Sound Seekers

SOUND SEEKERS: Highlights and exclusives from the NAC Presents lineup — plus best bets for the week

NAC Presents producer Simone Deneau tells Sound Seeker’s Fateema Sayani what she has on tap for the new season. Photo by Dwayne Brown

Sound Seekers by Fateema Sayani is published weekly at Read Fateema Sayani’s culture column in Ottawa Magazine and follow her on Twitter @fateemasayani

On Tuesday, the National Arts Centre will announce the full lineup for the NAC Presents series, which runs from October 5 until May 2014.

It’s the third season of the all-Canadian music series, which has a contemporary bent and is growing in popularity. The 2012-2013 season featured some 30 shows — a number of them sell-outs — by Emm Gryner, Royal Wood, Whitehorse, and Elizabeth Shepherd. The 2013-2014 season features more than 50 shows, including performances by Martha Wainwright (October 17), Rufus Wainwright (November 2), Ian Tyson and Corb Lund (November 30), and a number of others who are listed on the the NAC’s sneak peek site.

Sound Seekers asked NAC Presents producer Simone Deneau for some exclusive highlights for the next season. On Tuesday, she’ll announce the following shows as part of the series.

Cuff the Duke
Cuff the Duke, which melds indy, country, and experimental music, is on Deneau’s must-see list.

Phil Nimmons and David Braid
Nimmons, the jazz clarinettist who turned 90 this summer, teams up with 30-something jazz pianist Braid to play music inspired by oceanic images of a photographer friend. The show takes place in November at the Fourth Stage.

Oliver Jones
The pianist will return to the NAC to play the studio with his trio on April 24, 2014.

The 24th Street Wailers
The Toronto four-piece is shaking up the Blues world. The band received a nomination for Artist of the Year at the Maple Blues Awards in 2011, one year after releasing its debut album. The band is fronted by singing drummer Lindsay Beaver. See them at the NAC in January 2014.

Cuff the Duke
The band that melds indie, country, and experimental music will start writing its next studio album after their current tour concludes. The band released two albums and two cover EPS in the last two years and will be in Aylmer in November as part of their fall tour. They’re back in the area for the NAC Presents show in early 2014.

Rémi Thériault
Simone Deneau looks forward to busy times ahead, with some 50 concerts lined up for this season’s all-Canadian NAC Presents lineup. Photo by Rémi Thériault

Artists are booked into four venues at the arts centre, depending on their expected draw. For example, Tyson and Lund will play in Southam Hall, which seats 2,300. Tickets for that show are $49. Rising artists that are often booked as supporting acts get the headliner treatment in the Fourth Stage, which seats 180 people. You’ll see Ottawa songwriter Kalle Mattson there on October 25. Tickets are $22. Hannah Georgas plays two dates there on November 7 and 8 for $27 a pop. Ron Sexsmith and Martha Wainwright will play the 300-seater studio in October. There are also shows scheduled for the 850-seater NAC theatre.

The lower-priced tickets are a good entry point for new and younger audiences. Shows in the smaller venues of the National Arts Centre allow rising and mid-career artists the opportunity to play a soft-seat theatre, which is considered a career milestone, since it shows that you can fill more seats than at a bar or nightclub. It also bodes well for an artist’s future touring prospects, which is also one of the better ways to make money in a time when a lot of people download records for free.

It was Deneau’s idea to add the smaller Fourth Stage to the roster of venues for the series because of those reasons. She says the programming team at the NAC wants the centre to be a home for Canadian artists to return to time and again. In fact, a number of the artists who are part of the NAC Presents series came through first via the Scene Festivals, which run on alternating years and focus on programming from particular region. The first was Atlantic Scene in 2003. Northern Scene took place this year and Ontario Scene takes place in 2015.

“Amazing artists would come through and we wanted to create an opportunity for them to come back to the National Arts Centre and see them at different times in their career,” Deneau says.

She started working at the NAC as an usher 34 years ago and has held a number of other positions there over the years. She worked part-time as a house manager while attending law school. She never pursued a law career, but instead returned to the NAC full-time eventually working up to her current role.

Deneau —a  hip cruiser-pedalling, Hintonburg-dwelling, grandmother — spends a lot of time keeping abreast of Canadian artists through social media and attending some of the major conferences, including the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals and another by the Canadian Arts Presenting Organization, better known as CAPACOA. Those are good places to discover emerging artists, as part of Deneau’s mandate is to feature up-and-coming artists.

“I like when there’s a buzz about an artist or when I hear a good thing about an artist from another artist,” Deneau says. “It’s not a perfect recipe, but you read, you listen, you hear, and you keep up with what’s going on.”

Deneau says she wants the series to have a nice, cool, contemporary feel to it. So far, it’s come across that way. The series gives Ottawa artists a nice billing (Sound of Lions and Kellylee Evans are past performers) and strikes the right mix between hip, contemporary, iconic, and up and coming.

NAC Presents kicks off on October 5 with a performance by Basia Bulat. 

Best Bets

MC Atherton curates an art show at Oz Kafe featuring works inspired by funny man Bill Murray. He’ll play a DJ set of songs from Murray’s film at the launch party on Saturday. On the setlist: Bill Murray covering (er, butchering (Preview) ) Bryan Ferry’s “More Than This” from Lost in Translation.

On Monday, you can head to Babylon Nightclub to watch a live stream of the Polaris Music Prize awards gala, which will be happening in Toronto with host Kathleen Edwards. Those on the shortlist with Ottawa connections are A Tribe Called Red and Metz. They are competing for album of the year with Godpseed! You Black Emperor, Zaki Ibrahim, Metric, Purity Ring, Colin Stetson, Tegan and Sarah, Whitehorse and Young Galaxy. The Babylon rooting section will gather at 7 p.m. No cover. The gala will also stream live at