Rock ’n’ roll hol­i­day tra­di­tion

Ja­son Col­lett back for his rol­lick­ing re­vue se­ries

Richmond Hill Post - - Music - by Ron John­son

There are a num­ber of hol­i­day tra­di­tions in Toronto — from the Na­tional Bal­let of Canada’s Nut­cracker to Andy Kim’s fes­ti­val con­cert. One of the best-kept se­crets is Ja­son Col­lett’s Base­ment Re­vue Se­ries. But af­ter Feist backed up a read­ing by Michael On­daatje at one of last year’s shows, the se­cret is out.

“We’ve got some big shoes to fill,” says Col­lett, con­tem­plat­ing how he can top last year’s mon­u­men­tal evening. “I take it as a chal­lenge to not let peo­ple down.”

This year, the se­ries in­cludes four con­certs, three at the Dakota Tav­ern (Dec. 5, 12 and 26) and one show­case at Ade­laide Hall (Dec. 19). The shows com­bine read­ing and rock­ing, and the catch is that all the guests are a sur­prise. But with Col­lett at the helm, there are cer­tain ex­pec­ta­tions.

Ja­son Col­lett is a well-con­nected guy in the Toronto mu­sic scene. And that’s part of the rea­son his an­nual Base­ment Re­vue shows have been such a ru­n­away suc­cess.

As a for­mer mem­ber of Bro­ken So­cial Scene, he is part of a mu­si­cal fam­ily that has spawned in­nu­mer­able mu­si­cal acts, from heavy hit­ters such as Feist and Met­ric to the likes of Bren­dan Can­ning and AroarA. Chances are, on any given night, many of the per­form­ers will have some con­nec­tion to BSS and the ven­er­a­ble Arts & Crafts record la­bel.

“It’s be­come this va­ri­ety show that is half lit­er­ary and half mu­si­cal,” Col­lett ex­plains. “It’s this an­nual ex­plo­ration of that com­mon space be­tween those two worlds. And that makes for a very en­ter­tain­ing evening.”

The whole keep­ing-things-se­cret thing, ac­cord­ing to Col­lett, al­lows for us­ing his con­nec­tions to se­cure some pretty in­cred­i­ble per­form­ers while keep­ing agents, man­agers and other such folk happy. The in­for­mal na­ture of the evening adds some­thing spe­cial that is very hard to find at a show but also feels quite fa­mil­iar.

“It is de­signed to feel very much like a kitchen ta­ble, late at night, with po­etry and songs,” says Col­lett, who ap­par­ently has a re­ally cool kitchen ta­ble. “It makes it very in­ti­mate. And it re­ally keeps me com­ing back into it.”

Last year, Col­lett moved one show to a larger stage at the Great Hall in front of 500 peo­ple. And it worked. This year, that venue has changed to Ade­laide Hall for one show, and the other three nights will con­tinue at the Dakota.

Col­lett, who grew up in nearby Bra­malea, moved to Toronto as a teenager to pur­sue a ca­reer in mu­sic. He was a mem­ber of the alt-coun­try group Bird, with An­drew Cash and Hawk­sley Work­man, be­fore join­ing Bro­ken So­cial Scene af­ter the re­lease of their al­bum You For­got It in Peo­ple. His sixth solo al­bum, Reckon (2012), was in­spired by the ac­tivist-ori­ented, po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment that co­a­lesced into the Oc­cupy move­ment. Ap­par­ently, he still hasn’t worked it all out of his sys­tem yet.

“I’m still writ­ing about it, try­ing to get through it rather than just re­peat my­self,” says Col­lett. “It still has an enor­mous im­pact on me.”

Soon, Col­lett will be back in the studio work­ing on a new record that could be re­leased as early as 2014.

“I re­ally want it to be my best record,” says Col­lett. “That’s the record I’m go­ing to make, so it might take a lit­tle time.”

That, and tak­ing the time for his rather large fam­ily, which in­cludes four kids aged four to 24.

For Base­ment Re­vue in­for­ma­tion and tick­ets, go to or www.ja­son­col­

Ja­son Col­lett is a corner­stone of the T.O. mu­sic scene

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