On April 21 2023, food vendors, pop-up bars and lively performers gathered throughout the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) for an “After Dark” event. Every month, the museum opens its doors to be explored at night, alongside an ambient array of on-theme details. The theme of this month was the “Force of Nature” and showcased many different cultures, ranging from Mexican tamales to Japanese sushi and Eastern European music to Filipino tunes. It was here where Toronto-based artist Zoon put on a spectacular show, only weeks before the release of their album Bekka Ma’iingan.
Away from the bustling main hall of the museum, soothing shoegaze-esque melodies radiated through the halls. The music was coming from Zoon – a moniker for Daniel Monkman, an Anishinaabe shoegaze artist. Tucked away in the dimly lit Philosopher’s Gallery, Monkman stood on a small stage grasping their guitar. Though they were only accompanied by two other musicians, the sound that they produced was large and other-worldly – with the sound of their infectious tracks quickly filling out the room. As moving pictures were projected onto the walls of the room, Zoon’s dream-like compositions created an incredible atmosphere.
Most of the tracks played were steadily aligned with the theme of the event and lifted from a variety of projects they had worked on. They played their own compositions from the score of “The Nature of Things,” a Canadian documentary series, and even some tracks off their newly-released album, Bekka Ma’iingan. On even the noisiest or least-digestible of tracks, the crowd was still enticed. It was obvious that this musical charisma was not by fluke; Zoon’s sound is carefully crafted, even when on stage.
Though the instrumentals portrayed so much emotion, Monkman’s vocals pushed it beyond. Their voice acted as if it was another instrument in the performance, with their effortlessly smooth nature portraying a range of different emotions. While cellos aren’t necessarily associated with the shoegaze genre, the electric cello in Zoon’s performance made a star appearance. The long and sorrowful notes made a powerful plea, emphasizing the vocals. The drum set-up for the performance was minimal, with only a drum machine and a stand-alone cymbal, but quite effective. They complimented the melancholic notes played by the cello and the synthesizer.
This show was a unique opportunity to take a deeper look at Monkman’s musical persona. Not only did the music fall under many different genres, from film scores to shoegaze or experimental, but it also offered a glance into what Monkman does sonically, beyond the moniker of Zoon. Managing to entice a room full of people who happened to stumble into the museum is difficult, but they pulled it off – if this show proves anything, it’s Monkman’s talent for diversity within their music.