Author Archives: Tom Beedham

About Tom Beedham

Tom Beedham is a Canadian writer and photographer whose work focuses on independent culture, experimental art, DIY communities, and their relationship to the mainstream. He has reported on a spectrum of creatives ranging from emerging acts to the definitive voices of cultural movements. He lives in Toronto, Ontario. He has contributed features to Exclaim!, NOW, A.Side (formerly AUX), Chart Attack, and VICE publications Noisey and THUMP, and has appeared as a correspondent on Daily VICE. Tom is also a co-organizer and curator of the inter-arts series Long Winter, for which he has overseen the publication of an online blog and print newspaper-style community publication, and, in collaboration with Lucy Satzewich, implemented harm reduction strategies for safer event spaces. From 2006-2012, he was Editor-in-Chief of Halton, ON -based youth magazine The Undercroft and served as an outreach worker for parent organization Peer Outreach Support Services and Education (POSSE) Project. He was also a DIY concert organizer in his hometown Georgetown, ON in the mid-2000s.

Hillside Reviews: The Super Friendz @ Island Stage – July 26, 2014

By Tom Beedham

The Super Friendz @ Island Stage - July 26, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham

The Super Friendz @ Island Stage – July 26, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham

“Thanks a lot everybody, we’re doing a workshop later tonight on grunge dynamics: ‘When You’re Mad It Gets Louder; When You’re Sad It Gets Quieter,’” Super Friendz bassist Charles Austin quipped after the band played the final notes of “Rescue Us From Boredom” at Hillside’s Island Stage yesterday afternoon.

To his left, guitarist Matt Murphy resembled some kind of indie superhero sporting a guitar strap improvised out of a Sled Island tote bag that didn’t look unlike a cape. Indeed, for the special part of the crowd eagerly assembled under the Island Stage tent specifically keen on catching the Halifax, Nova Scotia band’s only scheduled gig of the year, the Super Friendz definitely played the part.

Austin, Murphy, and Drew Yamada spent the 45-minute set democratically trading mic duties as they ran through the better half of 1995’s ‘Mock Up, Scale Down,’ and Murphy’s “cape” was just one of the blatant signifiers that spoke to the ongoing adaptable nature of the indie rock veterans, performing at Hillside 20 years after their formation.

“Never borrow a bass you don’t know,” Austin advised from behind a three-stringed loaner while Yamada cracked a smile.

Kieren Adams rounded things out filling in for drummer Dave Marsh directly after playing a half-hour set for his regular gig, DIANA, and there were a couple more cracks about Adams being “pooched,” but he did just fine managing Marsh’s kinetic Keith Moon vs. Topper Headon primitivism.

They were nearly rushed off the stage at the end of ‘Slide Show’ opener “Up and Running,” but they managed to swindle another two minutes out of the stage managers in order to wrap things up with a face melting guitar jam. The brevity of that performance and the set that contained it all served to highlight the fact that 20 years on, the Super Friendz are still capable of proving that you don’t need a big production or an arsenal of effects to make interesting guitar music: just grab whatever guitar you have lying around, play it loud, and make it work.

Setlist:
“Better Call”
“Come Clean”
“Rescue Us From Boredom”
“Girls and Their Boys”
“Fireflies”
“When They Paid Me”
“Undertow”
“Down In Flames”
“Karate Man”
“10 Lbs”
“Up and Running”

(Review originally published at HillsideFestival.ca)

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Hillside review: Esther Grey @ Lake Stage – July 26, 2014

By Tom Beedham

Steph Yates of Esther Grey @ the Lake Stage for Hillside Festival - July 26, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham

Steph Yates of Esther Grey @ the Lake Stage for Hillside Festival – July 26, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham

Steph Yates and Tyson Brinacombe are pretty much staples of Guelph’s “underground” music community, so it’s no surprise that Esther Grey is featured as such a prominent fixture of this year’s Hillside. They helped welcome the eager ears with a festival opening workshop alongside Amelia Curran, Bry Webb, Culture Reject, Daniel Champagne, and Fearing & White at the Island Stage yesterday, and later tonight, Yates is participating in another workshop with fellow musical nook and cranny explorers Barzin, Clinton St. Johh, and Nat Baldwin at the Sun Stage.

Earlier this afternoon, Esther Grey got a chance to plow through a proper set of its own at the Lake Stage.

