‘Beard Guy’ celebrated
The Arkells perform during a memorial concert for Mike (Beard Guy) Taylor Sunday. Stars, fans gather for Walk Off the Earth’s Mike Taylor tribute
BURLINGTON— Bundled in winter jackets, tuques and a few woolly blankets, fans travelled from halfway across the world to the chilly streets of Burlington, Ont., on Sunday to say a sombre farewell to Mike Taylor.
The steely-eyed keyboardist of Walk Off the Earth, known simply as “Beard Guy,” received a grand sendoff at an outdoor tribute concert where hundreds of people gathered to celebrate the musician, alongside his friends in bands the Barenaked Ladies, Arkells and Monster Truck.
As the tribute got underway, band member Sarah Blackwood broke into tears explaining that originally the show was envisioned as a relatively small gathering of fans. But as the concert neared, it became clearer that hundreds of people would be showing up.
“Look at what it’s become. It’s absolutely beautiful,” she told the audience before breaking into tears.
“Everybody is shocked and saddened, but tonight is about coming together and expressing love and happiness. We want to celebrate Mike for the incredible man he was.”
Taylor’s role in Walk Off the Earth rocketed him to unexpected fame in early 2012 after the group’s 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.
Ellen DeGeneres was so impressed she invited them to perform on her talk show, while an enthusiastic Russell Crowe tweeted his praises and suggested they cover his music too.
He was already the owner of a successful Burlington freight company he co-founded in 1994. Even while he was building his company, Taylor honed his musicianship, moonlighting with bands that included Toronto indie outfit Loomer.
He also raised his two children, Mylie, 16, and Jackson, 14, and took a role in some of their extracurricular activities, including as coach of his son’s hockey team.
“He was a phenomenal player so we were happy to have him in the band — even though it wasn’t really official,” said bandmate Gianni (Luminati) Nicassio ahead of the tribute.
“He loved being Beard Guy. He loved everything that came with it. He loved playing the character.”
But the rousing finale was left for Walk Off the Earth, who performed a number of songs, including “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a cover that’s a favourite among their fans. They closed out the show with a blast of fireworks over the stage, as a shot of Taylor faded from the video screen.
Walker reflected on the legacy of “Beard Guy” and the permanent impression he’s left on Walk Off the Earth, even for fans like him who are usually listening from across the pond.
“Obviously the band is going to still be the band, but it’s a scar, isn’t it?” he said. “The scar might heal, but it’ll always be there.”