It was all love inside the Burdock Music Hall on Tuesday night as some of the city's most talented artists took to the stage to celebrate. TiKA, McCallaman, Blues, Sydanie and Monsieur Desire were all on hand for the third installment of Balance.
Attending Balance events in the past I know that the performances are different from the usual 'turn ups' hosted at most Toronto venues. At Balance attendants are encouraged to vibe, feel the energy emanating from the stage and most importantly, listen. In addition artists are encouraged to bring a live element to their performances which many do in the form of back up singers and bands. This creates a space where the love of listening to good music thrives and listeners can truly appreciate the artistry occurring in front of them. The venue for the event also couldn't have been a better fit. The intimate set up at Burdock was perfect for Balance's aesthetic and the bar's amazing selection of taps sure helped.
After having a couple of drinks on the patio we headed in for the first act of the night, Monsieur Desire. He played a soulful R&B set and performed cuts off of his Influence Collection which can be found on SoundCloud.
Then Sydanie was welcomed to the stage by a loud applause. In a stripped T-shirt and jean shorts she asked the crowd to 'loosen up your screwface and vibe'. Toronto crowds are notoriously known for hating on artists but there was only love found at the Burdock as Sydanie jumped into her track 'Lullaby'; produced by McCallaman. While she claimed she was the most nervous she had ever been for a show, I saw none of it as she confidently delivered fierce bars. After Lullaby she performed the uptempo and bouncy track 'Spirit' and followed that with 'Nine'. For her final song, Life on Repeat, Sydanie asked the crowd to 'make a baby mama feel good and sing along', which they graciously did to the chorus.
Blues was up next and once she took the stage it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. All music was cut from the speakers and only her voice was left to echo throughout the venue, sending chills down the backs of attendees. Accompanied by a keyboardist, bassist, drummer and guitar player, Blues led the audience through songs off her Black Tea and Mint EP. She didn't need to engage with the audience much as her neosoul presence was something that was felt, not explained.
Following Blues, McCallaman was up and was backed by Thadeus on the drums and Caleb on the saxophone. He opened with one of his most well known instrumentals, 'When I Die' which can be found on Goldlink's album God Complex. He then surprised the crowd and played a cover of Justin Timberlake's 'Cry Me a River' which got the venue lit. Calming things down before getting into his EP, McCallaman told the story of a near death experience that influenced his record. He said "Life is short. Sometimes we use the talents we're blessed with and sometimes we don't. Singing for me allowed me to come out of my shell and show my talent. The first song is a tribute to God and the fact that we're all here."
After God is Grace McCallaman prefaced the next track as one about 'the feelings we listen to even though we know we shouldn't.' Of course its Possession. Hearing my favourite track off the EP live with a dope sax solo to end it off was too sweet. He ended his performance by playing Lovely, a song about meeting a girl who's gorgeous.
Following a short break the woman of the hour is introduced. Adorned in a flower crown, TiKA made her way to the stage along with a couple of backup singers and Casey from Unbuttoned (who've we've interviewed). After reaching the mic TiKA immediately broke into sexually charged vocals repeating 'I want you, I want you' and the audience went nuts. Chants of BOM BOM and 'Get it Tika!' could be heard in the venue from front to back.
"It's been a long tumultuous journey but I've arrived!" she exclaims. Despite having a slight hoarse in her voice due to sickness TiKA gave every inch of herself to the audience. While recounting the story of how the song 'GRACE' transformed from a sex and groove track to one about battling depression, tears could be seen welling up in her eyes.
But in true TiKA fashion not a moment later she had the crowd laughing after playfully forgetting the rest of the lines to a poem. Following that Sydanie got called up to the stage for a second time and she and TiKA did 'SEVENTEEN'. The energy and camaraderie between the two artists was great to witness. TiKA then had the band step away and she performed a solo song she wrote when she was 17. Before playing she told a story about singing the song for her mother and the lack of support she received after doing that. "'Don't quit your day job' is what she said" Tika told the crowd, "but it gave me the strength to peruse my dream, I needed it."
McCallaman joined TiKA to play 'TENFOLD' a standout track found on both of their EP's before she ended it all off with a Prince cover.
The love and support felt in that room is something not many shows I've been to have achieved. Love and support is pretty rare in the screwface capital so it's nice to see some in the music scene trying to create some Balance.
Words | Nuruddin Qorane
Photos | Ola Mazzuca