One band, one dream, and many beers
By Savanah Tillberg, Arts and Culture Editor
As many are already aware, this coming Friday, February 16th is the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra’s 6th annual Brew & Beethoven event. What some may not know, however, is that this event is fulfilling the long-time dream of local band, Phoebe the Feeb, to play alongside an orchestra.
Phoebe the Feeb is an eclectic group of “dudes” with a sound that draws its inspiration from a multitude of different genres including funk, reggae, rock, metal, and folk. The groovy group consists of three members: bassist, Will Trembley, lead vocalist and guitarist, Nathan Bortolon, and drummer, Aaron Gee. Gee told The Argus that each of the band’s members “brings a different slice of pie to dessert.” Although the band has three members now, the original vision for Phoebe the Feeb was much different. Initially, the band was supposed to be a 10-piece hip hop group, however the scheduling of such an arrangement proved to be exceptionally difficult, and so the “3-piece prog rock band” was born and will be playing alongside the TBSO this Friday night.
Playing with an orchestra has been a life-long dream of each of the members for different reasons, the band explains. “When Nathan was a little dude he figured out Phantom of the Opera by ear on his Piano. It opened the floodgates of love for orchestral music, then when he started playing guitar, he wanted to collaborate with an orchestra due to that love.” Trembley, who took up learning the bass later in his life, attributes his desire to play with an orchestra to his longstanding aspirations of playing “with high caliber musicians in a setting like [Brew & Beethoven].” Lastly, Gee says that he has always wanted “to be in the position to have a band be accompanied by an orchestra after watching a video of Deep Purple playing with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.”
Phoebe the Feeb expressed this long-standing wish of theirs to The Walleye in an interview in October of 2017. The local magazine asked the members if they could play with any band, who would it be, and if they could play any concert, what would it be. Without hesitation, the band told The Walleye that it would be the TBSO at their Brew & Beethoven event. No later than three days after their interview, the band was contacted by TBSO’s event coordinator, Kerry Berlinquette, and the process of claiming the featuring artist spot at Brew & Beethoven had commenced. The band explained that they responded to Kelly “with a passionate message about how this was a dream of ours – bucket list stuff.” They added, “it resonated with her, and she said she was going to go to bat for us. She then went to the TBSO, pitched us to them, and boom we were off to the races! We were in.”
Kerry Berlinquette, Brew & Beethoven event coordinator, told The Argus, “this is a joyous story—Essentially, I read their interview in The Walleye and reached out and they accepted the challenge! It was amazing for me to hear how grateful Phoebe the Feeb was for the opportunity, and I honestly cannot WAIT to meet them next week and be a part of their dream coming true.” TBSO Operations manager, Sylvie Di Leonardo, also commented that, “Arts organizations are in the unique position to ask and to answer the, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if…’questions. It’s important that as a community organization, we work hard each season to respond to that. That’s why we go to work every day. When Kerry showed me Phoebe the Feeb’s interview, I knew this was our chance to uphold that vision.”
The band told The Argus that gaining this opportunity was only the first step on their journey to performing with the TBSO. They explained that they were tasked with writing 48 accompanying parts to their songs for the orchestra in just over one month. “We immediately reached out to a few other musicians who had been involved with the event in previous years, just to get a little more detail on what was expected of us, and what we should expect,” added Gee. “Some of us have dabbled in MIDI sequencing before, and had some basic musical theory under our belts, so we just needed to learn a new (and sometimes frustrating) interface and get to work!” The task of arranging orchestral accompaniments was taxing, especially on top of the full-time jobs each band member already has. “We would put in a lot of hours separately, then would meet up and build off whatever we had come up with, it was a solid 4 to 5 days of the week,” they explained. Despite the overwhelming challenges associated with such a task, the members of Phoebe the Feeb knew just how rare an opportunity this was, and for the month leading up to their due date, they worked tirelessly to get the work done, explaining that, “we had to make an effort to let everyone shine through in their own right- it’s what we would want!” The band explained one of the biggest challenges they faced was striking “an optimal balance between what came out of the creative process organically and what we could reasonably expect of the busy, professional musicians that would graciously be joining [them].”
Despite the tight deadlines, the band and the orchestra are ready to blow their audience away with their unique pairing. The annual event will once again be held at the O’Kelly VC Armoury, and the doors will be opening at 7pm. Tickets are $30, and should be purchased in advance, as the event has previously sold out every year. Your ticket gets you in the door, your butt in a seat, and one complimentary beer (and commemorative glass) in your hand – just remember that Brew & Beethoven is a 19+ event, so remember your I.D.
Brew & Beethoven is a fun and unique way to get out and support our local musicians. Phoebe the Feeb wants readers to know that “if you love music, written and performed by people who love music, then come and have a delicious beer and listen.” The band concluded with a touch of humour, adding, “if you end up hating it, you can just find us and hurt our feelings about it afterwards. Then, we’ll turn around and write a song about that mean person who said the thing that time. Come be our muse!”
Tickets are available for purchase online at tbso.ca, and you can check out Phoebe the Feeb’s Facebook page to download their EP, The fire that burns against the cold.