Reflecting on a Lifetime Love of Music and Two Years Running an Indie Magazine

I’ve loved music for as long back as I can remember.  When I was around 9 or 10 years old, my mom would buy all kinds of new music and I would sit with the record covers and marvel at the art and photos while amazing and interesting sounds swirled around the room.  And when the feeling was right, Mom would boldly turn the volume dial past 5, the number that was considered the safe point to prevent noise complaints.  I still get nostalgic when flipping through the disorganized stacks of vinyl at our local record store and I come across a familiar cover that, as a kid, I would sit cross-legged on the floor and study for hours.

Mom eventually settled in to a pretty steady diet of Country and Western music.  It was still performed by crooners with actual life experience back then (Waylon Jennings, Kenny Rogers, George Jones, Conway Twitty…you get the idea) but before all that, there was The Police, Split Enz, Fleetwood Mac, The Cars, and even eyebrow raisers like Rough Trade.  Did she really just yell “Is he screwing with her?”  Music dominated over TV in my house and I’m thankful for it.

Exposure to different music on a constant and regular basis kept me open minded to what was to come.  Hip-hop, Shoegaze, Ska, Reggae, Alternative, Brit pop and Electronic music in all its variations.  And although I listened to a lot of different music, I didn’t start to collect it until CDs came along.  Before then, it was all about the mix tapes I would make from friend’s records or from the radio, my finger poised to strike “pause” to beat the advertisements.

Photography happened sort of by accident.  It was a mandatory course in my college journalism program and required we use a proper SLR 35mm film camera.  No auto settings, no Kodak Disc, no Polaroids.  Manual everything and a darkroom to process it.  I loved every minute of it.  The marriage of music and photography didn’t happen until years later when I was asked by a friend to shoot their band’s performance.  I was so out of my element.  Multi-coloured strobe lights, non-stop movement, people dancing around me.  It was amazing and I was hooked.  I knew I couldn’t accept it as a one-off opportunity and my search for postings looking for music photographers began.  Armed with only one band in my portfolio, SoundProof magazine still gave me a shot and sent me to photograph My Bloody Valentine.  Mind blown!  If I thought I was hooked before then, I left that gig a full-blown addict.

A bunch of publications, hundreds of bands, and thousands of photos later, my partner in crime and brilliant writer Jacqueline and I started talking.  Who is writing about the music we love?  When the music we love is covered, is it getting the photography and written assessment it deserves?  Is there enough promotion & journalism of new bands that should be in the spotlight in our city?  The answer was more or less no.  So we said:

“Forget it, brother, you can go it alone” – The Clash

STEP ON Magazine was born and has since become DISARM.  And it’s been a fantastic journey so far.  Reflecting back on 2 years of us two going it alone, what have I learned?  Well this, in no particular order:

1 – Music is as important to me today than ever before. It’s so much more than sounds coming from a speaker.  It’s a language, or more accurately, a dialect.  It identifies your tribe.  Find your tribe and stick with them.  Build your army.

2 – The music I thought was great in my teens, is still great today, and will always be great. More or less.  We all have our moments and lapses in reason.

3 – The Cure is everything.

4 – Vinyl is superior. As I mentioned before, I didn’t really collect music seriously until CDs.  Vinyl was for DJs, end of.  When the vinyl resurgence started, I was (quietly) cynical about it and dismissed it as hipster-fueled nonsense.  That changed when Jaqueline and I popped in to a local pub one Tuesday night, which happened to be vinyl night.  Having a seasoned ear for music and the many different formats, I can say with some degree of authority, it just sounds better.  And you don’t need an acoustically perfect room and a tube-amplifier Hi-fi setup to hear it.  The fact that Jacqueline soon after uncovered a treasure trove of her original records (Cure, Clash, etcetera) thought long lost prompted us to buy a turntable.  We’ll never look back.

