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Bellingham, Washington, United States

Bellingham, Washington, United States
Band Folk Pop


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"Simple Folk"

By Myke Atkinson

It was a typical late-summer's evening; leaves were just beginning to lose their green, and the sun still burned brightly well beyond dinner time. However, for a group of about 25 people or so, this was anything but a commonplace Monday night in Calgary.

The evening's proceedings had been slapped together just two days prior when Aaron Meyer, carrying a ukulele and a small backpack full of clothing, arrived in Calgary at the suggestion of The Consonant C during their tour stop in Meyer's hometown of Los Angeles. He had written a couple songs on his journey and asked another ukulele-toting minstrel, The Consonant C's Laura Leif, if there might be anywhere in town he could play some of his new songs for people. Leif asked friend and fellow songwriter Neal Moignard (who has played only a handful of shows in his short existence as Knots) for help setting something up, and the show was born.

The idea was this: meet at Sunnyside LRT station at 7p.m., at which point a little adventure would ensue. Most of the people that showed up knew one another or the artists performing. A few heard about the show on the radio, and at least one person stumbled across one of the event's cut-and-paste promotional handbills quickly littered about the city. Regardless of how they heard about the proceedings, the audience became best friends for the evening, united with one single objective — to hear some amazing music.

The musicians led the crowd up onto a bluff overlooking downtown. There they laid out picnic blankets, passed around some tea and got settled in front of a city skyline at sunset. The quiet background buzz of traffic was the only sound to be heard while Meyer (under his Honeybear moniker), Leif and Knots each told stories of ghosts they had once loved, and of capturing sunbeams in glass bottles. The performance was personal, sincere and, most of all, beautiful; it couldn't have been more perfect.

"There was something very special about that night," says Meyer. "Rather than feeling like we were playing at people, it felt like the crowd was actively participating by listening and enjoying so intently. It was a truly beautiful evening."

The show served as Meyer's introduction to the city, and it seems to have made a deep impression. While his sentiments regarding Calgary are extremely positive, the same couldn't always be said for the city's own Leif.

"There was definitely a point in time when I felt like I couldn't live here anymore," she states. "It's a lot harder to be the kind of person I want to be here than, say, in Montreal. But I've come to appreciate the battle I have here to create something awesome; you can't just sit back and let things wash by, because if you don't do it, then no one else will."

"I've met a few people who say 'you're from Calgary – I'm so sorry,'" adds Moignard, who was also hell-bent on leaving town at one point. "Now my reply to them is 'no man, it's actually pretty great, you just have to dive into it.' Having this city that's often really abrasive poking you in the back each morning forces you to push harder and make what you create even better."

So, armed with acoustic guitars, ukuleles and banjos, these young musicians are currently making a beautiful footprint on the local scene. Their lyrics build fairy tales around the world they live in. The songs are simple and rely on only the most basic of instrumentation to connect with listeners, but might not be correct to pin them as folk artists simply because they fit the image of the traditional singer-songwriter.

"I don't think there can ever be true folk music anymore," remarks Kris Ellestad, a young musician whose songwriting capabilities are among the most promising to ever emerge in Calgary, yet go fairly unknown and under-appreciated within the city. "Folk music was a form of storytelling in which everyone knew the tales and passed them on by playing music together. I think today most songwriters write music which is much too personal to be a voice passed on by anyone but the writer of the song."

"I also don't believe the esthetic of the instrumentation is as important as how it's being expressed," states Moignard. "You're not putting on a show for people; you're trying to connect with them. It's like having a conversation. You wouldn't want to be talking to someone about things that are important to you if you didn't feel like the other person was listening or caring about what you were saying. So, in that way, I might consider the performances folk just because they are as intimate as possible, but I don't think the music I create fits into a neatly organized genre."

The fact that this new breed of folkies prefers to refrain from the categorization of their music has seen these artists flourish outside the realm of the traditional songwriter much more than within the usual crowd whose definition of folk music begins and ends with traditional songs written decades ago. For example, "Knots" is beginning to draw a regular crowd within the indie all-ages scene in Calgary, and Ellestad's performances have won over crowds who came to see such disparate acts as the crazed, angular mess of The Incandescence and the indie rock bombast of Vailhalen.

"It hasn't been any sort of planned effort to play with different sounding music," says Ellestad. "People, mostly friends, have just asked me to play with them, and so I end up playing shows. I've never really thought about who I play with or why."

These performances outside the established folk streams are somewhat of a necessity in Calgary's small music scene, but that hasn't been a bad thing for developing the fan base of Knots, Honeybear, Leif and Ellestad. If anything, it has allowed them to reach listeners who might not have found their music in larger cultural centres with more developed (and often more segregated) scenes.

