By the time SHEBAD hosted their first performance in lead singer Claire Voy’s attic, friends, fans, and family were already singing their released single, “Oneiro,” right back to them. Flash forward a year to later to the Oct. 1 launch party celebrating their debut EP Show Us It’s Real, and the spirit of love and appreciation that was in that attic has grown into the hearts of more people than venue Tabu could hold.
“It was so humbling, just really crazy to see how far the music has taken us in a year,” said Voy. “There was something in the air that was really exciting and felt really good.”
While SHEBAD has shared the stage with acts like the established Vancouver band Dear Rouge and viral sensation Jessia, October 1 was their night, along with all the hype that came with it. While it’s not the first time the band has sold out venues, having done so at most bars in Guelph since last spring, this show was bolder and organized in a way where fans could dance, celebrate and worship as they please in a safe and curated environment.
“So many people couldn’t get in, which I found mindblowing,” said co-founder and bass player, Mark Spagnolo. “Crazy to think that 170 got to feel that energy in the room that night.”
I must acknowledge my bias here. In having worked with SHEBAD in a full, yet short tenure as their manager through the spring and summer of 2022, I got to bear witness to their powerful effulgence on a regular basis. Much like other fans in Guelph, I was invited to a show by a friend of the band—in this case, by Exhibitionist Magazine co-founder, artist, and contributor, Mei Lein Harrison. Having reported on arts and culture in Guelph since 2015, I was struck by the unique waves of wholesome, yet enchanting energy the band cast, and the audience returned in kind, at a sold-out Brothers Brewing Company performance. Going into the last third of the set, bodies filled the venue and it was as if the thick air in the brewery had been fortified to ease the ego and move the spirit. Voy, the ever benevolent siren, reached out her hand while singing “Oneiro,” and, looking around, I could see that we all felt she was reaching out to us. A SHEBAD show is personal. The lyrics, jazz undertones, and the often mystical and entrancing vibe they have so subtly curated lures you in, eats at your heart, and evokes a deeper resonance inside of you.
For one night only, the intensity of the spell was lifted so that the Baddies (SHEBAD’s closest fans) could have an even more jubilant celebration of this beloved band on their big day. From the moment I entered the venue, I noticed the vibe was different. DJ Carwash was laying down EDM and pop mixes on stage while fans made the most of the space at Tabu—formerly The Underground. This was the grand re-opening of the venue, and for many their first time in the space. Tucked under Trappers and the TapHouse, with black walls, floors and ceilings, the feel was close and lowkey, which created a dissonance with the beautiful harmonies sung by Voy and backup singer Maya Bishop.
As so many people in the crowd were already familiar with the band, and with each other by association, there was an ease to the whole night which the band foresaw and leaned into. Instead of mystical vibrations, the energy in the room was as if SHEBAD had invited everyone to a giant sleepover. This sentiment was pushed by new additions to the performance that brought a levity to their set. At one point, the three coincidental Taekwondo black belts in the band, Spagnolo, Jonathan Chung, and Emil White, flexed their skills by chopping, kicking and head-smashing wooden boards on stage. The crowd was so wonderfully into it. The playfulness continued into the night with a surreal performance of The Zombies’ song, “Time of the Season.” Standing on two speakers on opposite sides of the stage, horn players White and Nathan Klassen wore their sunglasses inside and—you’ve just gotta see it live; a sentiment that holds true for the whole SHEBAD experience.
While SHEBAD is a steadily growing art project in the community, it started when Spagnolo invited Voy to sing in their jazz trio of Spagnolo, Chung, and SHEBAD drummer, Tobias Binder. Their rise wasn’t just a pride-invoking moment for them, but also for the University of Guelph, where Voy is completing her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Over Labour Day weekend, SHEBAD returned from their BC tour to play the U of G Central Student Association Orientation Week Block Party on Johnston Green.
This year has been punctuated by big moments for SHEBAD. Behind the scenes, led by Spagnolo and Voy, the band worked tirelessly to produce and record the EP Show Us It’s Real with little outside help or influence. With a desire to remain independent and make their own way (unless Arts & Crafts comes knocking), SHEBAD has the fortitude, perseverance and unbridled community support to help take them wherever they want to go. It’s time for these oneironauts to do more than navigate dreams; it was not us that showed them, but SHEBAD who opened our minds to “show us it’s real”.EP Available for purchase on bandcamp
A full review of Show Us It’s Real will be in an upcoming issue of Exhibitionist Magazine.