5 – Cynicism is toxic (see Vinyl is superior)

6 – Great, important music is still being made today. You just have to search harder to find it.  It was easy to find great music in the 80s and 90s.  The radio played it, movies used it for soundtracks, stadium-sized concerts were reserved for it.  Today it’s rarely found in those places.  Scour Bandcamp and SoundCloud.  You’ll find it.  When you do, support it and tell everyone about it.

7 – Live music is medicine for the mind and soul. Go see as much of it as you can.  And don’t miss the openers.

8 – Nothing easy is worth it. No further explanation required.

9 – Don’t discount the little guy. No one is so small they should be ignored or overlooked be it musicians, an indie magazine or fan site.  Be respectful and thank the people that promote and support you.

10 – It’s ok to be a fan AND the media. We don’t ever try to hide the fact that we love a band or a musician.  We yell it from the rafters.  It’s never uncool to wear the band’s t-shirt at their concert.

Dave MacIntyre

Purple Love Balloon: Shiiine On Weekender Wrap & Photos

It’s near closing time. Paul Hartnoll, of legendary techno duo Orbital, plays a marathoner’s marathon slot Sunday midnight. Those with long drives in the a.m. have gone to bed, but the core who put this set on their must list are here, and the turnout is strong.

It’s a tremendous set, well worth the wait, with Orbital remixes and perfect oddities like the mash up of Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven is a Place on Earth” and Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love A Bad Name”, two songs that uncannily mirror each other yet ironically clash with messages of fluffy love vs. swaggering anger, at one point playing Belinda backwards so the vocal sounds like an Icelandic pop marvel.

The inspired booking of Paul Hartnoll is not a fluke. The after parties at this music festival are programmed as well and more broadly than the main stage headliners, with a number of large rooms to fill out, and almost as many hours of music.


Like the main stage from afternoon to late evening, the side rooms are well-rounded with a winning combination of heavy-hitters like Hartnoll, BBC Radio’s iconic Steve Lamacq, and last year’s Graeme Park and Dave Booth, who were there for the very first days of the one and only Hacienda in Manchester back in the early 80s, and going strong as hell today. The DJ and club culture that exists in this country is worthy of special mention for visitors from outside the U.K. In most of the U.S. and Canada, the once shimmering scenes have given way to an overabundance of hipsterism (a good excuse to go the economical dive bar route) and back to a landscape of worthy indie bands struggling to get a foothold in struggling corner bars. To be sure, the late-night offerings at Shiiine are a treat for the Canadians (who just go ahead and stay on their own time, bit of a cheat, that) as well as the diehards, those admirable zombies who always get themselves “home”, sometimes with a little directional help in the end.

We must rely on other reports for much of Friday (missed all but headliners due to travel delays) and for some bands we had planned to see, including The Black Jackals (Liverpool), Cellar Doors (San Francisco), and The Train Set (Crewe). The omissions of these and others in our pretty full photo gallery is due to these events & does not reflect a lack of interest.

We put together detailed reviews of some particular personal high points for us, notably Thousand Yard Stare, The Farm, Echobelly, and a side trip through some cover bands we enjoyed a lot. That said, there are so many highpoints we share with our Shiiine Family, and a more articulate group we’ve never met. We know that like you, we’ll be revisiting and discussing this weekend throughout the year. We’re also developing a podcast so look for that if you like those Canuck tones.

Those who would call us all nostalgists can note that social media chats mark tonight (Friday) as the one week anniversary of the time The Wonder Stuff took the stage, when they immediately ramped up the evening with a terrific high energy set, saying they were happy to be back, just as the crowd was happy to receive them. The Stuffies are so solid and it was a treat to see them at the beginning of the weekend this year instead of the end as main stage closer (we also didn’t want to be seen crying during “Size of a Cow” again). Next, Echo and the Bunnymen took us right into the evening with their entirely different groove, Ian McCulloch’s voice as clear and deep as ever. “Lips Like Sugar” is still sexy as hell, dark and lovely. All the headliners delivered as promised: Ash, Cast, Shed Seven, The Bluetones (photos at bottom of all of these performances) with even the reported unplanned stage departures of a few singers somewhat befitting the reputations of the artists who left their assigned spots. That’s Entertainment.


