Syndicatefest 2014

By Rachel Chiong, Photos by Elysse Cloma

If you happened to hear a mess of glorious noise on your way to Bathurst Station last night, it wasn’t your imagination. The labels Next Level Syndicate and Stack Your Rooster, tackled this year’s Syndicatefest by stuffing a bulging, pocketful of talent in Beit Zatoun, across the street from Honest Ed’s. Prior to the show, the spacious, single room that is Beit Zatoun echoed like a freshly painted room ready to get trashed that night. Because of the vast line up of fourteen bands, six hours, and a human author who has human needs (like eating dinner), not all bands could be covered in this spiel.

Shipley Hollow opened the show to a small crowd, who were trickling in on the Saturday afternoon. The band started with a bang: guitars rushed steadfastly, and the drumming was precise and fierce like a machine gun. The tempo never stayed in one place, foreshadowing what was in store for the rest of the night.

Getting the flow of the show, the audience gathered to the west side of the room where Quaaludes had set itself up like a fireplace. Cheeks flushed, the band members leaped around like flames with a showmanship that was so incredible that you could be deaf and still enjoy the performance. They tested the boundaries of Beit Zatoun, shaking the rafters and walls, transforming the venue into their personal giant amp.

Pisces at the Animal Fair at Syndicatefest

Pisces at the Animal Fair at Syndicatefest

No intro needed, Junior Bob picked up from where Quaaludes had left off when they finished their set. Tirelessly, the duo tapped through the notes of their songs with dizzying speed. The guitarist seemed like he grew fourteen fingers to attack his seven-string guitar, and the drummer played like he had mastered the act of balancing on his kit.

Sex Tape slowed things down, teasing its way into its set by playing the same catchy sample over and over during sound check. Their vibe broke through the math rock stream — instead, they were as warm as the chandelier bulbs above them, seeping soul into the cracks of Beit Zatoun’s hardwood floors with their space-alleyway samples, Chris LaRocca’s crooning, and Victor Xu’s Milky Way keyboard.

The night dipped into a blur when the crowd grew in the midst of tacos, schedule switching, and K-town food-runs for those who couldn’t handle the tacos. Based off the mosaic of acts such as Gnarwhal and Hit Home, the surprise of the night caught everyone off-guard: as Sly Why set up, the crowd watched passively, eyes glazed and trying to figure out which band was supposed to be playing next — then Victor Xu started to rap. Without hesitation, the Syndicate crowd was educated on the coolest juxtaposition between hip-hop and jazz. Merch was sold, new fans were made, and no one questioned the definition of “fusion” anymore.

The show ended with a trio: Oshwa, Elos Arma, and Sleep for the Nightlife. At this point the crowd was buzzing with exhausted energy as the minutes ticked closer to midnight. Oshwa brought the energy back with class, sass, and Alicia Walter’s beautiful smile. Despite constantly taking care not to get whacked in the face by Matthew Noonan’s bass, I was treated to an exceptionally rewarding view at the front of the crowd; the band played with visible satisfaction as their audience swooned to every sweet note and explosive breakdown.

How better to end the show and the final moments of Saturday night with the band that was not only the most seasoned, but also classified themselves as “sentimental math.” No vocals were necessary, as Sleep for Nightlife could sing with their three guitars. The band was so engrossed in their music, facing each other with the drummer in the middle, who acted as the heart to the band’s guitar limbs. No doubt everyone felt the bassist’s energy when he achieved perfect bent-knee head-bang form, and the floors shook when the lead guitarist stomped and slammed his foot into the abused hardwood as the songs became increasingly more intense.

Gnarwhal at Syndicatefest

Gnarwhal at Syndicatefest

Like a blackboard where the shadows of past equations can never be erased completely, Beit Zatoun’s walls still echo with the sounds of math rock and then some. The show was a success and boasted local talent and neighbouring bands who toured from the US. But at one moment of the show, as I made sure I stepped on every stair on Beit Zatoun’s infamous danger-descent to the bathroom, I heard Oshwa’s sound check, Alicia’s keyboard cooing to me from upstairs among the softening chatter. In an irrational, blissful second, I thought how I actually wouldn’t mind slipping off these stairs and dying, as long as I was in this place surrounded by beautiful music.


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