Lovers in a Dangerous Time: The Rise and Fall of Saskatoon’s Auld Beak

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Back in the fall of 2010 I had been invited to jam with a couple dudes. They were writing some songs with riffs that were quick, high-stepping pop jangles, and they thought what they needed was a sprinkling of poorly played bass guitar and overly strained yelping to really flesh things out.

Doesn’t everyone though?

These dudes turned out to be local Slenderman Evan Vrinten and music machine Aaron Scholz, who were, and thankfully continue to be, two of my best friends. And through this unholy trinity Auld Beak was born.

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We started playing shows with a prerequisite short set, painfully stretched to 20 minutes with Evan re-tuning his guitar in-between every two minute long song. This proved to be a learning experience for me. As someone without stage presence, put behind a microphone and with most of my concentration on trying to play and sing at the same time, I was suddenly forced to come up with something interesting to say every other minute in front of an audience made up of mostly friends. It was an intense experience. A wizard behind a mic I may never be.

Things progressed with Auld Beak. We were fortunate enough to record with local legend Steve Reed. Screaming out lyrics for recording purposes felt embarrassing, but Steve was cool and relaxed, and he helped guide us on our quest to crush out our EP – thanks for making us sound better than we were, Steve. In the end it all ended up on a cassette, a wise business move if ever there was one. Still, that didn’t stop a few brave souls from giving it a decent review.

During this time we ended up playing both the now defunct Vivefest in Saskatoon and Ghost Throats Festival in Edmonton. Making new friends we surprisingly managed to win over a couple fans. Forays in the realm of Alberta had been made by Evan and Aaron’s other bands You Tel Aviv and Black Magic Pyramid, so some groundwork had been laid. However, having people I had never met sing along with songs about cats and being drunk was an embarrassing and humbling experience. This was my first time realizing that an audience of like-minded and silly people could be found throughout the universe.

We were accepted to play Sled Island 2012, a middle-of-Canada magnet for cool bands to congregate and collective wreak havoc on Calgary’s downtown. I was nervous. Unfortunately Aaron couldn’t make it, but we were blessed by the presence of emerging local stick magician Colin McGuirk McNeil. Had it not been for him and the calming presence of my wife on that trip, the story very well may have ended there. Faulty equipment and an impromptu a capella rendition of Brother by The Hollies, equalled a disastrous show to an empty-yet-hostile bar.

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Almost incredibly, we were able to squeeze our way onto another show the next night, which was a more comfortable space for our clearly unpolished mess. We ran in with nothing but our instruments, plugged in and blasted through a 20 minute set, and ran out. It felt almost triumphant after the catastrophe from the previous night.

After that weekend things began to slow down. Jams were turning into opportunities to get drunk and shit talk, we could barely get through two songs before someone needed a smoke break. The magic was sucked out, gone with an exhale. We took a small break before I was convinced to head out to Alberta again, this time joined by our band-life-partners in Night Danger. We were also graced on stage by Champion of Alberta himself, Kevin Stebner, for one last play of our cover of the Cockburn classic, “Lovers in a Dangerous Time.” The pressure felt removed, we had more fun.

There is no real moral, but the sad fact is most bands have an expiration date, and I think we all felt ours was approaching. Differing opinions on the direction the band should take contributed to that day arriving more quickly than it should have. The magic had fizzled.

Have fun with your bands, don’t let emotions overshadow the music and you’ll do fine. There’s an audience out there for anyone. My time in Auld Beak was stressful and wonderful.

– Writing from deep within the brain of Kyle Martin. All photos contributed from the watchful gaze of Amber Neal.