Sadly, it was just two months ago that Toronto’s indie arts scene lost one of its biggest long-time supporters when CIUT-FM radio personality, musician, artist and poet NIK BEAT (below) passed suddenly, leaving a huge hole in so many hearts.
This Wednesday (Nov.19), I’m being joined on stage at 8pm by a dozen of Nik’s friends and colleagues at The Supermarket, 268 Augusta Ave (just S. of College) in Kensington Market, Toronto, to celebrate Nik’s life and work in words and music. With a cover charge of just $5 (plus an optional donation of cat food to help support Nik’s best furry friend, Hank), we’re hoping that many of the artists Nik helped over the years with interviews on his “Howl!” radio show (Tuesdays at 10pm live on CIUT-FM) will come out and show their appreciation and respect.
I first met Nik over 25 years ago when I caught one of his “Beatnik Cafe” shows in a tiny little coffee house on Vaughan Ave where he hosted gatherings of poets and the odd acoustic musician. At the time, I had recently walked away from a music agency where I represented several recording/touring artists but had become so disenchanted by the behind-the-scene b.s. that I was looking for another more positive entertainment vehicle. I had begun hosting live poetry events in various bars and coffee houses around the city including the Rivoli, El Mocambo, Cameron House and Horseshoe Tavern, and as soon as we met, I knew I had to book Nik into some of my more mainstream venues – his talent was unquestionable as was his stage presence – I always had a good eye for new talent!
During the early 90’s, Toronto’s poetry scene was emerging as valid (although not too profitable) entertainment, driven by the Poetry Sweatshop events founded by John and James Coburn and staged at The Rivoli; Nik’s coffeehouse events and my newly created Scribes & Muses! – an artists’ collective of poets and musicians for whom I was artistic director & show producer – plus a few other popular monthly events hosted by members of The League of Canadian Poets. This all took place long before camera/phones or digital cameras for the masses so there aren’t too many photos of these inspiring and exciting creative nights. But this little family of writers, singers and songwriters was pretty tight and we all enjoyed attending and performing at each others’ soirees.
Nik became my MC for many of the S&M! nights and he appeared regularly on my Thursday nights at Graffiti’s in Kensington Market, as well as college gigs I booked for the S&M! members via COCA (Cdn. Organization of Campus Activities). Nik’s profile grew as he played more mainstream venues and the audience’s respect for him as a creative force grew as his music, poems and painting/collage works gained media attention. During the early 2000’s Nik introduced me to The League of Cdn Poets’ National Poetry Month (April) and I not only presented my own live poetry shows across S. Ontario each April, but thanks to Nik’s referral, I became the publicist for the League, promoting the heck out of Nat’l Poetry Month for all the participating poets across the country.
Over the past few years, Nik had established himself as a fine contemporary/abstract artist as well as author of a number of poetry volumes for which I was honoured to publicize and promote, presenting meet-n-greets, media interviews, TV and web-based chat show participation – everything I could to support his artistic endeavours. Nik had a number of art shows at leading Toronto galleries (see below)….
And then on September 18th, I got the news: Nik had died. Suddenly and dramatically. None of us were prepared for such devastating news – I had just returned a couple of days earlier from a 6-day gig in Ottawa and had planned to call Nik on the Wednesday to remind him about the event but I knew he’d remember – so I never bothered. On Thurs. Sept. 18th Nik was due to arrive at Urban Gallery to enjoy a fabulous artist’s reception and lots of free food and wine but he never showed up and this was not like Nik. When he RSVP’d to an event, he was always on time, and knowing how much he enjoyed our mutual support, I knew something was weird but I never expected that I would not see him again. I had called several times that night leaving voicemails like “Okay, where are you…this is the first time you’ve stood me up…you got a hot date instead of me?” I got home around 9:30pm and heard the phone ringing as I turned the key in my front door. Life/work hasn’t been much fun since that moment when a media colleague told me down the phone “Glenda, don’t go on the internet…you need to hear this from a friend, are you sitting down?”
So this Wednesday, Nik’s friends, family and entertainment colleagues will perform in tribute to a man who made our lives fuller, happier, nuttier, funnier, gentler. Please come out, just to say thanks to Nik who gave so much to so many without expecting anything in return.
AND THE BEAT GOES ON…. takes place Wed. Nov. 19th @ 8pm The Supermarket, 268 Augusta Ave (just S. of College) $5 cover – doors open 7:30pm. Featuring: Laura L’Rock, Michael Marian, Pat Kelly, Michael Ratt, Valentino Assenza, Linda Saslove, Angela Argento, Joani Paige, Michael Oesch, Jennifer Hosein, Brenda Clews and Thomas Fischer.
Here’s Nik at CIUT studio with Joseph Procopio, Canada’s most awarded young filmmaker (below)
God speed, my friend.