Esther Grey is also celebrating this Hillside with the discharge of a special, very limited career-spanning CD compilation collecting works found elsewhere on last fall’s “Buttermilk” seven-inch, their split with Brinacombe’s other project, Tyson & His Gameboy, a 2011 CFRU compilation of local artists, and a rare, six-copy cassette released for Kazoo! Fest 2013. But seldom ones to stick to the script, Esther Grey’s sets are never extensively rehearsed renditions of their recordings. The group’s been known to improvise parts of their sets and shuffle up the deck, bringing in outside performers to keep things interesting onstage. Today that meant bringing in their friend Starr to play a keyboard that coupled the band’s tip-toed garage pop minimalism with curious sound washes and frequency wobbles. A couple of gear problems gave way to improvised sections, and the set was only better for it.

It was a performance that perpetuated a long tradition of making it impossible to walk away from an Esther Grey concert without yearning for something more – maybe it’s time for a live album from these folks.

(Review originally published at HillsideFestival.ca)

Hillside reviews: Hydra @ Island Stage – July 25, 2014

By Tom Beedham

Hydra @ Island Stage - July 25, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham

Hydra @ Island Stage – July 25, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham

Hillside workshops are known for bringing together otherwise separate musical acts for dynamic onstage collaborations, but Hydra is an entirely different beast. Originally ushered into existence as an outfit that would help Feist showcase differently formatted material from her 2011 album Metals at the 2012 Polaris Music Prize gala (she won after that), the super group’s since established its own notoriety for also turning renditions of songs by husband-and-wife duos AroarA (Ariel Engle and Broken Social Scene/Apostle of Hustle’s Andrew Whiteman) and Snowblink (Daniela Gesundheit and Dan Goldman) into larger productions that were never possible with the hands those groups brought to their respective tables.

True, the group gets a lot of its hype from Leslie Feist’s involvement, but while fans assembled under the Island Stage tent were easily more familiar with the group’s performances of Feist’s Metals tracks, it’s not as though AroarA’s smoldering “#2” or Snowblink’s spiraling “Cyclone” – both still new tracks when their respective groups performed them at last year’s Hillside – were perceived as coming out of left field. In fact, all seven of Hydra’s heads represent Hillside alumni – even bassist Charles Spearin (Broken Social Scene, Do Make Say Think) and drummer Don Kerr (Communism, Rheostatics, Bidiniband) have performed at Hillsides past. It doesn’t hurt that Engle’s and Gesundheit’s voices vent sonic gold, either.

For all of its grandeur, the set was still wrought with production problems – Feist’s “The Bad In Each Other” had a false start, Engle’s in-ear monitors cut out in the middle of AroarA’s “#14,” and persistent feedback interrupted all throughout – but Hydra soldiered on through all of it and over the course of their performance it became glaringly certain that none of the technical difficulties in the world could hurtle a set from a group of this aptitude into a state of any significant disrepair.

They capped it all off with a fitting encore cover of Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” and sent everyone on their way with a fresh reminder about Hillside’s idyllic landscape: however soft the green fields that cover Guelph Lake Island, those grounds can still whisper tales of gore. Now we know the Hydra are our overlords.

Setlist
“#4” (AroarA)
“The Bad In Each Other” (Feist)
“Armageddagain” (Snowblink)
“#2” (AroarA)
“The Undiscovered First” (Feist)
“Feel Like A Man” (Snowblink) (28:40)
“#6” (AroarA)
“Foothills” (Snowblink)
“Another World” (Antony and the Johnsons cover)
“Cyclone” (Snowblink)
“How Come You Never Go There” (Feist)
“Look At You” (Snowblink)
“#14” (AroarA)

Encore:
“Immigrant Song” (Led Zeppelin cover)

(Review originally published on HillsideFestival.ca)

NXNE photo dump 2014: Swans, St. Vincent, Speedy Ortiz, Fresh Snow, PS I Love You, & White Poppy

By Tom Beedham
Swans @ Yonge-Dundas Square. June 20, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham

This year’s North by North East was a pendulum experience that swung from frustrating lows to really solid sensory experiences.

