg: This show is going to be a little bit different from the Music Series, because technically it’s a remount of a show I did in the Rhubarb Festival in February. That was a one woman show for Regina, and I was paired up with Adam Lazarus- who is this amazing director, clown, and like so many things. There was already this pairing and I was dying to do a remount, so I talked to SummerWorks about if this could fit in- because that show involves spoken word and jokes and songs. Yeah, there are some songs from Faces, but the show is actually more based around getting to know Regina. Her story, and her humour. It’s a lot of talking, actually, but there is a comedy base to it.
greetingsfromtoronto: Is this your first time delving into the theatrical, or do you have a bit of a background in it?
Reg: Sort of, actually. Like, I would never ever say that I’m an actor- but all through my childhood and teen years, I did theatre. And I’ve done a lot of stuff with Maggie MacDonald from the Hidden Cameras. I was in The Rat King. Last year I did Cowboy Mouth. So I’ve done some little, tiny roles in some tiny productions. But this is the first time I’ve written anything for the theatre, so that’s a first for me. It’s a totally different experience writing than just saying someone else’s lines.
greetingsfromtoronto: What are some of the challenges of being in a one woman show?
Reg: Well, as the title suggests- you’re going to have to do everything yourself. It’s very challenging keeping people’s attention for an hour. The whole reason it came about was that people had been telling me they really like my banter during Light Fires shows. Yes they liked the songs, they liked the dancing- but after every show people would come up to me and refer to a joke I’d said, or that stuff. After a few years, because I’ve been doing Light Fires pretty solidly for a few years now, I was like- maybe I need to do something with this banter. And that’s kind of how the idea of it came- to write all that stuff down and turn it into a show.
greetingsfromtoronto: When would you say that Light Fires & Regina became your main artistic focus?
Reg: Sometime in the last year. I did put out an album as Gentleman Reg in 2012 which was very independent and under the radar. It was a small release. I was doing Light Fires (concurrently) all the time, but it was really in the last year where I was really just like- okay, I need to do this. I’m also just trying to pay more attention to the signs of the universe. It’s what people are asking for, and what people want to book. We did that show for Rhubarb and it sold out- which I can almost never say with anything else I do. There’s just a lot of signs that make me think I need to do this a little bit more.
I did Gentleman Reg for so long, and it’s not technically dead- I’m just not focusing on it. I just got tired of pushing stuff on people if they were maybe over it. Whereas I’m really excited about Light Fires, and it seems like other people are too. I had a nice, long over a decade run with Gentleman Reg. I’m totally comfortable with all of that.
greetingsfromtoronto: Do you think of Regina as being more of a drag act, or more of a musical act?
Reg: That’s funny that you say that because I’ve been referring to Regina as a drag queen, but I’m trying to do that less. The more I do it, the more I realize that it doesn’t really have a lot in common with drag aside from the fact that I am a male dressing up as a woman. There are similiarities, but the fact that I write my own songs and sing live-
greetingfromtoronto: Yeah, that’s really different because a lot of queens don’t do that. I would love to see it, but that’s just not what they do.
Reg: Some of my favourite shows- even though I love playing Pride Parade and festivals- but my favourite shows are like, when I’m playing music festivals like Sappyfest.
greetingsfromtoronto: I heard you actually recently had an amazing performance at Hillside. There are some really great photos of you (as Regina) and little girls.
Reg: It was awesome. I did something at Girls Rock Camp recently- and it’s just like all those things, where it’s Regina in the real world and not in a gay specific situation- that’s kind of my favourite stuff. I don’t feel a lot of drag queens reach beyond that, because it doesn’t really work well outside of that world- the way that this stuff does. So yeah, I think of it more as a musical act. The music is not an after thought. It’s just as realized and put together as anything I’ve ever done.
greetingsfromtoronto: The last thing I wanted to ask you about, is that you identify as a gentlelady. What does it mean to be a gentlelady?
