Photography: Riot Fest 2012 (Boom Boom POP!)

In early September of 2012, I got the exciting opportunity to photograph some of my favourite bands for Boom Boom POP! Due to some changes within their team, these photos were never published and the words were never written. But the experience at Riot Fest was too fun to keep secret – so here are some of my favourite photos from that afternoon.

Writing: Sloan In Concert (Imprint)

This article was originally published on November 23 in the University of Waterloo’s student newspaper, Imprint. The printed article was published with three photos, and the online article was published text-only.

Jay Ferguson Chris Murphy Andrew Scott

On the night of Tuesday, Nov. 13, Uptown Waterloo was given a double dosage of some of the most iconic rock music in Canadian history. Starlight Social Club was once again a temporary home for Sloan, a Juno-winning band from the heart of Nova Scotia. Although they made a stop in town last year to celebrate their 20th anniversary and promote their newest album The Double Cross, Tuesday’s show was all about nostalgia.

Acting as their own opening band, Sloan first took the stage to perform their 1994 album Twice Removed in its entirety. With a banter-free environment and astonishing replications of each song, Sloan gave the crowd an experience that was unforgettable — it was like listening to Twice Removed for the first time all over again, but the live show engaged all the senses. Luckily for the crowd, Sloan’s dedication to accurate song reconstruction was satisfying enough; their stage presence took a hit in favour of ensuring that every last detail from the record was clear for the audience to hear. With the band only taking a few chances to engage the crowd, the music had to do most of the work — and there’s no denying that it did exactly that. For over an hour, the band played their breakthrough record, starting off with “Penpals,” a song inspired by reading Nirvana’s fan mail, and carrying on through their back-to-back singles “People Of The Sky” and “Coax Me.”

An intimate rendition of their stripped-down “Deeper Than Beauty” was a surprising highlight to the first half of the night – a high point just before the relatively mellow closing songs. As the album wound down, the crowd dispersed and mingled until the second act, reassured that they would get more of these Canadian icons after the break.

A few minutes later, the crowd packed back together and demands for Sloan filled the air. As they walked on stage for the second time that night, it was almost hard to imagine that they had already played a full album’s worth of material. Energy levels were even higher than before, and underneath the screams of the crowd, Sloan welcomed everyone back to the second set. A mini-medley between “Everything You’ve Done Wrong” and “Who Taught You To Live Like That” quickly swept us up in the swinging rhythms and sing-along choruses. The music could be felt just as much as we could see and hear it; we could smell the fog machine and an air conditioner not quite able to keep up, the taste of water or a preferred drink kept our throats clear as we sang along to every line. Including megahits like “Money City Maniacs” and band favourites like “Beverly Terrace,” we were given 16 songs to sing and dance along to, plus an encore that featured another fan favourite, “Underwhelmed.”

Although stage presence wasn’t the band’s forte in the opening set, they more than made up for it during their return to the stage. The double-feature format allowed long-time Sloan fans to experience a new dimension of a classic album, but the show stayed accessible to casual listeners with an abundance of popular songs. Starlight provided the intimate atmosphere that the band needed, and the crowd loved the chance to get up close and personal with these Canadian rockers. It seems to be an annual occurrence that Sloan makes its way through Waterloo — let’s hope it stays that way for at least a few more years.

Read “Sloan In Concert” on Imprint

Writing: VELD Music Festival 2012 (Boom Boom POP!)

This article was written for a Toronto-based pop culture website, Boom Boom POP! It was published online on August 9, even though the web address indicates August 4. Boom Boom POP! also published about 75 of my photos – I’ve included a sample of four.

Gareth Emery Steve Aoki Deadmau5 Fan Avicii

On August 4th and 5th, thousands of die-hard Electronic Dance Music fans swarmed Toronto’s Downsview Park for the chance to see their favourite artists drop big tunes on even bigger sound systems. Two hot, sweaty days produced over 22 hours of ground-shaking EDM; the crowd endured sunburns and phenomenal downpours of rain – but most importantly, we experienced some of the most exhilarating electronic music performances of the year. And it all happened at VELD Music Festival.

Arriving at VELD on Day One was, I think, pretty much the same for everyone. Stepping off the bus and into the scorching summer sun was a shock, but squints quickly turned into grins as each busload saw what awaited them. Two monstrous main stages and a sheltered secondary stage provided sound and lights; a seemingly endless stretch of land ensured there was always room to dance; food and drink vendors lay in wait for the thousands of thirsty, hungry concertgoers who’d soon be in need of refuelling. Up-and-coming artists like Deniz Koyu, Michael Woods, and Chris Lake shared the main stage with EDM heavyweights Steve Aoki, Knife Party, and Steve Angello. In the Bacardi tent, fans of artists like DVBBS, Krewella, Kill The Noise, and Tommy Trash could get down and dirty in the mud as the tent literally shook with an almost overwhelming amount of bass.

After a full day of sun, a little rain, and nothing but good times, the crowd pressed up against the second main stage, where Deadmau5 took over at 9:15 and braved the weather for two full hours. Bouncing rhythms, trademark tracks, and an exquisite light show wiped away any acknowledgement of the rain as 20,000 people took in the Toronto-based producer’s performance. Whether they were sitting, completely enraptured by the spectacle, or dancing wildly, glow-sticks in hand, to the pounding beats pulsing through the earth, one thing was absolutely clear: every single person had come for the music, and they were all experiencing something beyond their expectations.

The first half of Day Two was wet. But the intermittent rain throughout the night and early afternoon yielded a much more comfortable temperature as the sun finally broke through the clouds again at 3:00. Both regular stages ran smoothly, featuring names like Mord Fustang, Nicky Romero, and Bassnectar on Deadmau5’s stage and Ben Gold, Cosmic Gate, and Gareth Emery in Bacardi’s extra-muddy tent. Day Two also saw numerous improvements in terms of managing the crowd, including a redesigned water station system that ensured no one would dehydrate before arriving at the front of the line.

As soon as Bassnectar and Gareth Emery finished their sets, the crowd convened at the original main stage to get ready for the night’s final performance. As the volume of the crowd reached a peak, stadium lights came on to illuminate the stage and the entire crowd. From the very first notes of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” to the closing chords in the multi-track encore, Avicii kept the crowd at the highest of energy levels. Every single hand in the crowd was raised high in the air as people belted out words and melodies. The light show was nearly blinding, but it kept the masses entranced as Avicii worked the decks on his podium.

There were about eight or nine buses already stationed outside the park gates as we left VELD on the second night. And even though, for most, the night was over, that special concert-bond had just begun to form. Strangers became friends as they talked about their favourite moments of the festival; those who were friends already either discussed the same things or took a much-needed nap. And that’s the real magic of concerts, I think. The music makes you feel something, but looking around and finding others who feel the same way – there’s no other experience like it. VELD Music Festival gave over 20,000 people that feeling. And I’m one of the 20,000 who can’t wait to do it all again next year.

Read “VELD Music Festival 2012” on Boom Boom POP!

Ethix Promotional Video

Ethix is a 15-year-old DJ from Kitchener. He’s one toward whom many older DJs are looking to kick-start a new wave of dance music DJs. This video was filmed by Phidippides Run Productions and edited by me. The footage is from one of Ethix’s sets at an all-ages club in Kitchener, Ontario.