Over the Top
Not Polka

Church Music

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Smack in the middle of downtown Toronto, there is a church which, on some nights, doubles as Toronto's leading new music venue. (Sound familiar?) The Music Gallery, which has been a stalwart here for exactly 33 1/3 years (an anniversary they celebrate next week) is also a venue for this year's Over the Top festival of music, theater and film. I arrived towards the end of The Silver Line's opening set, where a pianist was playing on top of infomercial soundtracks.

Evening Hymns' Jonas Bonnetta used his pretty, penetrating voice to sing tender, mystical songs about love, death and heartache, such as "How Do I Get Into You?"

"Wake up broken heart!/ Because we have got some steady work to do./ And you have got to keep beating."

They closed with "Lanterns," during which Bonnetta put down his guitar and picked up an echo mic, dancing around the altar as if completely overcome in an ecstatic trance.

Headliners The Wooden Sky played with twang and swagger, with vocalist Gavin Gardiner sounding a bit like The Boss when he goes soft. (Their self-titled track shares the same meter and harmonics as "I'm On Fire.") They used banjo, violin, grand piano and electronics to achieve an almost orchestral palette of sound which somehow never overpowered (though Gardiner's vocals did sometimes get muffled with distortion.) 
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(More pics below.)

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