THE MUSIC SERIES – ROCK PLAZA CENTRAL / EVALYN PARRY

We’re nearing the end of this already phenomenal festival of theatre and music, and while I certainly wouldn’t consider any of bands so far to be lightweights, this Friday’s double bill is a pairing of some pretty experienced musical acts.

Rock Plaza Central had been playing shows with a revolving door roster in various small venues around Toronto like the Tranzac and Rancho Relaxo for nearly a decade when their concept album “Are We Not Horses” (which will make for an interesting tie in with Saturday’s Laura Barrett, but that’s tomorrow’s post) found its way to the ears of the editorial staff at the influential music appreciation site Pitchfork, via Toronto music critic Stuart Berman (who tested the limit of his mic cord in a highly mobile and energetic set last Saturday with his band The Two Koreas at the Music Series).

Pitchfork posted not one but two glowing reviews, and seemingly overnight, Rock Plaza Central was catapulted into the ranks of other hot folk-rock acts like Animal Collective, Beirut, and Adevandra Banhart; by the end of 2007, “Are We Not Horses” had earned a place on many influential critic’s top ten lists, and the band had a record deal with U.S. label Yep Roc.

What started as an extracurricular get together of musically inclined friends (the fact that Rock Plaza Central had never had a full band rehearsal outside of their shows in its first seven years of existance has become an entrenched bit of lore) has evolved into a focused ensemble of musicians that have been wowing crowds at festivals and shows across the U.S. and Canada in the past year and a half. RPC has thankfully lost none of their charm and playful approach to their live shows as a result of their phenomenally successful disc; they still play their annual wedding anniversary show (frontman Chris Eaton and wife Laura have kept this tradition alive since 2004) and frequent low profile shows in Toronto.

Evalyn Parry’s road to establishing herself as a signature Toronto act has been much more circuitous; she’s built up an intensely loyal following over the years with intimate stage shows at colleges and small theatres across Canada, exposure on CBC, and an association with several theatres and companies, including Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (where she’s currently Director of Youth Initiatives) and Independent Aunties (if which she is a founding member).

Evalyn is a masterful storyteller (which should come as no surprise, given her theatrical roots), and many of her best songs come with fascinating preambles on the evolution of the song, and what sort of responses it’s generated. She’s also known for her passionate and opinionated spoken word performances, but that doesn’t preclude a deft hand at writing playful pop melodies, like “Please Stop Following Me”.

Evalyn is also the first (but not the last, as tomorrow’s Sunparlour Players profile will explore) of the Music Series participants who’s also got a Summerworks show of her own to plug; she’s currently performing nightly in the cabaret show “The Pastor Phelps Project”, which, if you haven’t seen yet, you should try to catch this weekend, as it’s gotten a lot of rave reviews and press coverage.

http://www.plankmagazine.com/columns/freedom-what

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