Aidan Beiers: A Black Beared Music Addict
This week the keys to Club 77’s weekly slo-mo adventure are being handed over to a crew of black bear lodgers all the way from the Queen's Land In English? OK...this week infamous Brisbane institution Black Bear Lodge is set to take over Tempo Comodo, which will see a crew of seasoned selectors pushing all kinds of slugglish delights.
In light of this impending takeover, we threw some questions at Black Bear Lodge owner and head grizzly, Aidan Beiers, to shed some light on the venue’s ethos and history, as well as his own musical upbringing and what kind of music tickles the earbuds of a music addict.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Brisbane, but my mother is Vietnamese. She came to Australia as a refugee during the war.
What kind of music were you exposed to as a kid? Did your parents or an older sibling have a lot to do with shaping your tastes?
Music as a kid mainly revolved around Vietnamese karaoke and playing drums in the church band with my Dad, both of which I hated immensely. It surprises me that I ended up liking music at all! Dad was always playing AOR / Yacht Rock music like Steely Dan, The Beach Boys and America. Both my parents were devoted Catholics so I was stoked to get a break from Jesus whenever I could.
And what about your teens leading into early adulthood? Did you have one of those ‘wow’ moments when a certain song or genre cracked you open?
I was working in a bar with a guy named Tim Morrissey (The John Steel Singers) who was the first to expose me to the most interesting music that started me on my musical pursuit. I thought, now this seems more like me - imperfect, rough edges, raw and real. You know when you hear music that just completely validates your existence? Bands and artists like ESG, Fugazi, The Drones, Connan Mockasin, The Oh Sees and NEU! were soon on high rotation.
When did you first start DJing and what kind of music did you start playing?
I met a dear friend by the name of Paolo who ran a bumping 60’s Northern Soul club night called Watch Your Step. He didn’t necessarily tell me what was ‘good music’ like most people do when they share music. He taught me the enjoyment of the pursuit – how the process of finding music is as fulfilling and beautiful as arriving to its destination. It’s like what Jaco Pastorius said, “All you’ve got to do is keep your ears open.” And just like that I caught the bug.
Isn’t it interesting how if you say you’re a music addict – like an actual full-blown addict, it’s a little weird, right? But tell people you’re a DJ and suddenly that addiction is completely normal and acceptable behaviour? Hi, my name’s Aidan and I’m an addict.
What style of music do you like to play these days?
Imperfect music. A little loose, a little out of time and out of key. Lo-fi is hi-fi if you catch my drift.
What was the aim of Black Bear when it opened and how would you describe the venue?
Black Bear has taken many forms since its inception. Of the 13 years it’s been open I’ve had it for 8, but it has been operating as a music venue (if you include the Troubadour) for 20 years now. It’s often described as an oasis amongst the chaotic boiling pot of human minestrone that is the Fortitude Valley. Black Bear is the salt of the soup. There’s also something within its walls that is bigger than you, or I, or us as a collective. Time is experienced in a totally different way, things are felt differently and heard differently. There’s a real living personality of the space which is a testament to the many people who have been contributing to its existence throughout its history.
Can you tell us a little bit about the venue’s music policy? It seems to encompass all kinds of genres and sounds.
Black Bear draws people a range of crowds including people on dates, party goers, hospo workers, musicians, DJs and everything in-between. Often people aren’t sure what to expect when coming through. Sometimes it’s colourfully soulful, sometimes it’s deep and dark. Our residents understand this and prepare their selections accordingly. It’s like what David Byrne says – context is everything.
Do you find having a wide-ranging music policy broadens your clientele? Or are Brisbane punters generally pretty open to all kinds of music?
People in Brisbane are incredibly open to new experiences. The relaxed pace of this city means that people aren’t fussed about getting what they want all the time. I find that most people in Brisbane enter venues with a question: ‘I wonder what’s going on here tonight?’ Being open to new experiences is one of the many reasons I love Brisbanites and I’m very fortunate to see them on a weekly basis.
The Tempo Comodo journey actually began at Black Bear Lodge in the form of the Slow Dance Experiment. What are your memories of its origins? Do you remember when Phil approached you with the idea?
Phil had been wanting to do something at Black Bear for a while by that stage, but I felt the crowd weren’t quite ready for his sound. I find it funny that Phil didn’t need to change his vision to suit Black Bear, he simply waited for the crowd to catch up to him! Fast-forward (or slow down) to today and Phil is a staple resident with an extremely loyal following at the Lodge. The down tempo revolution is well and truly here. Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.
What does community mean to you when it comes to running a music venue?
Community is everything. Businesses in Brisbane generally don’t last unless they have strong community engagement. Plus, engaging with your community is the most efficient way to change the world!
Tell us about your crew of resident DJs. What do they bring to the table to make Black Bear the venue it is?
You know someone came into the bar last week and randomly approached me and said, “Howl’s Moving Castle. Yep that’s it. This place, it’s like Howl’s Moving Castle. Like honestly, where do these people even come from? They’re all here for the ride. Incredible!”
The residents are people who have spent many hours in the space and who each contribute something that is unique to them. People like Jimmy Ellis, Ethan Greaves, Phil Smart, Chantal, Benny Chiu, Squidgennini, Jad & The to name a few. They understand everything that has come before them and everything that will continue after them. They all manage to tell their unique stories and guide the ship safely home after each orbit. Different styles, different backgrounds, but all heading in the same direction.
Black Bear Lodge becomes a teenager this year, turning 13 in June. What has running the venue taught you about yourself, the people of Brisbane, and music?
Me: That it’s more important to embody my philosophy than trying to explain it.
People of Brisbane: Are relaxed and engaged – the most beautiful way to exist.
Music: Is the most powerful tool to capture humans’ greatest invention – love.
Can you regale any weird and wild moments from the venue?
One of my fondest memories of Black Bear was the Saturday night of its 10th Birthday Weekender, and First Beige were the headline act. It was an incredible performance and it felt like the band, the dancers and everyone else in the venue all became one for a brief moment. It felt like spiritually transcending to a different dimension. I was very proud, standing in a corner observing this moment unfold. All walks of life, hands in the air, eyes closed dancing and expressing. It brought me to tears. I live for moments like that. As for the wild and weird moments – I keep those stories off the record!
How has The Valley changed in the years since Black Bear Lodge emerged from the ashes of The Troubadour?
The valley is such a unique precinct that has always cultivated a diverse music offering. It’s also always been a chaotic environment, like a human zoo, but I love it. Anything that shows an honest spectrum of the human experience continues to fascinate me.
If Black Bear Lodge had a motto, what would it be?
Leave the space in a better condition than we found it, leave the people in a better mood than when they arrived.
You’re set to take over Tempo Comodo at Club 77 this week. What can we expect?
Happiness = life – expectations. So, expect nothing, but you should definitely come.
Aiden Beiers plays Tempo Comodo as part of the Black Bear Lodge takeover on Thursday 19th January 2023. Full event details are here.