Real Noises from BECKstravaganza
Photos by Alex Wyder (Vancouver Music Review)
Usually, going to a concert means one of two circumstances: you’re a fan and singing along to the lyrics is simply a reflex, or, you know the artist/band’s name, but not their songs. The difference this time? The entire audience, including myself, had never heard the songs and they were not even performed by the songwriter himself. On Thursday, January 17th 2013, 47 musicians – excluding the hosting band - shared in a collaborative performance at the Rio Theatre, known as BECKstravaganza.
“I’m so glad we did this,” said Noah Walker, from the hosting band, The Broken Mirrors, as he wiped sweat off his forehead, looking relieved and excited at the same time. The Broken Mirrors invited Hey Ocean!, Mother Mother, Christie Rose, and other locals to come together and perform Beck’s new, 20 song album, Song Reader. Beck recently released this album, but only in the form of sheet music.
While there is a myriad of “cover songs” on Youtube already, the rhythm, dynamics, and tone of voice are all interpreted by Song Reader’s listeners, literally reading the music themselves without being predisposed to how the songs sound “originally.” As a result, Beck pushes the limit of and emphasizes the format of live performance, almost as if he is challenging us to make our own music, since we cannot hear his new songs unless we physically play them, or listen to someone else play it for us.
BECKstravaganza started at 9pm with a line-up of people without tickets beginning to form at 7pm. From the very beginning, the twist and spin on the concept of originality was highlighted. Each song was performed by a different band or individual artist. Although written by the same person, each rendition had a distinct sound and a varied style. For a glimpse into the diversity of the sounds that night, consider: the trio Company B singers did a jazzy and sultry rendition of “Old Shanghai”, accompanied by members of The Broken Mirrors; and “Please Leave A Light On When You Go” was sung beautifully by Debra-Jean Creelman. There were, perhaps naturally, songs performed in Beck’s folk style, but the SSRIs’ take definitely caught my attention because of their indie approach to “Heaven’s Ladder”, ending with a banging electric guitar solo. The band members even had different shades of green shirts on: a cute contrast from other Beck performers.
During intermission, I had a chat with Kevin and Elliot from the SSRIs. “It’s all about rearranging music,” Kevin explained to me. When asked how long they practiced the song for, the two cheekily joked about having practiced for only two hours. The two went to music college with many of the other performers of the night, solidifying that in the music industry, it really is about who you know. “It is absolutely brilliant,” Kevin smiled, “we will definitely, definitely stay till the end of the show. There’s a keg in the backstage anyway.”
Noah encouraged the audience towards the end of the night, “to pay full attention to every single song,” qualifying that this is not about, “washing dishes. This is real.” Right before he said that it truly seemed this event could not get anymore live. With the trendy expansion of the carpe diem trope these days, I realized that live shows like these have the potential to most genuinely serve a true “seize-the-moment” kind of pleasure. Instead of drinking the night away as a creature of habit, BECKstravaganza stands as one of many opportunities this city offers for the sharing of talent, cultural space and the potential to feel alive.