Lacking the web #metrics NXNE press handlers were demanding this season, I simply didn’t bother applying for accreditation, but I tried my luck and brought my camera with me anyway. That lack of credentials ultimately meant being turned away at the door at the Pissed Jeans/GOAT show at Lee’s after a solid Swans/St. Vincent shoot I managed from the crowd at Yonge-Dundas, so I stashed my camera at a nearby friend’s place, rushed back for the chaos, and between leaning into white-knuckled bike rides to gigs straight from my day job over the next few days, I didn’t manage to get it back until today. Bonus excuse: I could have also given you photos of the Maica Mia/Circuit des Yeux/Thoughts on Air showcase at the Garrison on Wednesday, but I straight up forgot to pack my camera with an SD card. Technology!
Marking my first year not having to answer to an editor for my NXNE experience, I decided to limit the venue hopping and stick to checking out showcases, and I have to say this is the way to do the festival. Forget about the gamification and just lock in to a good lineup. While I am bummed I couldn’t get shots of GOAT’s kaleidoscopic costumes or the secret (technically not a NXNE show) METZ show last night, I do have to say (mark my words, Yonge-Dundas smartphone praisers) it was a relief to have a concrete excuse to put the camera down and just enjoy the experience for what it was.

Anyway, here are shots from two out of the five days I attended NXNE this year.

P.S. I Love You @ Mod Club - June 19, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham Speedy Ortiz @ Mod Club - June 19, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham Speedy Ortiz @ Mod Club - June 19, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham White Poppy @ The Great Hall - June 19, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham Fresh Snow @ The Great Hall - June 19, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham Fresh Snow @ The Great Hall - June 19, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham Fresh Snow @ The Great Hall - June 19, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham Fresh Snow @ The Great Hall - June 19, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham Fresh Snow @ The Great Hall - June 19, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham Swans @ Yonge-Dundas Square. June 20, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham Swans @ Yonge-Dundas Square. June 20, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham Swans @ Yonge-Dundas Square. June 20, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham Swans @ Yonge-Dundas Square. June 20, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham Swans @ Yonge-Dundas Square. June 20, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham Swans @ Yonge-Dundas Square. June 20, 2014. 6 Swans @ Yonge-Dundas Square. June 20, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham Swans @ Yonge-Dundas Square. June 20, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham Swans @ Yonge-Dundas Square. June 20, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham Swans @ Yonge-Dundas Square. June 20, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham Swans @ Yonge-Dundas Square. June 20, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham Swans @ Yonge-Dundas Square. June 20, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham Swans @ Yonge-Dundas Square. June 20, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham St. Vincent @ Yonge-Dundas Square. June 20, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham St. Vincent @ Yonge-Dundas Square. June 20, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham St. Vincent @ Yonge-Dundas Square. June 20, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham St. Vincent @ Yonge-Dundas Square. June 20, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham St. Vincent @ Yonge-Dundas Square. June 20, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham St. Vincent @ Yonge-Dundas Square. June 20, 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham

Concert reviews: Tanya Tagaq presenting ‘Nanook of the North’ @ David Pecaut Square for Luminato Festival | June 10, 2014

Tanya Tagaq presenting 'Nanook of the North' live @ David Pecaut for Luminato 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham
Tanya Tagaq presenting 'Nanook of the North' live @ David Pecaut for Luminato 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham Tanya Tagaq presenting 'Nanook of the North' live @ David Pecaut for Luminato 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham Tanya Tagaq presenting 'Nanook of the North' live @ David Pecaut for Luminato 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham Tanya Tagaq presenting 'Nanook of the North' live @ David Pecaut for Luminato 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham Tanya Tagaq presenting 'Nanook of the North' live @ David Pecaut for Luminato 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham Tanya Tagaq presenting 'Nanook of the North' live @ David Pecaut for Luminato 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham Tanya Tagaq presenting 'Nanook of the North' live @ David Pecaut for Luminato 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham Tanya Tagaq presenting 'Nanook of the North' live @ David Pecaut for Luminato 2014. Photo: Tom Beedham

“I studied this in film history class,” reflected someone in the crowd before throat singer Tanya Tagaq took the stage at Toronto’s Luminato Festival to perform in front of a background projection of Nanook of the North.

But not like this.

Tagaq’s presentation of the historic documentary highlighted the colonialist tendencies of the night’s muse, vocally juxtaposing deep, triumphant, and aggressive growls and chanting “Colonizer, colonizer, colonizer” to images of Inuk people being infantilized onscreen and pictured examining relics of their colonizers’ “progress” with wonder and confusion. It was hardly committed to honouring the “aesthetically significant” stamp Robert J Flaherty’s editorial dramatization has typically been decorated with.