Reg: That really sprung up from Gentleman Reg, from which Regina the Gentlelady was kind of an easy thing. And someone else actually came up with that- some drag friends of mine. I’m actually thinking of keeping the Regina part, but it may be time to sort of cut the cord. Just because it’s kind of misleading. I think Regina is really strong, and in your face. And has a lot in common with like Peaches, for example. Stuff like that doesn’t imply gentlelady to me anymore.
greetingsfromtoronto: Most of the times I’ve seen you perform, you’ve been in short shorts, and I’ve actually thought to myself- hmm, that’s not very ladylike.
Reg: Exactly. And even in the show, the name is still there- but uh, to be honest it was partly a facebook thing. When you get an account you need a first name and a last name, and I thought, I guess I’ll use the Gentlelady. I hate bringing Facebook into this, but that was partly where it started. There’s going to be a change, I just don’t know what it’s going to be yet.
here are a list of my failings in no particular order:
All things money related are basically a total mystery to me.
I am almost always late.
Often, my temper gets the better of me.
I dropped out of university.
I am not romantically involved with anyone.
I am a messy, filthy, human.
I will sleep all day if there’s no pressing reason to get out of bed.
I am not particularly embarrassed by these things. On the contrary, I feel particularly moved after the joint performance by Army Girls, and the multidisciplinary artist that is Cara Spooner. So in spirit of Failure Fest- I am airing out my failures.
The show is the 2nd of the 6 interdisciplinary shows that make up the SummerWorks Music Series, which started last night and run through to the 17th. Each show in the series paired a different musical artist with a different performance artist (including theatre, dance, and projection). Each pair then was introduced through the artistic “match-making” of Michael Rubenfeld (SummerWorks Festival’s artistic producer). Each pair then worked together to create a unique musical spectacle, outside of (and quite frankly above & beyond) the regular concert going experience.
On Friday night, we saw ONE NIGHT, TWO BRENDANS- the first show in the series & a collaboration between Brendan Canning of Broken Social Scene & Brendan Healy of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. Brendan Canning wrote a bunch of new material for the show, and during his performance cited influences such as Joni Mitchell and Steely Dan. The visual accompaniment for the performance was some spectacularly trippy video art, being manipulated live during the performance. There were some themes to the visualizations, including the RGB, or black & white snow of a television. Also there was wilderness seen from above, and occasionally live feed of the band would selectively trickle in. Though it was kind of unusual to experience Brendan Canning in a seated theatre venue where everyone is quietly listening, the intimate setting did contribute a little beauty to the whole thing. The performance was at it’s best in it’s moments of improvisation- like when Brendan started a jam based on a particularly inspiring harmonica riff. He eventually reined himself in, admitting that he could probably follow that one musical thought through a lot longer. I certainly wouldn’t have minded.
Tonight’s multidisciplinary feast offered a very different fare. Instead of creating new material specifically for this performance, Army Girls revived an existing never-recorded album which they now consider a failure. This is where Cara Spooner steps in as the role of trickster and interventionist, creating a series of disruptions for the musicians while they are playing. Before the performance even begins, we’re told that rather than sitting in the “seating area” of the performance space- we should go stand in the stage area if we want to. This is first of our expectations to be toyed with.
Once the performance begins, we begin to realize that she is really not going to make it easy for this band to play. One moment she’ll decide to move their gear across the floor, one piece of the drum kit at a time while the band is forced to follow her whims. We the audience are also forced to move with her, and suddenly we are no longer just an audience but active participants that have to actually pay attention to the scene at hand. I know I feel a tiny twinge of failure when my pile of crap (purse, sketching utensils, coat, etc) gets in the way of the performance’s flow.
But besides the toying with the structure of what a musical performance is, what really resounds with me is the overarching theme of this “very weird” show- which is that failure can actually be a lot of fun. And the show actually was a lot of fun, especially with the nature of the programming forcing you engage with it. The musicians actually take the obstacles in stride, and you can tell from their good humoured banter that they’re also having fun with the experience of celebrating their failure. Playing songs that they will laugh about hating- because although they may have written a crappy album once, they loved it the time (and probably had fun making it). That the album overall was a failure ultimately doesn’t matter. There’s value in their failure because that failure allowed them to grow, and become better- and well, the proof is this mind shattering performance.
