Had you told me I’d be contemplating bohemian life on a boat in the Inner Harbour while taking a breather from a boho-gypsy-folk-punk concert, I would have never believed you. I realized being bohemian is more than a trend—it’s a nomadic-state of being in which all art is celebrated.
The concert, put on by the B.C. Ska Society at Upstairs Cabaret on Oct. 25, featured three local bands—Carousels, Compassion Gorilla, and Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra—and paid tribute to eastern European sounds with a West Coast flavour.
I got to the venue at 9 p.m. to catch the beginning of Carousels’ set. Though the set was short, Carousels left a musical mark on the audience. Most of the vocals were performed in foreign languages, with an air of familiarity in the formation of the syllables. The Ukrainian-infused band laid a solid foundation for Compassion Gorilla to expand upon.
Compassion Gorilla’s music could be heard from a gypsy caravan in the Baltics. The band was rambunctious, playing their horns and strings with conviction. Halfway through their set, Compassion Gorilla had people moving from the back of the room to the front of the stage, stomping and clapping to the beat.
I noticed the perimeter of the semi-hexagonal dancefloor lined with tall tables framing the stage. I positioned myself against one when I was intersected by the trombonist and violinist jumping on the table and leaning on the barracks. The dynamic duo played into the crowd, the blunt ends of both trombone and bow inches from my face. My dancing turned into a duck and weave and I felt like I was at a Jewish celebration.
Compassion Gorilla ended their set leaving dancefloor patrons wheezing for fresh air. I joined the herd and found some friends who were headed to the dock just south of Upstairs. We joined another a rag-tag group of misfits in a small sailboat in Victoria’s harbour. We shared drinks, but more than that, we shared a gratefulness for music.
Sitting in that random boat, I felt the inner nomad in me rejoice. Being bohemian is a way of life, reminding you to find the excitement in life’s simple pleasures. Good company, music, food, and laughs fuels more than your life but your soul. My sense of fullness was insatiable, like the richness of the music that evening.
A friend’s ringing phone brought us back to the venue just in time to see Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra’s first song. Five gentlemen graced the staged adorned with full beards, long hair, and a passion for playing music. Vocalist and accordion player, Ian Griffiths, commanded the crowd by moving his hand up and down encouraging people to jump in time.
Violinist Mack Shields began the set by plucking the strings of his violin, creating a tinny resonance that seamlessly accompanied Griffiths’ accordion. Shields’ angelic features (later hidden by a wolf mask) seemed to contradict his ferocious attitude. By the end of the set, half of Shields’ bow hairs hung lifelessly against the violin. The lifeless hairs seemed to symbolize the end of the music, and Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra closed down the show.
Transported somewhere in eastern Europe for the evening, I felt like investing in a wagon with nothing but a showerless existence before me. If we engaged in art and searched for the adventure in life, existence could be simpler. The B.C. Ska Society and talented musicians reminded me of my inner bohemian, and for that I am grateful. Look for the bohemian in every human you encounter and the resonance