UC Follies’ B-Side rocks the Stage at Hart House this November

The show’s creator discusses making a show about records in the digital age

UC Follies’ <i>B-Side</i> rocks the Stage at Hart House this November

From November 30 to December 1, the UC Follies will be at Hart House for a two-night performance of B-Side: A Rock Cabaret. The show is a grand musical experience that will take you back in time with classic rock records you love and lesser-known songs for you to discover and fall in love with.

The Varsity wrote to Jocelyn Kraynyk, the show’s creator, about her inspiration for the show, nostalgia for rock music, and listening to records in the world of online streaming.

TV: So many people listen to music digitally, on Spotify and Apple Music — why did you decide to create a show about records instead?

JK: The simple answer as to why I created a show inspired by records is that I find digital means of listening to music passive. Don’t get me wrong, I am in love with my iPod and I might actually die without my Apple Music, but I think it’s important to acknowledge how easy it is to become complacent about listening. Many a time, I have found myself in a playlist loop where I don’t realize I’m listening to music that I don’t really like or care about. With records, the act of listening becomes so active. You carefully choose what record you want to listen to. You engage with the music in the ceremony of putting the record on and the needle down. If your mind is focused on other things, the record waits for you to reengage at the halfway mark. I think that level of immersion lends itself well to a theatrical endeavour.

TV: Where did you get your inspiration for B-Side?

JK: I was so thrilled when the Follies asked me to create a show and I celebrated by going to my favourite record shop and picking up a heap of new music. When I got home, I put on my new Pat Benatar and rocked around my living room basking in the amazing vocals and bopping tracks. Two things happened while I listened to that record: 1. I found a couple songs that I had never heard before but fell totally and completely in love with, and 2. I heard songs that I forgot that I loved and it felt like coming home. That is how I found the concept for this show — thanks Pat. For me, B-Side is all about celebrating the songs of amazing artists that don’t get the same amount of play as other classic rock, as well as celebrating better known songs that were put on the B-Side of their record. Some of the songs in this show are ones few people will know — but everyone will love — some are songs everyone will know and can sing along to, and some are songs that people will hear, be flooded with memory, and fall in love [with] all over again. 

TV: How did you choose what songs to include in the show and why did you choose rock music?

JK: Listening to hundreds of classic rock songs to find the perfect setlist was torture — just kidding, I was in my glory. I love that shit. I ended up deciding to centre this show around songs that explore young love and relationships – the good, the bad, the ugly, the horny. It connects every song and performance and reined me in — if I didn’t have that connecter, the show would be hours long instead of the sleek 55 minutes it is now. B-Side has an unclockable flow and energy. It’s dynamic. It’s energetic. It’s magnetic and it demands to be seen!

As an artist and a consumer, I love the feeling of nostalgia. For me, it serves as escapism and when I perform or listen to music from or reminiscent of the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. The flow and intensity of it allows me to let go and live in its palpable energy. That feeling is what I want for my audiences and that is why I gravitate towards rock. 

TV: What is a song or performance in the show that stands out to you? 

JK: As far as what song or performance stands out, I’m going to give a pageant answer: every single song and performance stands out. When creating this show, we wanted to make sure that every performer got their moment to shine, and shine they do! We have been incredibly fortunate work with this incomparable group of people. Every single one of them owns the stage and I challenge anyone watching not to be warmed to the core by the joy and energy that radiates off of them when they sing. They are a beautiful unit. Hart House is an intimidating space. It is huge and can be daunting for performers — I say this from experience: that stage is scary — but we don’t fear the stage, we dominate that stage. The passion and excitement from our cast fills the theatre from the dressing rooms to the very last row. 


Streaming vs. CDs

Is streaming the future of music? 

Streaming vs. CDs

Recently, Kanye West announced on Twitter that his newest album, The Life of Pablo will be the last work he releases that will be available in a physical format. From now on, he will be releasing his music exclusively via online streaming. Conversely, late last year, Adele’s 25 set numerous sales records when her CD was released. “I don’t use streaming,” she said at the time. “I buy my music. I download it, and I buy a physical [copy] just to make up for the fact that someone else somewhere isn’t. It’s a bit disposable, streaming.”

Adele may not find streaming compelling, but the service is growing and changing the music industry, allowing listeners to build and maintain immense libraries of music on the cheap. Services like Google Play Music advertise the potential for “access to 35 million songs and offline listening” for a monthly rate roughly equivalent to the cost of a single CD. Though the artist does not profit off of the mark-up of the physical copy, and most major artists earn a large chunk of their revenue from touring.

Streaming services like Tidal are actually owned by artists; a nuanced idea that is still catching on. Artists featured on these services have more control over their work and profit directly from sales, eliminating middle–men.

Other artists stand to make roughly the same amount through making their music available on major streaming services like Apple Music, Spotify and Amazon Prime Profits aside however, streaming services provide a unique platform for increased exposure by way of its playlists, an advantage for lesser-known artists, though the services have still faced some criticism for the quality of their playlists, which are often curated by algorithms rather than humans.

Many artists are skeptical of the streaming model, believing it to be a major threat to the industry; particularly because of concerns over reductions in sound quality — many music purists complain of poor quality sound from services like Apple Music and Amazon Prime. There have even been studies on the effects of compressed .mp3 quality on the human ear that have found that higher-quality recordings are more effecting in eliciting dopamine reactions. Tidal however, ensures “lossless” data compression, meaning that the quality of sound on their service is more or less indistinguishable from that of a CD recording.

But what does all this mean to the average listener? The first thing that comes to my mind when I consider the transition from physical to digital is the fate of album cover artists. An industry unto itself, it offers a special component to the physical CD experience. I have a vivid childhood memory of being completely mesmerized by the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band. I’m fairly certain I had my sexual awakening upon seeing Tina Turner on the cover of Private Dancer. There’s nothing like picking up a CD, examining the cover, opening the liner and following along with the lyrics. I will say, however, with the advent of new computers lacking a CD drive altogether, I am much less inclined to go out and buy any CD.

The debate over the best way to consume music is probably too subjective to be taken too seriously. Every facet of “musical preference” remains part of the prismatic beauty of the medium.