Cud (or as a few fans have christened them, Magnificent Bastards) gave a terrific performance in the perfect venue that is Centre Stage (at a smaller festival this would be Butlin’s main stage, and here is where everyone floods after the Skyline stage closes at 10.) Back from last year, Cud, who formed in the mid-80’s in Leeds and have recently come back out of hiatus, touring with the also reformed Ned’s Atomic Dustbin (ahem, festival curators) is something different than most of the bands out there working today. There’s the rare and beautiful throwback punk feeling of slight danger about Carl Puttnam, who postures and uses the space in a way most singers today never do; not preening for cameras but communicating with an invisible god/demon/muse. A friend who knows music made a new discovery in this band, in communication with his own muse in an epic talk & drink session, and as we watched him fall in love, it was another facet of a long and memorable night.

How strange, how wonderful, how of the 90s the feeling of Saturday night is. But be advised, this is not nostalgia, but rather a grasp of the tail of something these bands were inventing and we were experiencing and defining ourselves by, in all our relative youths, then. It’s still needed, it bloomed but was soon extinguished (like the fad it wasn’t) cruelly killed by shallow media agendas, boy bands and belly tops, quite premeditated, too, because gender equality and musical diversity had been happening for a decade for the first time in history before our cultural Y2K disaster. And that achievement, that hope, and that feeling, that’s all we’re celebrating here. And in celebration there is new life.

And so to our Shiiiine Friends/ Family:

The friends we met, and re-met, well.

The ones we didn’t meet, who yet rotated around us sharing and being part of the same creation of happy memories as ours, with their own groups of friends, overlapping in circles – or never to meet.

The people who will duck under to not spoil a picture whether from a long lens or a camera phone, these observant and thoughtful people.

And those who instead, jump in front of it, giving you something else to see, and to photograph. (Was there really a leprechaun?)

The group who photobombed a passed out, sitting up man one afternoon near the Skyline stage, and another who created a massive dance floor huddle, that we photobombed ourselves. “Peace Sign!”

The musicians who came and joined this party, many who returned for year two, already family, from afar, are in it together, with all of us.

Musical artists roam and mix freely with their audience in the massive after-parties that make up the second festival once the main stage ends at 10:00 p.m. Centre Stage and Reds go dark, and alive, and everyone comes together in perfect rooms that are really the return to the 80s and 90s we crave and miss most of all: The camaraderie of youthful timelessness that extended way past your table of friends, bound only by a yellow flyer, a happy face, a flower T-shirt, a catchphrase, not yet co-opted; a beloved short-lived magazine, subtitled “Music & Beyond”, as it summed up life itself; a search, for our kind, in the faces of big, anonymous cities where our music was never so popular that it become uncool. If it never became uncool it is still intact. Deal with it, journalists.

But the 90s scene(s) once blossomed, triggered alarmist reporting about noise and drugs and the clucks of the boring and the critics shouting from the dull comfort of their homes. Dehydration, indeed. Club culture has had its casualties, but in truth, there was so much more that was good and authentic. Our youth was so much more and so different than any headline could reach for. Like everything worthwhile, and everything cool.

Worldwide, in our 90s, everywhere you could get a 12 inch record, an import or a bootleg tape or hear John Peel or read the NME, community could arise for 5 or 6 hours every Friday, Saturday or Sunday in the cities we grew up in, planted our flag in, ended up in, or tried for awhile, when we still believed adventures might lie in that garden patch we knew almost too well, former kids dreaming of archaeology in the back garden, innocent to the truth of the sewer lines below, or the fact of our dry suburban ahistory, our little world’s irrelevance. We still dared to hope in the early 90s,  were shortsighted then, tied to grueling jobs of youth and knew not how to jump a plane, a train, or a border.

