Published May 08, 2016Over Feast in the East's two nights of anniversary celebrations at Anchored Social Club, a playfully inter-capped message stared out at audiences from a chalkboard at the back of the space: "ReConnect / ReConstruct / ReCondition / RePeat // Enjoy the Journey."
Riding under the gym's logo, it's a mantra members are meant to look to while training, but it also gets at the heart of what Feast in the East has stood for as a DIY inter-arts monthly in the city's oft-forgotten east end, and the tireless grassroots perseverance it takes to foster and activate culture there.
Outside, a development notice alerts the neighbourhood to a zoning application to erect mid-rise condos in the place of ASC and the restaurant with which it shares a lot. Having already presented events in at least a handful of locations before finding a new hub here, Feast in the East will soon have to find yet another space for its events.
Still, as a series that actively draws attention to Toronto's east end, Feast in the East's relationship with that part of the city's gentrification isn't uncomplicated, and while the vibe was celebratory and positive on the second night of its five-year anniversary, the well of circumstances and feelings surrounding it were crystallized and confronted in a provocative lineup collecting some of the city's most underrated acts.
Attendees spooning and slurping at an okra-thickened hot and sour soup with pineapple salsa prepared by regular Feast chef Stephanie Fielding and Heather Rule, Castle If opened the night with a patient, meditative drone. As heavily effected classic Windows screensavers cycled behind her, Jess Forrest eventually wiggled the tone off to bolder territory, but maintained the tension, layering beats, dizzying keyboard melodies and samples of measured breaths into the mix, creating a more confrontational sound environment. Citing a "ghetto soundsystem," Forrest also delivered a more muted version of "Polygon," her Vocoder-heavy contribution to Feast in the East's cookbook compilation.
Then audiences got a double dose of earnest guitar pop, with Paul Elrichman and Feast co-founder Neil Rankin's Germaphobes and Jesse James Laderoute's Blonde Elvis going back to back.
Besides the implications wrapped up in having an act called the Germaphobes play a gentrification-doomed training facility, the former kept the room feeling light and loose, as Rankin thanked past and present Feasters between songs from November's Magic Eye EP and joking through the same power problems that marred bands the night before.
Coming off a bit of a dry spell ("Alright… we're a band. Remember?" Laderoute quipped at the top of the set), Blonde Elvis used their set to try out a pocket of new material between On Vanity cuts like "Monday is Red" and set closer "Fit For Her," but its anthemic social boundary metaphor "Slow Fall on Egypt" was still the most resonant, its tongue-in-cheek refrain working here like a cautious spitball aimed at rather immediately encroaching capitalism.
Flying in the face of simpler terrestrial hegemonies, alien robot colonizers Matrox beamed in at the night's close to reign supreme, demonstrating their mastery of earthly MIDI controllers and saxophone in a 40-minute invasion that was all lasers and robot rock. Over its course, they waged battle with a human sax machine, imparted an intimidating knowledge of the TTC system, and paid an ecstatic tribute to the number five. They completed their occupation of the space by ordering the audience to disperse, and then they did, perhaps never to return again.