Outdoor pianos for the Vancouver summer: Joseph Hirabayashi with "an accusatory pop song"

Enjoy Joseph Hirabayashi playing for St. George Rainway, one of four pianos that CityStudio has positioned around Vancouver for a limited time this summer.
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(On mobile? Click here to watch the video on YouTube.)

Vancouver can be a tough city for an urban troubadour trying to make a buck.

“There’s has bit of a bias for construction noise over cultural noise,” lamented Joseph Hirabayashi, who plays piano, guitar, and ukulele for the East Vancouver band Spring. “I busk through the summer and it’s a bureaucratic nightmare to play music in the streets of Vancouver.”

And so Hirabayashi said it’s a pleasant surprise that four pianos have appeared around the city and remained available for the public to play through the summer.

“I think it’s super cool that the city is putting pianos and music-oriented things in public spaces,” he told the Straight while sitting on the bench of one of those instruments located near the intersection of Kingsway and St. George Street. “I’d like to see more from the city promoting music and cultural noise in public space.”

Hirabayashi is a teacher with the Mt Pleasant Music Teacher's Co-op and was previously with the folky punk outfit Aunts and Uncles. Lately, he’s been preoccupied playing psychedelic folk with Elliot Langford, Kevin Romain, and Ridley Bishop, who collectively make up Spring (formerly known as SSRIs).

The group has spent the summer in the studio recording a yet-to-be-named album that they’re aiming to have out this fall.

In the meantime, Hirabayashi said he has been taking songs from that forthcoming release and composing stripped renditions. You won’t hear a keyboard accompany “You're the One” on the album. But on a recent afternoon in Robson Park, Hirabayashi sang it with nothing but one of Vancouver’s new pianos.

"It’s just a little side project," he said. "This is a sneak peek."

The venue Hirabayashi plays in the video above is St. George Rainway. It’s one of four pianos that CityStudio has positioned around Vancouver for a limited time this summer.

Find one before they disappear on August 24 and play for the public.

Joseph Hirabayashi’s performance is the second in a four-part series presented by the Georgia Straight. The third installment will be published on YouTube and at Straight.com on Friday, August 16, 2013.

Part one: Rachel Iwaasa with Bach’s Goldberg Variations
Part three: Dawn Pemberton with a love song for you
Part four: Emet S.W. with an old soul's rendition of Skyfall 
Part five: The Carnival Band’s Ross Barrett jamming with the Carlo Rossi Gang 

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Dustin Bromley
Joseph & Elliot are by far two of Vancouver's most talented musicians. Happy to see them included in this series.
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