But now we do.

Weekender people leave whatever their ordinary day to day life is and create something on a closed circuit that is yet a continuum from year to year, and from one great festival to the next. And Britain suffers no fools when it comes to music and to music festival offerings, or to the price of a pint. The competition is fierce, especially in summer, but even now, in November, the pull of home is calling (if you are so lucky to have that nagging pull, intact) and most of the land is marathoning through year end, an effort to put 2016 behind all of us. And so we lurch toward New Years Eve, nowadays with a bit of dread, since things sometimes get worse instead of better, for nations, for culture, for the fate of music, for our currencies we live by, or for our loved ones. Who could use a weekend away?


But it was never truly easy, even when we had youth and a massive buffet of end of the century music offerings, to be present, to party, to cheer, or to hit the road. And it takes a persistence to row against the tide, to ignore the nagging mother within ourselves and to carve out a bit of the beautiful 90s here and now. Not because we are simply nostalgic, that’s not it, if you were there, you know that. But because we are relevant, we are right, and so is this music.

It was put away unjustly. It lives again in spite of industry, press, denied riches and the devils that have claimed the name “music” for so long, that create sounds in factories that are not good enough for our children, and are bad for the world. Musical heritage, musical life, is as worthy of a long life as any other art form. The trends & promotional cycles forever insisted upon by the uncreative money men are false, and everyone old enough to remember the early 90s is wise to all of it.

And so bands that have been quiet for a decade are back with regularity this year. They are here. No doubt, many are here due in part (or wholly) to the work of the organizers of Shiiine On Weekender, music lovers whose own path is circuitous and no doubt interesting. There’s real currency at work here, one that holds fast against the unseen pressures surely faced by all festival organizers to pull it all together. The currency here is invented out of credibility, trust, and maybe even fate. The journey is part of it, down to Minehead, and yes, down to Butlin’s. Location, location, location. And there’s a reality, an immediacy, to the whole thing that makes phones onsite a necessary evil to be put away when we find each other. Or when the battery dies. In that one way, and that way only, Shiiine On Weekender is retro.

This is a new but quickly established Weekender. The Shiiine On Family are in it together in an uncommon way. No one ever calls Beatles or Stones fans nostalgic, retro, or bald (even when they are) or implies that their enjoyment of these well-played records that to some of us are no more resonant than Muzak, is but a quaint attempt at reliving a flash in time known as “the 60s”. But for too many journalists, claims like this about our music reveals only the limits of their own ability to connect, their truncated imaginations and their stingy way with passion. A shame. And a detriment to the accurate reporting of all eras since the accepted peak of the late 60s. But enough about the absent. In our scene, a band as brilliant as Joy Division tragically dies, and another brilliant band, New Order, forms in a whole new way. Our artists are adaptable. We’re all adaptable.

We came here in year one because to see the first year’s bill was to think it was a made up wish list. Because one of our own important musical heroes was quietly added in an intimate gig that shattered us just as much as Peter Hook and the Light and The Farm did. Because we had just seen a mysterious and never to be seen again perfect Stone Roses cover band in Toronto, sharing wide eyed awe with a like-minded musichead across the room, a not-easily-impressed DJ turned Chef, no less. Because our work had been leading us toward what we’d only seen from “across the pond” forever, in strange happenings and signs. It was time to run, hop a time zone and take a leap. Right past that back-garden gate. And now we are among the addicted, loyal, devout – we’ve found our FC at last. We’ll be cheering at home and away. We are, like so many others we met or did not meet, open-hearted and discerning and we will not hear anyone celebrate the demise of “the 90s” as people were and still are quick to do, outside our culture. Tourists.

