The first time I saw beekeeper, I certainly didn't dislike them; Devon Lougheed and Luke Cyca had a great energy and obvious passion, but they were a bit... all over the place.
However, in the last couple years they have been joined by Brandi Sidoryk (the brains behind Sidney York) on bass, have a few tours under their collective belts, and have been through the latest Peak Performance Project. And having seen them a few times since that initial show, I can say all that has definitely helped them tighten up as a band and become a bit more focused -- or as focused as beekeeper can be.
That work and improvement definitely shows in their latest EP, Shout At People, the release of which they were celebrating at the Biltmore.
Kicking off the night was The SSRIs, who were definitely a good fit to be opening the show. With a loud and frantic rock sound that was a little psychedelic, a little noise-pop, they started the night off with a bang. They were high energy, if a little too chaotic or schizophrenic at times, but they seemed to grab the growing crowd's attention with their set.
Second up on the night was Young Liars with a ubiquitous synth-pop sound that seems to be popular in the local scene right now. I have seen them a few times before, opening for other bands, and their sets have always struck me as just "okay". Many of the songs blend together, and they don't have much of a stage presence, but I don't necessarily think it was bad. The upbeat pop got lots of people into it and moving, and they put on a decent -- if forgettable -- show.
And finally, as a pre-recorded "phone message" filled the room, beekeeper took the stage and launched into "Table and Bed" from their debut album BE KEPT. They started strong and hardly let up for a set full of frantic, poppy math-rock full of mid-song-changes in time signature, key and tempo. You never know where any given beekeeper song is going to go once it starts -- for example, one of my favourites of the night (and off the new EP) was "Oh Hi!" which starts off as a rock song, but takes a left turn with a country breakdown, and even includes a kazoo solo.
Other highlights of the set were "Drownings" which was the most sincere and calm moment of the night, with just Devon on guitar and Brandi & Luke coming to the front of the stage to sing backups; "Pinwheel Revolution" which, for a brief moment, took advantage of Brandi's opera background; the awesomely titled "I Don't Need Hope, I Need Whiskey"; and the "Classic Canadian Cover" they learned for the Peak Performance Project where they tease a bit of Rush, but then swerve into Alanis Morissette's "You Learn", Brandi and Devon sharing vocals for an interesting and cool version of the song.
The aforementioned energy and passion has multiplied exponentially, and the trio has great chemistry -- Luke and Devon both occasionally back up Sidney York, so they are no strangers to sharing the stage -- and Devon isn't shy of chatting with the crowd, giving shout outs, continually asking if everyone wanted to "do something weird", and inviting everyone up for their now-traditional "family photo", the stage packed with fans who danced their way through the last song, "Believe, Believe".
beekeeper may not be for everyone -- their songs are anything but traditional and many can definitely be called "weird" -- but you can't deny the talent of the three musicians and the enthusiasm they pour into the band, and you can't help but be stung by the amount of fun they have on stage.
Table & Bed; Good News; Sudden Cuckoo; You Learn [Alanis Morissette cover]; Oh Hi!; It's The Blood; Pets Eat Their Masters; Drownings; Pinwheel Revolution; I Don't Need Hope, I Need Whiskey; Believe, Believe.