Play The Parks, an annual music program and concert series showcasing local artists in Toronto’s Downtown Yonge community for the past 10 years, is expanding into 13 Canadian cities. Presented by the TD Music Connected Series and curated by Canada’s Music Incubator (CMI), the free, musically and culturally diverse concert series will spotlight over 100 diverse artists from Black, Indigenous, Chinese, South Asian and 2SLGBTQ+ communities, connecting Canadians throughout the rest of the summer.
In addition to Play the Parks in Toronto, concerts will take place in the following 13 cities this year: Victoria, BC; Vancouver, BC; Surrey, BC; New Westminster, BC; Edmonton, AB; Calgary, AB; Winnipeg, MB; London, ON; Brantford, ON; Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON; Barrie, ON; Sydney, NS; and St. John’s, NL. A cluster of performances will be produced in each of the mentioned cities, spanning dozens of parks, from August 15 to September 30, 2022.
More information on the shows can be found here.
Since 2012, Play the Parks has been a great success in Toronto, receiving positive feedback from both the artists and audiences involved. In September 2020, a virtual Play the Parks pilot took place in Calgary in collaboration with CMI, the TD Music Connected Series, Calgary Parks and the National Music Centre (NMC). The 2020 program included a series of pre-recorded 30-minute performances from local artists in six parks in Calgary, helping to connect communities and fans in a virtual environment. This year marks the first time that artists and fans will be gathering in person to experience Play the Parks in Calgary, and in the other mentioned Canadian cities.
With free live music available, Play the Parks is a chance for Canadians to create lasting memories, explore diverse cultures and share new experiences. Through the 2022 program, CMI and the TD Music Connected Series hope to engage additional neighbourhoods, activate more parks and inspire live audiences.
The 2022 Play The Parks lineup includes performances by Jasper Sloan Yip, whose pop single, “Show Your Teeth” earned him the Best of BC song-writing prize, at Jack Poole Plaza Park in Vancouver; Cynthia Hamar, Métis singer-songwriter with four folk studio albums, at Strathcona Parkette in Edmonton; Chad Price, 2022 CBC Music Searchlight Grand Prize Winner, at Wortley Village Green in London; and Jing Xia, professional guzheng artist, teacher and scholar, at Bannerman Park in St. John’s.
Parlour Panther is the dreamy grit pop duo of Frankie and Lee, two trans non-binary spouses who have been making music together since 2014. The time they’ve spent together and dedicated to crafting their music has resulted in a uniquely personal and carved out electro- infused sound with synths, guitars and a drum machine. Their live performance is undeniably tight with a palpable chemistry, a vibe that is joyful and at ease, and “vocal melodies [that] add a warm glow to the songs” (Shawn Conner, Vancouver Sun). With influences like King Princess, HAIM, and The Black Keys, this self-produced duo made their sophomore LP Retrograde in their at-home studio.
Their latest release, Out in the Ether, was pre-released on DOMINIONATED’s Press Play playlist and is now available on all streaming platforms. Other 2022 highlights so far include opening for the Manitoba-based band Royal Canoe and ripping it up for the Vancouver International Jazz Festival at David Lam Park Main Stage. This dark dreamy duo is based on unceded Coast Salish Territory in Vancouver, Canada.
I had the opportunity to chat with Parlour Panther who are performing at Hume Park in New Westminster, BC on September 9th, about their musical process and what we can expect from their “Play The Parks” performance.
Kat: How would you best describe your sound, and what do you hope listeners take away from your music?
Parlour Panther: We like to describe our music as dreamy grit pop; beautiful soundscapes with soaring and immersive synths and guitars, warm vocal harmonies, and juxtaposing gritty bass and electric guitar. Think of a blend between The Black Keys and Tame Impala, indie pop meets indie rock.
Parlour Panther, aka, Frankie and me (Lee), co-write most of our songs and Frankie is our producer/engineer/mixer. So in that sense, the songs we play are well produced. Even the live performance versions are carefully crafted with a full sound, while still leaving space for our vocals and lyrics to be heard.
Frankie and I are a non-binary married couple and we’ve been performing together since 2014. Our music is honest and uplifting, and we want listeners to walk away feeling like their hearts are a little more open with their chins held high. And maybe like they found their new favourite band ;-)
Kat: What do you find is the most challenging part of your creative process?
Parlour Panther: One of the most challenging parts of the creative process for us can be writing the lyrics. We are very thoughtful about our lyrical content, and sometimes that can prove to be challenging when your standards are so high. We like to write songs that are very specific to a personal experience but could also be relatable for a lot of people.
We also want the words to actually sound good, like poetry, either in their rhythm together or by being visually descriptive. Sometimes lyrics come out quickly, and many times we will spend an hour trying to think of one good line to end a verse! It’s important for us to know when we’ve tapped out for the day, when to sleep on a song and try again later.
Kat: What was your musical highlight of the summer?
Parlour Panther: A great part about playing in a band is that it can take you to places you wouldn’t normally go. We travelled to Sechelt to play at the Rogue Arts Festival and had the best day just swimming and hanging out in the town. Then we got to go rip a sick set at an amazing stage in the middle of a beautiful field. It’s one of our favourite festivals that we want everyone to know about! It’s so cute and well put together with a great lineup every year. We get to see old friends and make new ones and just have the best time doing what we love.
We also went to Nelson for their International Mural Festival, and seeing all the beautiful murals in this absolutely quaint and gorgeous little town was another big highlight, on top of playing for their super sweet festival.
Kat: What’s your favourite part about Vancouver’s music scene? Are there any other local artists that have caught your attention?
Parlour Panther: There is a perseverance and grit required to be a musician in this city and I think it makes it special. Vancouver has had a declining amount of available, accessible music venues recently and I think my favourite part about Vancouver’s music scene is that folks find ways to play, find venues to play at, or make collectives to play at unconventional venues, regardless of what is available to us! The music community also really supports one another, it’s like a big-little family and we’re always rooting each other on and love running into each other at shows.
Kat: You’re performing at this year’s Play The Parks Presented by TD Music Connected Series in New Westminster! What can audiences expect from your live performance?
Parlour Panther: Yes, we are looking forward to this show! For this event we’ll be performing a more stripped down acoustic set. These shows are special in that they are more intimate and allow for more focus on the lyrics and vocals. At almost every show we’ve ever played together since 2014, listeners comment on how they love our harmonies. So at this show you’ll be able to hear them super well. Frankie will play their acoustic guitar and I’ll play my ukulele. We’ll sing some acoustic versions of our original Parlour Panther songs as well as some special covers. With our history and intimacy as partners, our performance brings a palpable chemistry with a vibe that is joyful and at ease. We hope to see you there!