The night ends with cries for an encore (which are rewarded), and a dance party.
The series continues tonight with a performance called Weaves Through Time (Weaves/Alison Cummings) which is bound to be psychedelic.
Here are some collaborative works that Ehab and I made from the performances;
So as you may already know, Ehab & I spent the better part of last week at Sappyfest in Sackville, New Brunswick. And driving to Sackville. And driving back from Sackville. (which is about 16 hours away from Toronto, not counting frequent piss breaks).
Festivals are a good time for the #Iwanttodrawyourband project. We get to make a lot of images in a short period of time, which fills us both with a sense of accomplishment as we see our work improve after just a few short days. In total, the 2 of us made 30+ drawings of bands over the 6 day trip. We even made stop overs in Quebec City & Montreal, just so that we could draw more bands. (Although admittedly, our lackdaiscal approach to mornings on vacation- or lets face it, mornings in general- meant that we missed our show in Montreal.)
I’m going to be posting these drawings in parts, because it’s a lot of work to go through and I want to break it down into digestible chunks. This first series includes our takes of Duzheknew, Julie Doiron, Ought, & Baby Eagle.
to be continued…
Here’s one to consider for those of you who are also doing the summer music festival circuit. If you’re a dedicated music scenester like myself, one place you may never have considered looking for music listings is inside one of the city’s annual theatre festivals. However, for those who are looking for a live music experience which as well as entertaining, also pushes boundaries- the SummerWorks Music Series kicks off today in partnership with Silent Shout, with 6 interdisciplinary shows with some of the city’s most compelling local musicians.
What makes this series really exciting, is that each show will pair up a musician with a different performance artist to create a collaborative musical spectacle which promises to go above & beyond the average concert going experience. Each show embodies a different conceptual & cross-disciplinary vision brought to life- with cross-overs into drag cabaret, interactive installation art, rock opera, dance, & video art.
To celebrate this collaborative series, Ehab & I will be working together to provide collaborative drawings of each of the 6 shows.
Here’s a look at the Schedule:
*bonus* THURSDAY AUG 7- Opening party @ The Theatre Centre 1115 Queen W with RLMDL, Sexy Merlin, Valerie Dour, & Body Butter PWYC
FRIDAY AUG 8- One Night, Two Brendans @ The Theatre Centre 1115 Queen W with Brendan Canning & Brendan Healy $15
SATURDAY AUG 9- Failure Fest @ Scotiabank Studio Theatre 6 Noble St with Army Girls & Cara Spooner $15
SUNDAY AUG 10- Weaves Through Time @ Lower Ossington Theatre 100 Ossington Ave with Weaves & Allison Cummings $15
WEDNESDAY AUG 13- The Secret Garden of Lido Pimienta @ Lower Ossington Theatre 100 Ossington Ave with Lido Pimienta, Natasha Greenblatt, & Gustavo Cerquera Benjumea $15
AUG 14-17 – Young Drones: A Graphic Novel Rock Opera @ Lower Ossington Theatre 100 Ossington Ave with The Bicycles, Maggie MacDonald, & Amy Siegel
AUG 14-16 – Do I Have To Do Everything My Fucking Self? @ Lower Ossington Theatre 100 Ossington Ave with Light Fires & Adam Lazarus $15
Images of Light Fires (top) & Weaves (bottom) as seen on the SummerWorks Performance Festival site.
Ehab shares some drawings he made at Hillside Festival last weekend, between volunteer shifts. When I asked him if he had any highlights from the fest, he answered getting to see Feist play as a part of super-group Hydra was definitely a nice surprise. So was getting asked by Alvvays midset, about the drawings he was making.
