When I recently had an offer to attend Lorraine Segato’s launch party for her upcoming album Invincible Decency, I enthusiastically jumped at the opportunity. In case you didn’t recognize the name, Segato is one of the founding members of the groundbreaking Canadian music group, The Parachute Club.

IMG_5051

While many may recall her group’s memorable hit “Rise up”, winning a Juno award for best single of the year in 1984, and its later usage (against the band’s wishes) in a late-1990s McCain advertisement for rising crust pizzas, Segato’s music has always been much more than simply feel good themes of upbeat music with diverse aesthetics. “Rise Up” became an anthem and a positive force for numerous marginalized groups in Canada during the 1980s, and would later be chosen as a campaign song for the late NDP leader Jack Layton.  For decades now, Segato’s music has continually reflected this same progressive sense to work together to conquer challenges and foster a sense of community.

David Gray

This was my first time at Daniels Spectrum where Segato is current serving as the honourary Artist-in-Residence. As we entered the bustling centre, we were led to a large performance space uniquely setup for standing only with high-top tables dispersed throughout the venue. As the attendees began to enter, I noticed quite a diverse crowd; adults, both young and old, children and teens, all appearing very excited for the upcoming concert. Some were quite formally dressed for the occasion, while others appeared quite casual. Free mini-burgers, tacos, and boxes of jerk chicken with rice were offered to attendees, and a small bar was setup in the back which served a few types of drinks.

IMG_5132

As 8:00pm struck, the band which included Rich Brown, Wilson Laurencin, Michelle Willis, Miku Graham, and original Parachute Club member David Gray, entered the stage with a commanding presence. The performance embodied many of the elements of Segato’s earlier music, but with a fresh, modern context.  The uptempo, eclectic tunes such as Only Human had the entire crowd energized, and participating actively, and Segato’s use of Italian in the song Tengo Le Tasche Vuote infused a new lyrical dimension to the music.

Despite the venue’s considerable size, there was still a very intimate feel to the performance, almost reminiscent of an evening with VH1’s Storytellers back in the day, though with far more energy flowing through the room. There were many stories shared, and it was very much like a gathering of friends, both old and new. Local artists and celebrities casually interacted with those in attendance, while Segato’s mother was with the energetic crowds up front to dance along with her favourite songs. Also in attendance was her sister Carla, who had worked hard to arrange the event. There was a real community-feel to the night.

IMG_5091

To complement her set, a number of performance artists from the Regent Park area also took the stage throughout the evening to perform. These talented youth literally grasped the attention of their audience with powerful acts such as spoken-word pieces that projected highly personal and emotional stories that still managed to strike a chord and resonate with all those listening. One of the highlights was getting to hear Mustafa the Poet, who joined the band on stage at the end of the evening for a new elevating rendition of “Rise Up”, which had everyone dancing the night away.

Mustafa

I must say that few musical events that I have attended projected such a unifying feel to them. It was clearly a memorable evening for all those who attended, which not only illuminated Segato’s musical aptitudes as an artist, but also her talent for skillfully engaging artists to work together in new ways which are bound to create positive reverberations in this city.

While there is some video footage attached to this post, I might add that the video captured does not do the performances justice. The renowned composer Sergei Diaghilev once said that film could not capture the true artistry of a performance.  Despite occurring nearly a century later, this evening was in a way quite reflective of this point. There was a collective energy present that night that one must experience in-person to truly understand and appreciate. If you have the chance to see one of Lorraine Segato’s projects, I highly recommend it, as you will experience an evening to always remember!

Feature stage shot and video credit: Casey Robertson

All other photo images credit: Cat Grant

About the Author

Casey Robertson is a genderqueer human rights activist, musician ,composer, and graduate student researching musicology and cultural theory. In recent years he has been involved with the committees of LGBTQA projects such as the Durham Pride Prom, Allies for Equality, and Queerstock Canada. He also served as a member of the board of directors for PFLAG Durham Region from 2012-2014, where he was a member of the peer2peer support team and a facilitator for monthly sharing evenings.

Casey currently resides in the Church-Wellesley Village of Toronto and enjoys spending his free time scoring independent film projects and playing with his band Liberty Street, while on the constant search to discover new artists of all expressive forms. Follow Casey on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at CaseyRobertson.net