Saturday, February 14, 2015

Hamilton aces could be David Byrne's trump cards at Meltdown 2015

From the moment David Byrne was announced as the curator of Meltdown 2015, there has been wide-ranging speculation about which artists the Talking Heads founder will feature at London's prestigious week-long arts festival taking place at the Southbank Centre from August 17 to 28.

While some seem to think the multi-disciplinary explorer will play it safe by flipping through his rolodex to select a few reliable collaborators from a hefty file that includes Brian Eno, Arcade Fire, Caetano Veloso, St. Vincent, Fatboy Slim, Dirty Projectors, Paul Simon and others, Byrne is far too wary about his programming being perceived as predictable not to try throwing in at least a few wild cards.

It's a safe bet that William Onyeabor is near the top of Byrne's wish list. But knowing that the enigmatic Nigerian Afro-disco legend has never performed his music in public – even before becoming a born-again Christian – the notion of convincing Onyeabor to make his stage debut at Meltdown seems like a long shot. Also an exceedingly remote possibility is a Talking Heads reunion. We all know that loads of people would love to see a top to bottom reprise of Talking Heads '77 – echoing Patti Smith's triumphant tear through Horses at Meltdown 2005 – but Byrne has never shown much interest in retracing his steps. Even if the group's impending 40th anniversary (they first opened for The Ramones at CBGBs on June 20, 1975) makes the timing look right, the long-standing issues between Byrne and "The Heads" cast serious doubt on any jovial stroll through the oldies for Meltdown.

Perhaps the one move that no one is anticipating is for Byrne to salute his boyhood home of Hamilton, Ontario by selecting a slate of artists from the Steel City and surrounding area. However unlikely, the "Hammer Homage" concept could significantly bolster Byrne's carefully cultivated rep as a visionary talent spotter while giving some overseas exposure to Hamilton's finest. Here are a few suggestions:  

Iconic Hamilton space-rock blasters Simply Saucer would add a devastating wallop to any Meltdown line-up like few participants have done before. Check out what Edgar Breau and crew were doing with aspiring local producers Daniel and Bob Lanois back in 1974. And yes, they've still got it.

Reckless punk upstarts The Dirty Nil could be counted on to shake the sit-down crowd at the artsy extravaganza out of their seats. Here's a recent live clip which ends abruptly when the cameraman gets knocked over in the mosh pit.

Juno-nominated jazz chanteuse Diana Panton would add a quiet elegance to the proceedings with a repertoire that ranges from deftly delivered American songbook standards and French chanson gems to Brazilian classics. Check out her sweet sweep through Samba Saravah off To Brazil With Love.

Of course, you'd need a bit of marquee magic to sell some advance tickets and that's where Grant Avenue ace Daniel Lanois and Dundas overachiever Dan "Caribou" Snaith come in. Meltdown would provide Lanois with the right environment for the atmospheric sounds of his Flesh and Machine album (see below) and give Snaith the perfect platform to undertake a larger orchestral production.

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