If you haven’t bumped into us at a show, you may not have realized that we actually make these drawings live during the musical performances (although we admittedly add some finishing touches after the fact). It leads to some interesting reactions from the audience, and sometimes even the bands we draw. Usually at least once a set, someone comments on the art we’re making while we watch the performance and it leads to a conversation about music. And art. And that is exactly the point.
Back in Toronto we’re just tying up some loose ends, and getting ready to go on another road trip. We’re waking up early, and starting our drive down to Sackville, New Brunswick for Sappyfest. We’ll be taking the scenic route, with some stops in Quebec on the way there and back. Time to dust off my rusty French. We’ll probably be incommunicado for about a week, after which we’ll have a ton of new drawings to post- and maybe some stories about the inappropriate things that young people do at music festivals too!
It’s Saturday night, and I’m almost at the venue when I bump into a co-worker from last summer’s day job. He’s just finished his shift and he has no plans for the evening, so he asks me where I’m going. “The Comfort Zone,” I tell him. Are you serious? “Yeah, there’s a really cool show. You wanna come?” No, he admits, and gives me a bit of a stern look.
But if these are the kind of reactions a night at the Comfort Zone garners, I’m not particularly disturbed. The quest for truly incredible experimental music takes you to some unusual locales at times, and fortune favours the bold. And so following the tip of a friend, I walk down the steps into the notorious venue.
The inside of the Comfort Zone is really dark, and really loud- especially with the 4 members of Cellphone on stage. The band has been a highlight of my NXNE experience the past 2 years- so I’m pretty stoked to see them on what is already a pretty stacked bill. At least as far as my personal taste goes, Cellphone hit the trifecta of musical ingredients- punk, psychedelic, and synth. The boys look like an electronic act, but sound like hardcore music for stoners. It’s a winning combo that I’d like to hear more of.
The psychedelic seems to be the overarching theme of the music curation tonight. TONSTARTSSBANDHT are 2 brothers transplanted from Florida, to Brooklyn and Montreal- who make a style of music they call “boogie rock”. While we’re doing the genre thing I’d like to add the following adjectives; psych pop/ psych hymns. Of the 3 bands I see (I didn’t arrive in time for the opener)- TONSTARTSSBANDHT probably come the closest to what you imagine when you think about psychedelic rock, in the style of baby boomer dad rock. There’s even a delightful Southern twang that’s reminiscient of oldschool American rock- but with a heavy undercurrent of dreamy, devotional distortion. It tickles me as much to watch brothers Edwin and Andy perform, as it does to listen to them. I am pretty excited about that 12 string guitar that Andy plays, and the energetic way with which he handles it. I could happily watch this all night.
If TONSTARTSSBANDHT are psychedelic in a classic rock way, then locals Doldrums are mind-bending in a way that is completely contemporary. Musically, the youthful trio walk a fine line between light and darkness, and are appropriately named after the “colorless place” of the same name in “The Phantom Tollbooth”. Their set is a loopy, acidic blend of dance punk and noise, sounding at times chillwavey. The ephemeral, and darkly danceable music feels perfectly at home in this seedy, subterranean dance pit. The hype doesn’t disappoint, as all the elements really come together on this one, to pull a dance catharsis out of the shadows.
Taking into account my considerable bias towards experimental and psychedelic forms of music, this will definitely ranks as one of the more memorable shows I’ve seen this summer.
As for the pictures, I tended towards unrestrained colour sketches, pouring out of dark ink washes which I applied at home after the show. The sketches were made using Sharpie markers and ballpoint pen.
here are a couple of images of what I got up to in around town, while Ehab is away at Hillside Fest in Guelph:
the first was drawn at the first ever Homegrown Sound Session, and pictures members of Hands & Teeth playing in the open air at Christie Pits Park.
the second was done later in the evening at Construction- Long Winter’s new (and much more condensed) summer series. the event was held at DBL DBL Land, which as it turns out is unbearably hot in the summer. couldn’t convince my friends to stay, but I did get one nice scribble of Elsa before jetting out into the night.