"I don't see very much competition between (musicians) who are working on similar things," says Leif of Calgary's independent music community. "Maybe it is because there is such a void in Calgary that we all have to be so supportive of each other's efforts. It's part of what I love about Calgary; it's a giant city, but the community is so small, tight knit and involved."

"This city definitely has the talent and desire to become something truly amazing," Moignard follows. "All you really need is the people dedicated to the cause, and they are all definitely here. If we didn't have such great people in Calgary, we wouldn't have anything close to what's happening."

It looks as though these same fans and musicians have made quite the mark on Meyer. Since his show on the hillside he has returned to Los Angeles with a plan of returning to Calgary permanently in the new year.

"I've lived and travelled through quite a few cities in the states, and never have I seen the kind of energy I feel in Calgary," he says. "There's such great things going on here, and I can't wait to be back and totally immerse myself in it."


"Swerve Music"

By Mark Hamilton

Notwithstanding his charming arrangements, affable demeanour and excitable dedication to exploring folk traditions, Honeybear’s Aaron Meyer may well be a sign of the increasing power of Calgary’s current musical climate. In fact, in following indie-popsters The Consonant C to their northern habitat, Meyer might be the only young musician ever to leave the sunny surroundings of Los Angeles for the not-quite-so-balmy climes of our fair city.

Honeybear’s first release, the happily rambling January EP, is every bit as free-spirited as Meyer. Built primarily on his recent discovery of the ukulele, about which he says, "I wouldn’t have gotten back into music (following the demise of his earlier band, Yes Please) if I hadn’t picked it up, January is the musical journal of a bona fide troubadour--a rare breed in this day and age of processed vocals and ProTools.

For an art scene that’s been more about going than coming, Honeybear’s a welcome addition, and maybe a trendsetter.

The January EP is free for anyone who wants it (with Meyer’s full blessing). Check out myspace. com/honeybearmusic, or contact Honeybear at grumblepus@gmail.com. Honeybear’s next scheduled show is Friday, April 18 at EMMEDIA.

- - -

Aaron Meyer on the songs of Honeybear

Track by Track

400 Miles "I wrote that in California when I first started playing the ukulele last May. I was talking to Laura Leif from The Consonant C on MySpace, and they were about to tour through L.A. They had this show on a hilltop, and the time changed, or somebody gave them the wrong time, so they got there well after the show had ended. Like, hours afterwards. I had only heard about it from them, so I was the only person who showed up. They played an acoustic show and I had my uke, so I played the three songs I’d written on it, and this was one of them. I guess that was the first show I ever did, and they told me to visit Calgary sometime."

Careless Love "It’s a really old traditional song that’s been done under thousands of titles and with thousands of lyrics. This one’s based on a jazz version done in 1930, and it’s a little bit mixed up. I did what everybody else has done to that song and changed it up a bit."

Bottom Over Top "I don’t know where this one really came from. I just started singing and wrote the whole thing in maybe half an hour here in Calgary. I guess it was mainly because on that day in particular, I just felt somebody was trying to hold me back from doing something.

The Wheels Turn Slow "That one’s inspired by songs (local folk artist) Nathan M. Godfrey recorded here. He’s got an incredible voice and plays so well. I took bits of imagery from those songs and constructed this story: a guy breaking up with a girl, and just jumping on a train and going somewhere else. Which is something I’ve done before, too--I just get frustrated and leave town."

Bake Me Into a Pie "I was sitting on a park bench in Vancouver, trying to pass eight hours while my friend was working. I was listening to a lot of Neutral Milk Hotel; Jeff Magnum uses really graphic imagery about the body, which is absolutely beautiful. When I started playing it, this woman pushing a stroller by took a much wider turn around me and pushed the blanket over the baby’s head. I always think of her--some prudish woman in Vancouver."

- The Calgary Herald

"Avenue Invades Sled Island"

As Sled Island takes over, we take in what this homegrown music and arts festival has to offer.

By Tony Charron, Trista Orchard and Adam Trinh

11:56 a.m.Wednesday, July 2 – Good things come to those who wait

We'd like to apologize for the delay in getting up our content from the Sled Island Festival posted. We were just having too much fun to get things up in a timely manner. But we are working on it, so check back soon to see some of our snaps and thoughts.

The Avenue team spent most of our time hanging out on the grass around the main stage area. Overall it was a pretty laid back festival with people just kind of chilling and occasionally meandering up to the barriers to get a closer look at some of the acts.

For me some of the highlights were: the way Yo La Tango more than once made the switch from song to song and instrument to instrument without stopping the music; the gritty Southern rock of the Drive-By Truckers and the multi-lingual story telling of Jonathan Richman.

