A trib­ute fit for the ‘Beard Guy’

Arkells, Bare­naked Ladies join in hon­our­ing mu­si­cian

The Hamilton Spectator - - Front Page - GRA­HAM ROCK­ING­HAM

BURLING­TON — There were plenty of tears and even more hugs as more than 1,000 Walk Off The Earth fans gath­ered Sun­day in the frigid cold to hon­our the mem­ory of their beloved Mike (Beard Guy) Tay­lor.

The crowd filled the square in front of Burling­ton City Hall and spilled onto Brant Street a half-block in ei­ther di­rec­tion, while eight mu­si­cal acts, in­clud­ing the Arkells and the Bare­naked Ladies, per­formed for two hours in trib­ute to the Walk Off The Earth key­board player, who died in his sleep of nat­u­ral causes on Dec. 30.

“This is un­be­liev­able,” Walk Off The Earth singer Sarah Black­wood said as she looked out on the crowd, chok­ing back tears. “We just

wanted to set up, play some mu­sic for the fans and hon­our Mike’s legacy. Look what it turned into ...

“Tonight is about com­ing to­gether, ex­press­ing love and hap­pi­ness. We’re here tonight to cel­e­brate his life.”

The con­cert, which was broad­cast live across Canada on CBC’s Gem stream­ing net­work, was put to­gether in lit­tle more than a week by Walk Off The Earth, with help from the City of Burling­ton and the Burling­ton Sound of Mu­sic Fes­ti­val.

“This is a tes­ta­ment to the reach and im­pact that Mike and Walk Off The Earth have had on Burling­ton and around the world,” Mayor Mar­i­anne Meed Ward said in open­ing the show.

“We’re here to let Mike, his fam­ily and friends know that we will never for­get him.”

Meed Ward also hon­oured Tay­lor by award­ing him posthu­mously with a spe­cial key to the city.

As well, Burling­ton MP Ka­rina Gould read to the crowd a let­ter of con­do­lence from Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau.

“Mike had a pro­found im­pact on so many,” Trudeau wrote in the let­ter. “He will be sadly missed.”

The con­cert stage, set up in the civic square, was back­dropped by a large sil­hou­ette of Tay­lor’s pro­file fea­tur­ing the beard and his trade­mark tuque.

His key­board rig stood in one cor­ner, sur­rounded by can­dles.

Black­wood in­tro­duced each act to the stage, shar­ing hugs and mem­o­ries with the mu­si­cians, all of whom were friends of Tay­lor and Walk Off The Earth.

“We were nom­i­nated a cou­ple of years ago in the same cat­e­gory as this band and they won,” Black­wood said as she brought Hamil­ton heavy rock­ers Mon­ster Truck.

“No hard feel­ings. Mike was a big Mon­ster Truck fan. He was al­ways play­ing their mu­sic.”

Toronto pop singer Scott Hel­man re­called how he had made friends with Tay­lor while tour­ing with Walk Off The Earth.

“I’ve opened for a lot of acts, but open­ing for Walk Off The Earth was like be­ing part of a fam­ily,” Hel­man said. “It sucks to lose my friend.”

Kevin Hearn of the Bare­naked Ladies told the crowd that his mother had been friends with Tay­lor’s mother for 28 years.

Through that con­nec­tion, Hearn and Tay­lor had also de­vel­oped a close friend­ship.

“Mike was a good man with a big heart and a big beard,” Hearn said be­fore his group was joined by Arkells’ front­man Max Ker­man for a cover of Bruce Cock­burn’s “Lovers in a Dan­ger­ous Time.”

Other acts per­form­ing in­cluded Burling­ton’s Saint Alvia, USS, and Darenots.

The con­cert ended with all mu­si­cians in­volved join­ing Walk Off The Earth for a mov­ing sin­ga­long

of Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me.” Fire­works and a video mon­tage of Tay­lor per­form­ing Queen’s “Bo­hemian Rhap­sody” capped the evening.

To mu­sic fans, Tay­lor was known for his skills on the pi­ano and his stoic and steely-eyed com­po­sure on stage.

But he was also a de­voted fa­ther to his 16-year-old daugh­ter Mylie and 14-year-old son Jack­son, whose hockey team he helped coach.

Tay­lor, who died at the age of 51, was also a re­spected busi­ness­man, co-found­ing the Burling­ton-based trans­port bro­ker­age Gate­way Freight Sys­tems in 1994 and re­main­ing at its helm while tour­ing and record­ing with Walk Off The Earth.

Tay­lor’s role in Walk Off the Earth rock­eted him to un­ex­pected fame in early 2012 after the group’s YouTube cover of Go­tye’s “Some­body That I Used to Know” cap­tured in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion.

The clip fea­tured all five mem­bers shar­ing a sin­gle gui­tar, strum­ming its strings and knock­ing on its frame as they sang in har­mony.

The video was an in­stant hit, even­tu­ally draw­ing more than 185 mil­lion views. Fans seemed es­pe­cially cap­ti­vated by Tay­lor, his thick eye­brows and well­coiffed beard.

Two al­bums fol­lowed on the pres­ti­gious Columbia Records la­bel, lead­ing to a 2016 Juno Award for group of the year.

JOHN RENNISON THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

Mon­ster Truck per­forms dur­ing a trib­ute to the late Mike Tay­lor (Beard Guy) of Walk Off The Earth at a con­cert in Burling­ton on Sun­day.

PHO­TOS BY JOHN RENNISON THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

Lisa Rev­ell sings along to the per­for­mances dur­ing the trib­ute con­cert.

Sarah Castel­lani and her son Ri­ley Ruck­stuhl wore beards as a trib­ute to Mike Tay­lor. Var­i­ous artists per­formed at Burling­ton's Civic Square. Tay­lor, just 51, died in his sleep Dec. 30.

Walk Off The Earth's Sarah Black­wood wipes tears as she watches a video trib­ute to band mate Mike Tay­lor.

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