Show Review: Global Sonic Takeover presents Dia de los Muertos

By Kalina Nedelcheva, Photos by Lancaster Pictures

On November 3rd, the hidden jewel with bicycles hanging from the ceiling hosted another DIY show. 

24205057_10210866658927451_1192823742_n.jpgCineCycle seems to be establishing itself as an obvious choice for emerging artists and promoters. In June, it was the stage for newly formed organization Black Siren’s all-ages concerts, and in November, it was an exclusive stage for an event named Dia de los Muertos.

The DIY scene has been a rising trend in Toronto. Perhaps a revolution against corporate sponsorship, or so it seems, musicians and music enthusiasts have begun going over the head of the traditional omnipotent employer/promoter and have taken matters into their own hands. Toronto youth now host shows as small collectives, rather than as individuals. This might be an indirect response to the crisis our city is experiencing, as venues close one by one due to condo development. It is also possible that this is an indirect commentary on the occasional underpayment of artists for their talent. Or perhaps, it is something much simpler: just friends, creating opportunities for themselves and building their own authentic community in the heart of the dynamic underground scene. In one word: comradely. The result is quite pleasant.

The spacious loft that is CineCycle is simple, but welcoming. It vaguely reminds me of a basement apartment, with all sorts of junk and retro cinematic equipment embedded on the walls. In the far left corner of the sizeable place, there is a piano that I can only assume is used primarily to accompany projections of silent films (or so I hope). The stage is a carpet, which ultimately shatters the divide between audience and performers, and plays in exceptionally well with the mission statement of such concerts. It’s gritty, it’s workshop-y, and it’s Toronto.

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Upon crossing the threshold of the venue I was engulfed by a stressed, but also inviting atmosphere. The organizers, who went under the name of “Global Sonic Takeover,” were a few university students that were still figuring out the dynamics and particularities of the soundboard, and how it was interconnected with the instruments. They were promptly setting up a bar. The drinks were quite affordable at $5 per beer, and $4 per shot. Later, Jeff Sterling (organizer and participating musician) would tell me that one of the biggest challenges they faced as a collective was securing the liquor license.

At around 9PM, people started coming in by the group. Throughout the acts, the concentration of patrons was steadily changing. What stood out was that the attendees all knew each other or had a second degree acquaintance. Simply, we were all connected in some way or another, and everyone was absolutely approachable. It was somewhat reminiscent of a grungy house party. The background was a luminous pink and blue. The sources were two IKEA bought paper lanterns. As their colour began to change, I realized someone was controlling them through a mobile device. Pretty neat.

The first band was The Thick— a classic blues trio with hints of garage influence. The softness of Charlie Rosenberg’s voice and rhythm guitar was superimposed upon the energetic sporadic drumming of Richard Sterling. Once a powerhouse duo, the band announced their new third member– Jeff Sterling, on bass guitar, bringing a tint of funk to the equation. During their act, there was room to breathe in the audience. I can only ascribe this to the lack of sponsorship. The only way to know about such events is through word of mouth or self-promotion on Facebook. Either way, I would strongly encourage my readers to go to such events due to their sheer diversity and unpredictability. This was simply friends playing for friends, and no matter how awkward or how crazily one danced, no one batted an eye. People actually joined in as I began a social experiment of my own by moving in the weirdest possible of ways. Charlie’s voice filled the lofty space with his soothing, ever so slightly raspy, voice and was met by the dirty dives of his accompaniment. Confirming their strong inspiration from The Black Keys, The Thick delivered by entertaining the audience with a cover of “Next Girl.” This threw the audience in a collaborative frenzy of dancing and singing along. The energy was so disproportionately spiked that an anchor was promptly demanded. Just when you thought the band could not surprise you any more, they closed with an impeccably executed cover of Jimi Hendrix’s, “Voodoo Child” that seamlessly transitioned to “Whole Lotta Love,” by Led Zeppelin.

The next band hit the stage in fifteen minutes, harvesting the build up tension. For whose unaware of the exact identity of ART the Band, it is a five piece music collective that operates on the planes of traditional jazz and progressive soul, whilst rimming the realm of experimentalism. As a listener, you aren’t appreciating the entirety of their talent if you’re not susceptible to complete open-mindedness. The best literary analogy for their music I could come up with was an overcast day that was communicated by the slower paced intervals in their music. Each instrument was maintaining its own course as if they were strangers on a street. Until, of course, the inevitable climax, marking the audio explosion of all band and brass instruments. People told me that the band reminded them of Reji and Victor Wooten, perhaps recognizing the improvised groove of the performers, while others expressed that they simply did not understand their appeal. The consensus was that there were an extremely talented bunch of young men.  

The third band was a Toronto favourite of mine. The Lifts is the perfect marriage between blues and alternative.  I recall the opening song to be, “Self-Inflicted,” and that it reminded me of a sister circus. The band suffered some sound issues in the beginning of their set, but I could see that Gabriel Altrows (vocals and guitar) and Daniel Leduc (bass) were very quick to communicate and resolve the issues with the sound technician. The beauty of their psychedelic blues fusion is that it allows for a steady internalization of sound and feeling and a prompt release of built up emotion through explosive, skillfully timed edgy intervals. In the spirit of the night, the band welcomed Stu, the sax player of ART, to improvise a solo on “Darling.” The result was remarkable, and it showcased once again, the talent interwoven in the previous act. The Lifts also treated the audience to one of their new songs whose name I did not catch. In the middle of their performance, suddenly someone tapped me on the shoulder. As I turned around I realized that the organizers had ordered a party sized pizza and had launched it as a crowd surfer in the sea of their guests. Simultaneously, a mosh pit formed, and I could see people holding their pizza as they were respectfully shoving each other from side to side. The inevitable revolutionary surfacing of pizza, I thought. As all of this was occurring simultaneously, I saw out of the corner of my eye a girl from the audience hand a bite of pizza to Gabriel who was still strumming along. How sweet.

The last act of the night was something different. It completely shattered my understanding of the conventional Toronto-esque concert, and it is something I would encourage to become an integral part of DIY shows in the future if it hasn’t already. The performance was released under the name of SQUISH. It was a completely improvised jam band, consisting of the organizers. It featured funky bass lines, highly energetic drumming and even completely unadulterated freestyle rap. The crowd was into it, and had the option to join in if they’d like.

It was a beautiful experience bringing together music, friends and pizza.  

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