Broken Social Scene Aims to Help a Houston Festival Rebrand

Broken Social Scene plays In Bloom Music Festival on Saturday night.
Broken Social Scene plays In Bloom Music Festival on Saturday night. Photo courtesy of Grandstand Media
Broken Social Scene is no stranger to the festival circuit. Hell, the Canadian musical outfit is playing Bonnaroo and Pickathon this summer. Broken Social Scene is also among the headliners of the inaugural In Bloom Music Festival (previously Free Press Summer Fest), scheduled for this weekend at Eleanor Tinsley Park.

A festival such as In Bloom, which aims to unite and showcase the local community while featuring some of the biggest artists in the game today – Queens of the Stone Age, Incubus and Beck are among the more noteworthy names on the bill – holds particular importance to Broken Social Scene co-founder Brendan Canning, considering he and his bandmates have been a part of a similar festival.

“I feel like (In Bloom) is a lot like Field Trip (Festival),” Canning said of the annual Canadian music festival. “It’s a tightly-curated thing, very community-based, and that’s essentially the kind of band we are.”

The inaugural Field Trip Fest took place in 2013 and was organized by Arts & Crafts, a big name in Canadian indie music circles, and coincidentally, the label on which Broken Social Scene has been since making a name for itself around the turn of the century. Five years later, Field Trip is preparing to celebrate its sixth anniversary.

In Bloom, meanwhile, is attempting to rebrand itself as a spring festival after its predecessor, Free Press Summer Fest, fell victim to poor weather, mediocre lineups, and thus, a sullied reputation of what was once a premier music festival.

“Generally, it feels like a lot of bands play Austin, but we’ve always had a good time in Houston,” Canning said on a recent phone interview. “Texas has been really kind to us, and the fact that we’re being welcomed back and given such a nice slot at a new, homespun festival, you can’t help but feel very humbled and lucky.”

Of course, no matter the festival, Broken Social Scene is equipped. That’s because the band essentially blends a number of genres into one hodgepodge of musical goodness. It’s quite common for upwards of 10-12 musicians to take the stage (Broken Social Scene has always featured a rotating cast of members) in showcasing any number of genres.

From guitars to woodwinds, horns to violins, Broken Social Scene employs a musical structure that can, at best, be labeled unique or experimental, and at worst, a little weird. And therein lies the band’s appeal.

“Well, it sure beats being called derivative or a dime a dozen,” Canning said. “We’ve all had the chance to front our own groups or do other projects, and I will happily go support my comrades in whatever they’re involved with. Whatever they’re into, I’m into, whether experimental, hip-hop, anything. It helps makes us unique; we’re not a two-dimensional sound.”

Broken Social Scene is in a unique position as the current musical landscape is concerned. On one hand, they were never on the level of a Radiohead or Arcade Fire, bands that sold millions upon millions of records in gaining widespread cultural acceptance. On the other, they dance around the mainstream just enough to develop a loyal following that stayed with them to this day.

And considering record sales are essentially nonexistent these days, Broken Social Scene members can still make a good living touring and playing the festival circuit, while recording in the studio when the mood strikes. Last year’s Hug of Thunder marked the band’s first full-fledged studio album since 2010’s Forgiveness Rock Record.

“It’s certainly not a bad spot to be in,” Canning said. “In hindsight, you could always have made difference decision, but that’s just life in a band. We still retain friendships and write music people seem to care about, and that’s a good marker of where we’re at. If we had that one song that hit, there’s nothing wrong with that. But we still get to go out and tour and play cool festivals … We’ll see where things are in five or 10 years, whether these bands or all these other groups that are big now are still popping. Will people still want to hear trap music? Will Chance the Rapper still be a big thing? I don’t know, maybe.”

In the meantime, Canning and crew are gearing up for a rebranded festival that will hopefully shed some of the baggage of its predecessor. They plan on doing their part to help ensure that happens.

“It’s nice that we’ve been around so long, and we’re grateful to get these festival invitations year after year,” he said. “We’re gonna bring the ruckus.”

The In Bloom Festival is scheduled for March 24-26 at Eleanor Tinsley Park. For information, visit inbloomfestival.com. $79-$299 plus fees.
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Clint Hale enjoys music and writing, so that kinda works out. He likes small dogs and the Dallas Cowboys, as you can probably tell. Clint has been writing for the Houston Press since April 2016.
Contact: Clint Hale