It’s seven o’clock. The smell of sweet potato fries and melted nacho cheese fills the air. Dozens of students and tables neatly pack the Ram in the Rye, crowding the small stage at the front. Everybody is eagerly waiting for the live show to begin.
Four performers exchange uneasy glances until finally, the strum of an electric guitar breaks the tension in the crowd.
Unbuttoned is the Toronto band that recently signed a residency deal at the Ram in the Rye. Students can expect the band to perform every second Tuesday of the month until April. Although no band members currently go to Ryerson, the band’s relationship with the school started when they performed on Lake Devo in 2013 and opened for Nas at the Parade and Picnic earlier this school year.
“They received a good response after the Parade and Picnic and so we thought it would be a good opportunity to add some culture to student life,” said Rajean Hoilett, president of Ryerson Students’ Union.
The name Unbuttoned was inspired by the band’s founder, Casey Manierka-Quaile. According to him, it’s a reflection of his personality: Relaxed. Informal. Unbuttoned.
The band was originally his solo project, but longtime friend and musician Kamilah Apong was eventually invited to join. The pair met in an eighth-grade dance class and later went to the same high school. Both sing and play keyboard for the group.
“Apparently the world wanted us to continue seeing each other and hanging out,” Manierka-Quaile says.
Guitarist Alexei Orechin and drummer Miles Gibbons joined Unbuttoned later on.
The four performers look forward to their residency at the Ram as it presents an opportunity to showcase their music to a target audience.
“We’re excited to really have a space where we can kind of create our own show and performance vibe, and we can be introduced to a new crowd who is not necessarily familiar with our music,” Manierka-Quaile says.
The group did experience minor audio glitches during their first show. Manierka-Quaile says the group will learn to adjust to the venue’s sound system.
“We’ve had much worse incidents so I think we were able to come out of it pretty strong,” he says.
If Tuesday’s performance is any indication, the group seems quite polished and professional — the furthest thing from unbuttoned.
Students can catch Unbuttoned’s next performance on Feb. 10.
This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on Jan. 21, 2015.