Show Review: For The Love Of Madness

Story by Rachel Chiong, photos by Marilou Frias

In a way, For the Love of Madness exposed two sides of the human mind, rather than just denouncing the stigma of mental illnesses. Organized by Mike Zbikowski of Cerebral Arts Incorporated and Alexandra DiFlorio, all proceeds that night went to CAMH’s foundation, thanks to the beautiful souls who donated to the event’s Indiegogo page and raised money to cover the event’s expenses. The foundation’s cause was to aid individuals who not only had to struggle with mental illnesses but with society’s unsupportive response that only swept them under a rug. But that night artists came to celebrate a different kind of madness.  Bathed in The Central’s Christmas lights, the stage turned into an operating table, where musicians opened themselves up, exposing viscera of visions and worlds that only they could conjure.

Rachel Mesic warmed the audience as the rain outside choked to a drizzle and the lights inside dimmed. With her energetic guitar, she created a safe place, secure and nostalgic like the corners of a teenager’s bedroom. With lyrics raw as diary entries, laced with vulnerable and sweet falsettos, Mesic shared her story and struggles, which sailed on the rhythms of her strumming and resonated throughout the venue.

Behind a plethora of guitar pedals, Cloud Everest switched the gears of the show and redefined “band shell” into its more literal sense. Music echoed in spiral wavelengths from the stage, as if The Central was a shell and if you pressed your ears against it, you could hear the ocean. During their song “Untitled” (or “I Ate My Nachos Too Fast” which they dubbed it that night), the sounds intensified into surges and washed over the audience. Music spilled past the crowd, reaching the back of the room, drawing more people in with its current; the stragglers wandering closer and bobbing their heads to the mathy post-rock echoes.

Cue the obligatory stage-rush to whisk gear off and hook up equipment, and Mayraki was ready. In a whirlwind highway of funk, rock ‘n roll, soul, and hip-hop, they pumped the crowd into a hot, excited heap. The same tempo never stayed too long to lull the crowd. They grabbed The Central by the neck and shook it upside down and inside out. Rubix and Aloe spit fire verse by verse, only to catch everyone by surprise when the band fell into melody-dips so sweet it made you suck the air between your teeth.

Downturns swiftly the claimed the stage, after lead singer, James Murray, concluded sound-check by ripping through everyone’s eardrums, making sure that the crowd knew their band was about to slay the night. With the same passion they launched into their set, no apologies needed, dragging the audience ready-or-not into a world that they catered specially for long-days. They devoured down heaven and replaced it with their own presence, swinging the crowd back and forth with unforgettable, hypnotizing force.

Throughout the show, I settled in the centre of The Central perched on the edges of the bench for the best view. To my left was the crowd, whose silhouettes created a human skyline against the stage lights and to my right by the backdrop of art showcases Mike Zbikowski stood tirelessly next to the audio controls. The entire evening and ultimately far into the night he had watched over the event, making sure everything ran smoothly, and he had every right to be proud. What had manifested was a combined effort from the artists, musicians, and audience, who despite the cause of the event didn’t focus on the impairment of mental illnesses, but instead embraced our individual power to overcome them. And that night among the music, beer, and Christmas lights, being human felt like the greatest thing of all.

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