Moon Beams Brew: a night of music, art and craft beer


I walk into an empty Melody Bar at The Gladstone Hotel in time for a sound check. On stage is a two piece with a punk/rock-n-roll sound. The singer/guitarist Caldwell has a pining voice dripping with melody. The drummer Marlon plays along with a hurried intensity providing a garage band feel. After sound check, Marlon, a former member of tells me this is two-piece Billy Moon’s first show. They’re on at nine.


Lured in by five dollar pints, people slowly filter into the Melody Bar. On the walls hang pictures of six different Collective Arts beers with artwork from eighty three different artists. The labels are limited edition and make for a great marketing campaign.


Collective Arts has been brewing beer (and good times) for roughly two years. Founders Matt Johnston and Bob Russell launched the Collective Arts Brewing company envisioning a great beer that gives back to the local arts community. Since then, they’ve created a series of music and art events aimed at promoting local artists.


Each label runs for between three and four months and each six-pack is different. A their retail store, consumers can acquire their favourite labels in poster and t-shirt form. With the Blippar app, beer drinkers can scan each label and access that artists’ portfolio of work.

9 o’clock is quickly approaching and the Melody Bar is reaching capacity. Billy Moon is fine tuning his guitar as the room fills with chatter and hands fill with beer. All the makings of a fantastic night of entertainment are present.

Caldwell approaches the microphone and swears a lot before breaking into his first melodic opening. His voice is powerful and clean. He captivates his audience. Just the right mix of distorted guitar and strong vocals. The drummer provides a solid backbeat and for a two piece they sound impressively complete. His vulgar banter between songs is strangely endearing. It’s clear he’s a little nervous.


The second installment of his set has a much more punk rock influence. Fast paced and less melodic, but grungy and high energy. It’s well received by the crowd. His next is an upbeat number that has a hard chorus, and has the crowd moving around. He’s highly animated and everyone is feeding off of the energy.
By his fourth song he’s in full swing and has the crowd right along with him. His music is fun, edgy and full of a vast number of influences. He narrates, sings and wails over hard riffs atop fast and nasty drumming. Imagine Johnny Cash meets The Clash. The beats are infectious and the crowd moves its feet. He points out the gap between the stage and the crowd as the “Toronto Gap” the patrons chuckle and close in. His use of a vocal pedal adds to his sounds. It’s simple, catchy music with just the right amount of grunge. For a first show together, their performance is solid.


After the set, Caldwell, originally from Hamilton, confirms his nervous disposition. He’s friendly and selling cassette tapes for five dollars. His charisma convinces me to purchase his tape, but how I’ll play it remains a mystery.

After a short break the next band to take the stage is a seven-piece lineup complete with xylophone, banjo and mandolin. Beams sound is full with lead vocal harmonies by Anna Mernieks and Heather Mazhar. They have a great ambience and immediately win over the crowd.

Their opener is true to form folk music that’s modernized and incredibly catchy. It’s hard not to fall in love with their energy. They have rock and country undertones and know exactly how to work a crowd.

They’re second number features xylophonist Keith Hamilton pulling out a saw and a violin bow. It creates a wonderful wailing sound the band refers to as “the singing saw” for a beautiful touch to there already layered music. They’re all business on stage with little banter. It’s obvious they’ve been playing together a long time. They are a pleasure to watch and had me tapping my feat and swooning to their hypnotic ambience. Their third and fourth numbers remained true to their niche sound. Everyone in the band plays their part in creating a complete musical experience. Hard to say a bad thing about Beams. They shined on the stage with a fun yet polished performance.

After the show I ventured upstairs to find some eclectic art ranging from photographs to three-dimensional canvases. This launch party had something for everyone. Music, artwork and craft beer. I left the Gladstone Hotel feeling like I was a part of something. Collective Arts knocked this one out of the park.


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