Uptown Live musical street party ramps up in New Westminster

I recall when the Kitsilano 4th Avenue Business Improvement Association launched its Khatsahlano! Music + Art Festival back in 2011.

Spearheaded by Zulu Records owner Grant McDonough, it has become the biggest free musical street party in the region.

I remember telling the association's former executive director that in creating Khatsahlano!, the board had set the bar high for other neighbourhood associations.

This year, it appears New Westminster has taken up the challenge with Uptown Live, a daylong musical smorgasbord taking place at 6th Avenue and 6th Street.

The lineup includes mostly local indie bands on three separate stages in the Uptown area of New West. (Perhaps it's time to stop calling it the Royal City in the 21st century, given the city's growing diversity.)

Later today, blues star Rich Hope is on the TD Canada Trust stage at 4 p.m.

Five Alarm Funk will be partying at the Westminster Savings Stage at 5 p.m.

The Matinée brings its beards and guitars to the Save On Food stage at 5:30 p.m.

Straight music critic Mike Usinger called its 2013 album, We Swore We'd See the Sunrise, a "completely professional-sounding 12-song debute...evoking an era when Tom Petty and Neil Young were kings and FM radio was programmed by actual music fans instead of faceless multinational corporations". Not a bad endorsement.

The final act of the night, Bright Light Social Hour, hails from Texas and it's on the Westminster Savings Stage at 6 p.m.

I've always felt that New West is one of the more progressive cities in the Lower Mainland.

It's evident in the evolution of Columbia Street, whose character is defined by the delightful Heritage Grill, which offers a steady stream of live performances.

New West also puts on a terrific Pride celebration every year. The nine-day festival continues until Saturday (August 16), culminating in a five-hour street party along Columbia Street from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.

And this year, New West has taken a page from Kitsilano's playbook and presented a bunch of indie musicians for free on a hot summer day.

We wouldn't fault Grant McDonough if he's thinking today that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

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