A diverse range of performances leads to an entertaining night for Jason Collett’s annual Basement Revue

Surrounded by woodchips and sawdust, Luminato’s festival hub is carpeted with artificial grass and outlined by plywood cut-outs of trees – perhaps the same trees that were chopped down in order to make the cut-outs in the first place.

Jason Collett’s Basement Revue is an arts show curated by the Canadian musician himself. The annual showcase is known for leaving its performance line-up a mystery, allowing for endless possibilities and surprising guest appearances.

Collett opened the show with a solo number; after the vastness of David Pecaut Square, Collette and his song ushered the small audience into an ambience of intimacy. The room was dimly lit, and the small tables perfectly arranged — close enough to talk to neighbouring audience members, but far enough away to maintain a measure of privacy. In addition to the fake candles on each of the tables, the room was lit with standard stage lighting, a disco ball, and four projectors positioned behind the stage.

The first act of the night was Canadian author and poet David McGimpsey reading from his latest poetry collection: Asbestos Heights. The poetry relied upon an inversion of expectations: McGimpsey infused high literature with pop-culture references and crass turns of phrase like “unfuckable is the new 30.”

The night offered an array of performances ranging from independent music to literary readings. Following McGimpsey was Lynn Crosbie, an author, Globe and Mail columnist, and U of T English professor, reading from her new book, Where Did You Sleep Last Night. The novel is a raunchy, magical realist love story that, intriguingly, doubles as Kurt Cobain fan-fiction.

This was followed by a weird fusion of music and theatre. The music was supplied by Snowblink, an unconventional three-piece providing an ethereal and occasionally melodic soundtrack to a ‘metaphysical physician’ played by Torquil Campbell, who would prescribe a treatment for the subject, delivered musically by Snowblink.

The next band, Las Cafeteras —described as playing traditional immigrant music — was a fusion of a variety of cultures with modern American music. Alongside the group’s traditional instruments, a hollow wooden box was used as percussion for a rhythmic dance. The dancers stomped with hard, heavy shoes in an intricate, percussive display that was magnificent to watch. The band’s obvious delight in performing was infectious; Las Cafeteras stole the show and the crowd clapped louder and longer for them than for any other act.

The show should have ended at this point, but unfortunately, the next act slated, through no fault of their own, could not match their unique energy. However, “The Best” were an excellent cover band, and for their set the tables were pushed back to make room for a dance floor, where performers and audience members could dance together.

The Basement Revue’s eclectic line-up contributed to the show’s success, allowing for enough variety to maintain the audience’s attention throughout the evening. The intimate venue and the elaborate setup made for a night of new experiences that were both intellectually stimulating and just plain fun.

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