Owen Pallett wouldn’t know it, but a framed poster with his name on it hangs on my wall. The poster recognizes his work as a curator, but is also reminds me of my work as an arts administrator; specifically, on a festival we both worked on in 2017.

As part of a larger team executing the event, my personal interactions with Owen Pallett were fairly limited. However, what was made very clear throughout the project was that his curation was attempting to push traditional boundaries in music and encourage audience members to be open to new musical possibilities that may have previously been unexpected. His own contribution to the festival was a world premiere- one that I recall being well received, albeit somewhat unconventional in a traditional concert hall. The same could be said for many of the other pieces curated for that festival.

It is this ability to explore what it means to be a composer- and what twenty-first century music really means- that makes Owen Pallett’s concert this weekend at Hamilton Winterfest so exciting. Fresh from a mini-Canadian tour this fall, Saturday’s concert at the Hamilton Waterfront Trust Building (the Winterfest Hub) marks Pallett’s first concert in Hamilton since his packed Supercrawl performance in 2018.

Born in Mississauga, Pallett initially performed under the name Final Fantasy, for which he won the 2006 Polaris Music Prize. In 2009, he began performing under his own name with increasing success, including recording with Arcade Fire on the Grammy Award winning album The Suburbs. Further success came in 2014, when his score for Spike Jonze’s film Her (written with Arcade Fire’s Will Butler) was nominated for an Oscar.

In every case, Pallett finds ways for his background and experience as a composer, violinist, keyboardist and vocalist to maintain a connection to many musical genres and roots. Classical music, pop, political messaging and indie rock all blend in seamless, but often surprising ways through his music (and frequently utilizing live loop creation).

This concept is what makes the potential for Pallett’s performance at Hamilton Winterfest so exciting. Pallett’s concert will take place at the Hamilton Waterfront Trust; a building that has undergone a political battle in recent years and set against an area that has recently had millions of dollars trimmed from its budget (not to mention the sewage spillage into nearby water). Immediately outside the building will be the large-scale, outdoor video projection, Cape Dorset, which features large-scale animated imagery from the Dorset Fine Arts 2019 print collection. All of these could serve as inspiration to connect the music of the evening together, or Pallett may bring ideas of his own to share with Hamilton. Either way, audience members should be prepared to have their concept of music and specific genres challenged and explore the possibilities of their surroundings- both visual and auditory.

Joining Pallett in Saturday’s concert is local band Glass Eyelashes, consisting of Sarah Good, Annie Shaw and Becky Katz. Like Pallett, their music explores numerous genres and utilizes live loop creation. The group’s use of traditional song structures combined with modern techniques results in music that is both unusual but accessible. Also featured on the program is DJ Smooth Transitions.

Hamilton Winterfest presents Owen Pallett in concert will start at 8pm on Saturday, February 8. Tickets can be purchased on the Hamilton Winterfest website.

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