The 90s needed to come back, and so it has been on the return, without much help from the old powers that be that are crumbling like despots always do. 90s bands, tunes and culture has been steadily coming back to fill a massive void in music, culture and life different than the Beatles nostalgia trip of the mid-eighties, and with a whole lot less commercialism. It rolls on, like this weekend, on just the steam of passion, generosity, grassroots efforts, authenticity and the truth that sincerity is cooler than irony, after all. Everyone here belongs here.

See you next year.

With our thanks to Shiiine on Weekender, James & Steve, the bands we photographed (and a few we missed) The Cobbie & Mrs Cobbie (& Al!) Phil, Mark, Charlie and absent friends Gareth, Adam & Greaves – we returned to the scene of the crime and we found the irons. You were much missed. Weddoes in Toronto in April? 

In Photos: Primal Scream in Toronto

Friday night at the Danforth Music Hall was an absolute blast.  Primal Scream was in town to play and as expected, Bobby Gillespie and company performed a fantastic set of music spanning the band’s 3 decade discography.  We’ve had a windfall of some of Step On’s favourite bands in Toronto of late, especially off the Creation Records label.  We’ve been privileged to see Slowdive, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Swervedriver, Primal Scream, and the up and coming June performance of Ride will be the icing on the cake.  After the gig while sipping a pint at my favourite watering hole, Bobby and the band stopped by and was gracious enough to pose for a photo.  A super nice, down to earth guy and the cherry on top of an already perfect night.

All Photos: Dave MacIntyre


Above & Beyond’s live show thaws Toronto

Above & Beyond turn up the heat in Toronto.  Photo: Dave MacIntyre
Above & Beyond turn up the heat in Toronto. Photo: Dave MacIntyre

Above & Beyond at the Direct Energy Centre, Toronto, February 15, 2015

Deep freeze? What deep freeze?

The extreme Toronto temperatures were left at the door as Above & Beyond played to an impressive and enthusiastic crowd Sunday night, headlining a 2.5 hour set with great support from Lane 8 and Mat Zo (also a Progressive Trance producer in his own right).

The U.K. Progressive Trance giants have a solid history with Toronto, having headlined VELD  Festival and performances at the iconic Guvernment in recent years. This deep connection with our community was highlighted in their LED visuals to great response from the crowd. As expected, the show was highly original, with a stellar, dazzling light show perfectly integrated with a riveting, dynamic performance which moved easily through Progressive Trance, Ambient and pop-infused numbers which were well-received by a hyped up crowd dressed in their summer festival best (or least) in defiance of the weather outside. “Sticky Fingers “(feat. Alex Vargas) is an instant classic with a gorgeous vocal hook. We see a festival hit in the making with its refrain “ Get your sticky fingers out of my head.”

Check out the video for “All Over The World” also featuring Alex Vargas:


Above & Beyond go way back in Toronto.  Photo: Dave MacIntyre
Above & Beyond go way back in Toronto. Photo: Dave MacIntyre

Above & Beyond ( Jono Grant, Tony McGuinness and Paavo Siljamaki)  is touring their January 2015 release, We Are All We Need. Their tour will be waking up neigbourhoods and shaking music fans out of their winter slumber throughout U.S.  cities until the end of March. We’ll look forward to their next summer festival stop in Toronto, where they are always welcome.

Above & Beyond official page

These fans wanted desperately to Push The Button.  Photo: Dave MacIntyre
These fans wanted desperately to Push The Button. Photo: Dave MacIntyre


Above & Beyond.  Photo: Dave MacIntyre
Above & Beyond. Photo: Dave MacIntyre
Above & Beyond.  Photo: Dave MacIntyre
Above & Beyond. Photo: Dave MacIntyre
Above & Beyond.  Photo: Dave MacIntyre
Above & Beyond. Photo: Dave MacIntyre
Above & Beyond.  Photo: Dave MacIntyre
Above & Beyond. Photo: Dave MacIntyre
%d bloggers like this: