The first time I saw Kytami perform was at Rifflandia in 2015, when my friend Deriek of the band Spaceboots told me, "Come check out Kytami, I'm performing with her." I knew little but that she played the violin. But being myself, I absolutely love going into shows with no expectations. I met up with a few friends, and in an absolutely packed venue, we collectively pushed ourselves to the very front of the crowd, leaned up against the protective rails, and I eagerly waited for the show to start.
I was fucking blown away. Sometimes when I go to shows, I stand back and observe, and other times I find myself completely lost in the music - and that was the case for the first time I saw Kytami perform. I went insane, dancing my ass off and losing myself completely for the hour-long set. I knew I would see her again and again. And I have.
From Tall Tree to Lucky Bar to Rock the Shores I've seen Kytami perform at every opportunity in front of me. She has never disappointed, always throwing every bit of energy she has into her performances. Phonik Ops always makes sure to announce and remind the crowd that 'the harder we go, the harder she goes' - and it's true. Kytami feeds off of the energy of the audience, and we're sure to never let her down either.
Friday's show at Sugar was to celebrate the release of her long anticipated album, Renegade, which has since become a soundtrack to my daily life. Between The Jackal and Listen Up, one of those two tracks has disintegrated my awful stock stereo system in my car, and still every time I turn it up as loud as it goes.
Having just returned from a West coast tour with the legendary Datsik, I was amazed at how much energy this performance still held - Kytami is showing absolutely no signs of stopping. Despite constant bouncing, dancing, jumping, all the while flawlessly playing her violin, Kyla shows zero exhaustion, clad in her show gear which this time included a fucking jacket in a nightclub. How that girl does it is beyond me, but she manages to hype up the crowd every single time.
The beauty of watching Kytami perform is not restricted to the size of the location. I've seen her perform at festivals for an audience of a few thousand, to in a nightclub for a few hundred. The consistency of the performance remains the same, and when she tells the crowd to jump, we jump. Sugar Nightclub was absolutely shaking on Friday night, and I thought the building was going to collapse. But, we partied on. Let the walls come down.
Between Kytami and Phonik Ops, these two on their own are mixing two different styles of music - a mix of Branden's drum and bass/electronica elements, and adding the classical violin sound expertly mastered by Kyla, who herself has years of history and experience with drum and bass. But with the guest performers, this duo takes it up another notch further - performing with Deriek 'Dirty D' Simon from Spaceboots, who adds a hip-hop sound, working to both help hype the crowd, and adding his vocals. And then to add to it further, Gino Trash stepped out on stage with his guitar to give a gritty punk-rock accompaniment to a few tracks. So here you have an amalgamation of four performers, and four very different genres of music, flawlessly synchronized together to create a sound that by all means shouldn't be considered possible, but with everybody playing their own part, effortlessly shows that the love of music holds no restrictions.
The journey of these musicians is far from over. Having already toured multiple cities and festivals across Canada and the US, no doubt with the release of the Renegade album, these musicians will soon be hitting the road again soon - who knows where Kytami will go this summer? I'm willing to bet that we'll start seeing festival announcements soon with Kytami & crew on the lineup. Fingers crossed!
In the meantime, be sure to check out her Facebook page for clips of videos from previous shows, as well as tour updates and show announcements.
And also check out her new album! Find it on -
This was my third time seeing USS - once when they opened for Mother Mother at the Royal Theatre in 2013, and again at the Phillips Backyard Weekender in 2015.
At the Royal Theatre, I had heard 'This Is The Best' (of course) and waited patiently for the song I knew. They played it, and they rocked it, and I was impressed with the rest of the show. Even from super far away (I almost needed binoculars) I watched Ash strum his guitar with passion, and Human Kebab running around going crazy.
In 2015 at the Phillips Backyard Weekender I went specifically for USS. I still hadn't listened to too terribly much of their music, but knew that I liked their sound in the songs I had heard. So I went, with no expectations. I can't recall the set list, but the one song that hit me like a ton of bricks was 'Freakquency'. The sun was setting beside the stage, setting the sky alight with hues of blues, pinks, magentas, and an essence of a warmth quickly disappearing. The crowd was writhing, and sweaty, and I was a part of it. I was a part of it. And so in that moment, and so aware, as Ash crooned to the crowd, "Someday, oh I'm gonna get you back again... rushing through my head like oxygen, never gonna let you go..." Goddamn. I couldn't see the band. I couldn't see ten feet ahead of me. We were packed in like sardines in a can, and as this sun set gloriously, illuminating us briefly and importantly, we moved as one in tune to the music. This was the moment in 2015 that I realized, I love this band. I left with my copy of Advanced Basics, where it remained in slot number 1 on my DVD player (makeshift CD player) and lives there to this day.
