‘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

Toronto Star - - NEWS - DAVID FRIEND

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.”

PETER POWER THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

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