CMW reviews: Television @ Phoenix Concert Theatre – May 10, 2014

Television's Tom Verlaine at Phoenix Concert Theatre on May 10 for Canadian Music Week. Photo: Tom Beedham

Television’s Tom Verlaine at Phoenix Concert Theatre on May 10 for Canadian Music Week. Photo: Tom Beedham

By Tom Beedham

Granting a performance attracting a crowd perhaps a little too ready to strike it from its bucket list, Television rolled into town on Saturday to give a concert I hope I’ll never forget. Minus the hecklers, that is.

It only took one song (an 11-minute-long “1880 Or So,” sure) before one of those particularly entitled folks yelled for “Marquee Moon.” With $30 t-shirts bearing the title track’s album art on sale at the back of the venue, these guys set the bar kind of low, didn’t they?

What we got was so much more.

While mostly unembellished cuts from that album did account for the bulk of their set (they played all of them but “Friction” and “Torn Curtain”), Television’s CMW appearance was far from a night devoted to producing an uncanny valley. Beginning with the swirling two minutes of cosmic arpeggios and china dings they tacked onto the beginning of set opener “1880 Or So,” Television established from the get-go that this would be a night spent balancing preservation of their fan-favoured debut against less complimentary experimentation. There was their 1975 anti-single “Little Johnny Jewel,” an 18-minute rendition of that burning middle-eastern folk epic “Persia” they’ve been shopping around at recent gigs, and – although Verlaine insisted that he and the rest of the band “don’t really know it” – Television even played a six-minute version of “I’m Gonna Find You,” a commercially unavailable song from the band’s days with Richard Hell.

Fans also got some insight into the group’s influences. Verlaine dedicated Marquee Moon to “our favourite singer in the world,” Wong Fei (or “Faye Wong,” as he accurately allowed she’s “probably” recognized by here), and when the band returned to the stage after closing their set proper with “Marquee Moon,” they dug into a cover of ’60s garage act the Count Five’s “Psychotic Reaction.”

This concert was as nostalgic as it was incendiary. But it was also sobering.

As much as the band’s tight, characteristically interlocking jams (as well as the buzz about a new album) impart hope for a long future, I can’t get one particular moment out of my head: in the middle of a short but particularly twinkling ambient track the band transitioned into a close with right when “Psychotic Reaction” usually gets to be its noisiest, Tom Verlaine started shaking and massaging his left hand.

Television is back. But how long?

Setlist:
“1880 or So”
“Prove It”
“Elevation”
“Little Johnny Jewel”
“See No Evil”
“I’m Gonna Find You”
“Venus”
“Persia”
“Guiding Light”
“Marquee Moon”

Encore:
“Glory”
“Psychotic Reaction” (Count Five)
Unknown (new?) track

CMW reviews: The first night of DIANA’s “DIG DEEP/GET HIGH” was the Anti-CMW – DIANA with Jennifer Castle, ASMR Buds, and Matthew “Doc” Dunn @ Drake Underground – May 8, 2014

A “band” spent an entire set making tea onstage and I assure you it was awesome
By Tom Beedham
DIANA performing improvised interpretations of their 'Perpetual Surrender' LP at the Drake Underground for the first of their curated performances for CMW, "DIG DEEP." Photo: Tom Beedham
Canadian Music Week is a large-scale, heavily sponsored music industry event that could best be summed up by a philosophy toward reliable metrics – think “much dollars, very hashtag.” So it goes without saying that more than a few were surprised by the news that, this year, the Toronto-based festival was allowing not one, but two nights of programming curated around community representation and distinct artistic visions from local buzz band DIANA: “DIG DEEP/GET HIGH.”

The first of those events – DIG DEEP – took place last night at the Drake Underground. Promised as an evening that would mine the benefits of “solitude/looking inward,” it was host to performances that were entirely antithetical to the trending topic CMW strives to be: hard left turn improv renderings of pop songs, a minimalist ASMR-catered iced tea instructional, raga drones, and stream of consciousness folk songs. That the first two of the four avant-creative performances given here were categorized as “rock” on CMW’s website is all the more telling of the festival’s conservative values and an operating vocabulary entirely lacking compatibility with what was going on here.

Audiences only had to look to the start of the night for reification of the latter. Before kicking off the show with a short but spiritually arresting 25-minute set, Matthew “Doc” Dunn had to entertain a festival stage manager following him around like a lost puppy, repeatedly asking if he was going to start playing as people were still filtering in.