We've also got photos of Of Montreal's mainstage show, a performance described as "bonkers" by Avenue's resident expert on the Calgary indie scene Mason Hastie. — Tony

9:55 p.m. Thursday, June 26 — Living the Cowboy Code

Matt Masters and Terrance Houle create a Calgary epic in Don Coyote
Read More

3:53 p.m. Thursday June 26 — Sounds and Scotch

Artist David Dyment's Call and Response exhibition at Truck gallery kicked off today with a Scotch tasting event sponsored by Glenfiddich.

Dyment is perhaps best known for his sound art, and fittingly this show is being put on in conjunction with the Sled Island Festival.

The exhibition at Truck includes some of Dyment's older works such as "Don't Count my Scars Like Tree Rings" which is a vinyl record of hearbeat sound effects modified with liquid paper to have another thumping heartbeat sound imposed on it.

In this show however, sound is represented as an idea rather than by being played. "Playing the sounds seems redundant to me," said Dyment at the whiskey tasting. "People have the ability to imagine the sound. It is embedded in your head rather than having to hear it. I hate sound shows that are bombastic."

The exhibition also includes two new pieces, including an installation that projects all of the questions in all of the lyrics of the artist's own music collection on the wall.

Dyment will spend a three months in Dufftown, Scotland, as part of the Glenfiddich Artist in Residence program.

Call and Response will be up until August 2 at Truck, lower level 815 1 St. S.W., 403-261-7702. — Käthe Lemon

3:07 p.m. Thursday, June 26 Rocking the Boat

Avenue's Trista Orchard heads to the Ship and Anchor for some Sled Islanding. Can you use Sled Island as a verb?
Read her tale here

4:20 p.m. Wednesday, June 25 — Sled Island Pushes Off

Sled Island started up yesterday with the 2nd Annual C1RCA Sled Island Poster Art Show and carried on into the night with a Kick-off Party at Broken City.

The Poster Show has held in the C1RCA Gallery (736 17th Ave SW Backlane Entrance), a small basement space with a few shelves displaying Circa Skate shoes along with the posters. The show was curated by Mark Hamilton, who selected 12 artists and designers to create posters for some of the bands that will be appearing at Sled Island this year. Prints of each poster were for sale at $15 for a two colour poster, and $20 for a three colour poster.

Drew Ng's poster for the Sled Island performance of Wire

Also on hand were musical acts Kris Ellestad, IndienSoci, Honeybear and Knots who perfomed intimate sets throughout the show. Honeybear (aka Aaron Miller) sang some beautiful folk style tunes while gently strumming and picking his ukelele. "Why don't you move closer" he asked the handful of listeners who sat on the floor around him after his first song. They did, and the combination of attentive listeners and people drifting in of, out of, and around the space made for a laid-back scene.

Honeybear and his fans at the C1RCA Sled Island Poster Art Show.

The Kick-Off Party at Broken City included performances by Dirty, Dirty North, DD/MM/YY and No Age.

Tonight is the opening of Don Coyote, a multi-disciplinary performance inspired by Cervantes work. It features local country and western singer Matt Masters, well-known artist Terrance Houle and is directed by Vanessa Porteous who has worked with Alberta Theatre Projects, Vertigo Mystery theatre and a number of other groups in the Calgary theatre community. Check back tomorrow for my thoughts on this innovative performance.
— Tony
- avenuecalgary.com


Viral Lingustics EP [May. 2010]



Honeybear is naturally nomadic; moving between the west coast of The States and Western Canada. During his roaming he chanced on Calgary and has since adopted it as home. Since 2007 Honeybear has passed in and out of the city recording songs on a 2-track cassette machine, compiling two full-length albums (“January” and “Iris Root”) for distribution among friends. It wasn’t until the spring of 2009 when we was asked to accompany Woodpigeon on a tour of the UK and Ireland that he accepted an offer from Woodpigeon’s producer, Arran Fisher, to make a proper recording. The result of five of the late days of that summer was his first official release; the debut EP “Viral Linguistics”. After its release in May of 2010 he toured the west coast of the United States and back towards his adoptive home. Since he has performed with bands such as Stars, Apollo Ghosts, and Library Voices and entered the studio with artists from Antony and the Johnsons and Woodpigeon recording a forth-coming split album that is marked to be released in 2011. He has also begun work on a full-length album yet to be titled.

Honeybear is the allonym of Aaron Meyer. Predominantly a lone performer (but at times swelling to include as many as nine on stage), he employs ukulele, guitar, and electronics to create a haunting atmosphere to slip fluidly between hollers and croonings while weaving tales of love, lust, and murder.