Then... Yo Hello Hooray.
In the winter of 2014 as most of you know, I quit drinking, and started focusing inwards and learning to be more present and aware, and most importantly, happy and carefree (as much as possible.)
When I heard Yo Hello Hooray in the spring of 2016 it felt familiar, and looking back, I'm sure I heard it before. But with a newfound awareness I was bringing to my life, it suddenly hit me harder than any drink or drug. Fuck. There it was. I was struggling yet again with depression, and struggling to find bits of happiness, as I tend to during the winters. Then it was a clear and sunny day, it was actually February 12, 2016 (thank you Timehop!) that the sun came out for the first time last year and I went to the beach with my iPod and listened to Yo Hello Hooray, cold and warm, and focusing more on the warmth. The happiness. The optimism. The silver lining. The music. It became my theme song, and as the days grew warmer and warmer, I listened to it louder and louder.
And all of the rest of the damn songs. Everything. I integrated USS into my life, and the more I listened to them, the more the theme of recovery became apparent to me. The more that the lyrics which can be interpreted as cryptic, or poetry, suddenly held so much meaning for me. I integrated my own recovery with the music, and found silver linings in each and every song.
Which I'm very sure is what Ash is trying to convey in the music that the band creates. In an interview with AMotherWorld Ash talks about his struggles with addiction (full interview here) and changing his lifestyle to become more focused on physical and mental health, and recovery. Reading this interview has been such an inspiration to me within my own journey. The correlation of music, and recovery, and how the two can go hand in hand.
For me, the music of USS has become more than that - not simply music, but in each song I find snippets of an anthem of my own recovery. Thank you. To Ash Buchholz, and to Jason Parsons (Human Kebab), for creating this sound that hits me directly in my heart and gives me strength. Thank you.
For me it was fitting that the band would begin the show with Yo Hello Hooray. I had my phone out, recording the lights and intro, waiting for the music to come crashing in, and when it did, it was my favorite song. I jumped when I realized they were beginning their set of the last show on the tour with this track, and my heart skipped a beat and my eyes welled up. I recorded it (iPhone quality, remember!) and remembered to be present and aware in that moment. It had to be a good start. It was a great start.
Oh man. Okay, first off, I'm a huge Coheed fan. There will be more than one album on this list. IKSSE3 changed my life in high school. The first song I ever heard was A Favor House Atlantic in the summer of 2004, on a local radio station. I had no idea what it was called and spent months searching for that song and never forgot it. In the winter that year The Zone played it again and I squealed with ecstatic joy. That was my introductory album - I YouTubed the hell out of the band and IKSSE3 became the soundtrack to my freshman year in high school. The lyrics made a whole bunch of no sense to me. It wasn't until I was 20 that I did some more Googling and found out - holy shit, this band has a comic/graphic novel/novel series that goes along with the albums. My mind was blown. I bless this introductory album which has now got me inked permanently with a Keywork and a dragonfly.
Song to check out: A Favor House Atlantic
Avantasia - The Scarecrow
Ugh, here it begins. I really have to dig to find the words for this album because it just makes me FEEL. Um. So it starts out with Twisted Mind, right. Which is cool, they're an intense power metal group with an amazing operatic sound to them - a twelve-or-something piece group fronted by Tobias Sammet, who has a voice like high-pitched honey and milk. I found a live performance of them called The Flying Opera which also starts out with Twisted Mind, and to watch the crowd, I'm in a perpetual envy. This performance cannot be background noise to me. Once I hit play (and I even bought the damn DVD with the album), I am hooked, transfixed, awed, admiring, and breathing in every damned second of the performance. I think this album changed my life when I was 22. It was like a security blanket, coddling me to sleep every night and forcing me to feel a plethora of emotions inciting everything from vulnerability to blackout rage to an absolute self-love that infects my very core. Avantasia changed my life.
Song to check out: The Scarecrow
The Creepshow - Life After Death
I was 17 when I first heard The Creepshow, and I was introduced to their first self-titled album. I'd never heard anything like it before and I was like, 'WOW!' and it was it enough to get me hooked. I bought a copy and I've bought every album since then. This band has a completely unique rockabilly/psychobilly sound that they pull off so well - including playing with a stand-up bass. I just saw them in Vancouver last May for the second time and grabbed a vinyl copy of Life After Death to play on my trusty record player, and it's become one of my favorite albums. Every album has so far surpassed the one before it, and I'm super excited for their upcoming album this year. I absolutely can't wait!
Song to check out: The Devil's Son