CMW events are often toted for their ability to launch artists’ careers, but in reality, wristband holders are encouraged to embrace the festival’s gamification and venue hop to skip out on opening bands they’ve never heard of so they can (maybe) catch another band they #love halfway across the city. To wit, the liberty to jump from a performance at one venue to another elsewhere is a big appeal to obtaining a festival wristband. In these cases it can be endlessly irksome to arrive at a venue only to wait for band x to come onstage, especially if you left another performance early to do so. Stage managers that keep bands on time are essential to preventing this from happening. But it’s also expected that opening bands will delay their start time to allow greater audiences a chance to catch their sets, and waiting between bands is a reality of concert attendance. At a festival like CMW, where all performances are given equal hour-long blocks in which to do their thing, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the next scheduled performance, there’s little harm done (even less so at a presentation like DIG DEEP, where the acts performing are all peers – in some cases appearing onstage together that night – that are sympathetic to each others’ needs).

In effect, the rushed production felt from CMW just translated to a failure on the festival’s part to register the immersive community experience the event aspired to be.

Some time after Dunn had finished delivering his audience to another plane of being with his juxtaposition of raga-affected slide guitars and bendy bleeps and bloops, ASMR Buds took the stage. Consisting of Bernice members Robin Dann, Felicity Williams, and Colin Fisher (also of Caribou and Not the Wind, Not the Flag) as well as Matthew Pencer (LOOM), ASMR Buds provided what was probably the most peculiarly adventurous set delivered under the CMW banner this year. In a performance that spoke to the experience of the autonomous sensory meridian response phenomenon from which the group borrowed its name (read about it), the “band” brought the room to a murmuring silence as it asked the audience to consider the relieving powers some of the lifeworld’s most subtle stimuli possess.

Bracketing a whispered performance that saw them document the making, herbal effects, and consumption of different iced teas, all the while tapping the process with some sensitive mics, Dann and Williams sat seated on a pillow before an assortment of tea candles. On either side of them, Fisher elicited hushed tones and peculiar textures from the electric guitar and arsenal of effect pedals he brought in tow while Pencer played with the vocals and layered the sounds on a laptop, turning it all into a live stereo collage.

Then it was time for DIANA to take its own turn at helming this big, weird, droney beast it spirited into fruition. They kept Dann, Fisher, and Williams all on stage, also cramming sound processor Dafydd Hughes into the space for a set that promised to be their “most opiated performance ever” and aimed “to melt you into yr seats.” They dug into (see what I did there?) extended studies of Perpetual Surrender’s title track, “Curtains,” “New House,” and a loose cover of Brian Eno’s “Here Come the Warm Jets” that bled into a reworking of “Born Again,” but the crowd that crushed towards the stage to get a close look at their performance dissipated significantly as the set went on. You can guess why. Folks directed here from the festival schedule expected the tropical pop grooves DIANA committed to wax. What they got was (relatively) indulgent experimentation and exploration.

Then broody folk songwriter Jennifer Castle took the stage to follow them. Singing and playing her electric guitar with closed eyes from her seated position on the stage floor, she had been playing to a room about as populated as (but a little less shy than) the one that came out early for Doc Dunn. But then she was told she only had one song left.

What followed was an exchange that emphasized the commitment to art that had been under the dim blue spotlights all night.

“Really? It’s like one in the morning oh my god,” Castle said. (To the stage manager and CMW’s credit, it was actually just before midnight, when a separate CMW event was about to begin in the same space. They probably needed the time to clear people out so they could charge a second cover, which isn’t ethically questionable at all.)

“I, for the record, never, ever, need anybody to tell me it’s the last song,” said Castle (her emphasis). “People are always like, ‘Why the fuck do you play for five minutes? You suuuuck.’”

As much as Castle was speaking to her own situation, her response also conveyed the complicated relationship felt between festivals like CMW and the tightknit communities they interrupt. It was a terrific night of challenging performances, but it also came packaged with the trappings of a machine that refused compatibility.

DIANA returns to the Drake Underground tonight with the second part of its CMW showcase, “GET HIGH”: a night of dance music promising to mine the benefits of extroversion and giving outward. Joined by performances from House of Monroe, Ice Cream, and Pacific High DJs, DIANA will play house interpretations of songs from Perpetual Surrender.