Pop Avant's Encore

The Eyeopener | by Alison Northcott

Devendra Banhart headlines second show of the Music Gallery's new series

Much like its location, tucked behind a busy strip of Queen Street West, up the street from the City TV building, the Music Gallery's programming is under the mainstream radar.

Located in the 160-year-old St. George-the-Martyr Anglican Church, the Music Gallery has been showcasing new music, primarily of the contemporary classical repertoire, since 1976. It's not a typical venue for indie-rock shows but Jonathan Bunce, the Music Gallery's public relations coordinator, wants to change that.

Bunce, also known as Jonny Dovercourt, is a co-founder and the current booker for Wavelength, a weekly concert series at Sneaky Dee's. Since it's inception in 1997, this series has evolved and now includes a monthly _zine and a loyal community of musicians, fans, and followers. This is the community 31-year-old Bunce is hoping to bring to the Music Gallery through his new series, Pop Avant.

Pop Avant, which debuted this fall, is a series of five shows per year, each one showcasing different slate musicians whose music you won't hear on mainstream radio. "There are musicians in the indie-rock/pop music world who are doing things that are innovative, groundbreaking and challenging," said Bunce of music he picked for his series.

Like all of the Music Gallery's series', Pop Avant's music is "on the cutting edge of composition," Bunce said. But, traditionally, the Music Gallery has showcased a mainly classical repertoire _ the kind of music that's often learned in school setting. This is where Pop Avant differs: it focuses on music conceived beyond the classroom.

"A lot of what's considered new music comes from a traditional approach," Bunce said. "The indie-rock scene is more of a garage band tradition. It's often stuff that's created in the basement or the bedroom without a plan and without much schooling."

Appropriately, one of the series' first acts featured was Guitarkestra, a local musician named Craig Dunsmuir who, according to Bunce, epitomizes the essence of Pop Avant.

"He's learned [music] all on his own, he never went to a faculty of music: he's his own faculty of music and he's really consciously blended a lot of influences," Bunce said.

The Music Gallery was the perfect venue for the aptly-named Guitarkestra. The intimate setting forced the audience to pay attention as Dunsmuir crafted a symphonic series of songs with his guitar and a delay pedal. Dunsmuir builds his songs piece by piece, moment by moment, like he's following a recipe, until the sounds reach a climax of intricately structured music.

On the same bill as Guitarkestra was The Microphones, an Anacortes, Washington-based musician named Phil Elvrum. His soft and simple guitar and vocals were backed up by local band the Sea Snakes, whose music boosted The Microphones' delicate sound and added potency to his lyrics.

Bunce hopes to use Pop Avant to connect new music with an audience. "A lot of the artists are obscure and really don't have anywhere else to perform," he said.

As its name suggests, Pop Avant will feature mostly pop music, but Bunce said he hopes setting the series at the Music Gallery will bridge the gap between different music types. "I'm just really interested in blurring the boundaries of genre and having people come here who are just interested in music, period," he said.

The next Pop Avant show takes place Nov. 12 and will feature Devendra Banhart and Six Organs of Admittance.