The Pep’n’Ched is an important part of the tour experience. Found in the darkest corners of gas stations, it is one stick of pepperoni fused with one stick of processed cheese. It’s a product that is capable of doing something called the “Pep’n’Ched Wiggle.” My source on its importance is Devon Lougheed, frontman and visionary of Vancouver pop trio Beekeeper. We found the Pep’n’Ched often while on the the four-date April tour, in preparation for their Vancouver album release party in May. And yes, he ate it.
Touring with Beekeeper can be metaphorically represented by the Pep’n’Ched. Driving around in a van, even a ginormous ten seater named Ruby, for many hours everyday should be pretty disgusting. Somehow, it’s not.
That probably has to do with the band itself. Beekeeper plays some of the cutest math rock around, the by-product of combining extremely nice and highly talented music nerds.
The tour included four shows in as many nights in Kelowna, Fernie, Calgary, and Swift Current, hometown of Luke Cyca, drummer and band organizational mastermind. Brandi Sidoryk, bassist and vocalist (putting her masters degree in opera to work with her sweetly metallic harmonies), is also a flight attendant and flew to Kelowna on a work shift from Calgary. She arrived just in time to play the band’s rooftop set for the A-Ok (Awesome Okanagan) website, changing out of her uniform in the back seat of the van on the way from the airport. This show, the first of the tour, was above the venue they played that later night. Lougheed eschewed the idea of an acoustic set, and instead the band opted to heft their amps up and down two rickety ladders.
The show that Wednesday night wasn’t packed, which meant that Lougheed, a former stand-up comedian who has transferred that energy to his frontman duties, managed to fit the entire audience on stage for the last two songs of their set, a favourite participation tactic on their headlining gigs. Once everyone is on stage and within Lougheed’s clutches, the band breaks in to a big-production finish in which each member bows, the audience is asked to bow, and the venue is asked to take a bow. With a, “Thank you and good night,” Lougheed then drops his guitar with whining feedback and abandons the stage. This was particularly dramatic in Kelowna, where Lougheed ran across an empty dance floor and sat at their merch table, blinking pleasantly at us on-stage, as if we were both the stars of the show and trespassers.
Cyca came down with the flu the next morning. A freakish proficient in time management, Cyca would ordinarily divide his time between band business and his day job as a computer technician for a bio-medical lab, but was forced to sleep in the back seat the entire drive. His aunt hosted us for dinner in Fernie, and she hustled him upstairs into the guest room to rest before their set.
Perhaps it was the “Thursday-is-the-new-Friday” thing, but most of the attendants at The Northern were drunker but less interactive than those in Kelowna. But those who liked it, liked it a lot. Lougheed was approached by a fellow who had seen Beekeeper last March in Kitchener, ON. Lougheed had sang a song specifically for him, as one of the four audience members there.
The Friday night show in Calgary at Broken City was edgier, with Beekeeper opening for three punk bands, two from Edmonton, including headliner Ben Disaster & The Cosmonauts and opener Nervous Wreck, and a local band, The Mandates. The crowd was rougher around the edges and more attentively concerned about the music. During set up, an older man at the bar peppered Cyca with rapid-fire questions about the band’s financial prospects (specifically if they were or expected to be millionaires; Cyca answering “No” and “Maybe”, respectfully) and whether or not they played any “Stones covers”). The set garnered interest, but it was too early in the night for the kind of engagement Lougheed strives to elicit.
The final gig in Swift Current showcased local talent, honouring the 100th anniversary of the Lyric Theatre. The banquet-style arrangement hosted many older relatives of the performers (the Cycas alone took up two tables), initially a concern for the band, given their typical volume. Billed as “Luke Cyca and Beekeeper”, the band broke their set into a softer opening set and a harder second set. Regardless of age, the audience was rough and ready, most staying for both sets and many sardined on stage, Cyca’s mother happily playing the drums with her son.
Contrary to the hard partying expected on tour, Beekeeper generally aim for hangover-controlled levels of drinking. But, as Swift Current was the last night of the tour, we all (including Cyca’s parents) went to a bar after the show and drank generously until the early morning. Sidoryk danced the two-step with Lougheed as ably as her Albertan roots would suggest (in contrast with myself, who danced like a drunken city-slicker, to the polite horror of my country gentlemen partners). The next morning, Lougheed, who ordinarily wakes everyone with happy morning songs, muttered from his air mattress, “Ohh. I had this crazy dream last night that we went to a country western bar.”
The Saturday following the tour, the band played the release party for their seven-inch, a follow up to their first full-length record Be Kept, from 2011. The seven-inch features Vancouver-centric single “Take Me Back (To The Place)” and eerie-vintage song “Bad Advice.” Opening the show were indie-to-the-core Fine Times; a project with Hey Ocean’s Davide Vertesi, Shad, and Lougheed called Brother Act; and the lovelies in the Belle Game. Beekeeper came on shortly after midnight, and Lougheed experimented with a Twitter competition and a snowball dance (in which two people dance together, then split to find new partners, repeated until everyone is dancing).
The band destroys barriers between themselves and the crowd, no matter where they play or whom they are playing to. It’s a quality that is disarming for some who are perhaps used to separation as an audience. But it’s also a the quality that makes them so compelling.
Like the Pep’n’Ched, Beekeeper are weird, but so unique that you really just have to love it.