Summer Live musicians' favourite outdoor concerts
We may not have the best luck when it comes to weather, we’ll admit—just about every other city has us beat on that one. But from our nude beaches and glittering mountains to our hotter-than-average women, Vancouver has a lot to brag about. Add the fact that it’s home to more than a few of Canada’s best musical acts, and you’ll see that the city is golden. In celebration of Vancouver’s 125th birthday, the city is putting on Summer Live—a free, three-day outdoor music festival that will take place this weekend in Stanley Park, featuring the crí¨me de la crème of local acts. We asked some of the participating musicians about their most memorable outdoor music moment, and just what it is they love about our rainy city.
Ryan Guldemond fronts Mother Mother, which released its third album, Eureka, in March. Guldemond penned the 14-track disc of glorious indie pop, which fans will be getting a taste of during Summer Live. Golden outdoor concert memory: “That’s gotta be Lollapalooza at Thunderbird Stadium sometime in the early ’90s [July 5, 1995]—I was 11 and there was this kid who couldn’t be any older than me singing about being a loser, some crazy bitch named Courtney [Love] screaming at everyone, and a really noisy band called Sonic something or other. The undertone of anarchy was thick, like things could unravel at any moment, a quality I’ve come to realize every big rock concert possesses, and one I’m still equally enthralled by and scared of.” Favourite thing about Vancouver: “Close to my apartment there’s a small grassy nook by the water’s edge. It provides an amazing view of the freighters, the orange cranes, and all that industrial stuff on Cannery Row. I like to go there at night, stand and stare, smoke or drink something, and let the mind drift. It gets especially poetic when some ominous train comes suffering past.”
Zachary Gray is half of the Zolas, his prog-rock duo with Tom Dobrzanski. The band’s swaggering song structures and locally referential lyrics (“I met her at the Biltmore, she was cold and over-styled”) give Vancouver something to cheer about. Golden outdoor concert memory: “At Thunderbird Stadium, Radiohead was touring [August 30, 2003], and there was a moment—it was later in the evening—where the sun was just about to dip down over the mountains and Thom Yorke was starting a song and just kind of stopped. Everyone realized that he was looking at the sun, and he paused for a good 10 seconds and said, ”˜Well, isn’t that just fuckin’ beautiful?’ and everybody turned around and just looked at the sun. Then they started the song again.” Favourite thing about Vancouver: “I really do think that the girls are prettier here. I do. Having crossed the country a lot of times with my band, it’s pretty glaring, the difference. The girls are prettier and more capricious.”
Andrea Lo shares vocal duties with Adam Nanji in their indie-folk band the Belle Game. The soulful four-piece puts together songs that remind us how spare-sounding music can still be beautiful. Golden outdoor concert memory: “The Malkin Bowl is a really great outdoor venue. Not so long ago, some of us went to go catch the Walkmen and the National there [September 10, 2010]. It’s always just an extra element that you add to shows when you’re outdoors, under the stars. They were both amazing.” Favourite thing about Vancouver: “It sounds really cliché and cheesy, but it’s a really hard city to leave because everything is in such close vicinity. You’ve got the ocean and the mountains right there; you don’t have to go looking hard for it. Wreck Beach is also a highlight. You can feel removed from the city without ever really leaving the city at all.”
Dan Mangan has been earning his title as Vancouver’s resident indie-folk star since releasing his debut EP, All at Once, in 2003. Advance promotion for his forthcoming album Oh Fortune has taken him a little further than the outskirts of the city, as he’s currently touring across Canada. Golden outdoor concert memory: “I’d have to say the last Radiohead show at Thunderbird Stadium [August 19, 2008], there was a torrential downpour of rain the entire show. There were so many people there, huddled so tight together. The entire duration of the concert, basically, everyone was soaked.” Favourite thing about Vancouver: “I love the smell of Vancouver. That’s the thing I do every time I come back to Vancouver—take a deep breath of the fresh Pacific air.”
Frazey Ford is one-third of folk group the Be Good Tanyas, and recently a solo songstress with her debut album, Obadiah. Her raspy vocals and Americana-style songwriting prove she’s no wallflower on the local music scene. Golden outdoor concert memory: “Glastonbury, quite a while ago [June 28 to 30, 2002]—in the summer. I saw Manu Chao live. That whole festival is incredible—it’s totally beautiful and artistic and there are people dressed up in amazing costumes, like camels. Then there’s a secret underground club. There are endless things to discover.” Favourite thing about Vancouver: “The gardens in my neighbourhood. My favourite thing to do is walk around and smell all the roses—just walk around the four blocks near my house and fully absorb myself in all the gardens and chat with my millions of neighbours.”
Tyler Bancroft leads indie-rock group Said the Whale, alongside Ben Worcester. The five-piece is currently in the studio working on its yet-untitled third album, to be released early in 2012. Golden outdoor concert memory: “Sasquatch! in 2006 [May 26 to 28 in George, Washington] when the hailstorm happened. That was a really great time. Neko Case’s set got totally decimated because of hail, so she had to cut her set short, and then the Hip came on later and dedicated their set to her. So that was pretty cool and bizarre.” Favourite thing about Vancouver: “I had a moment a couple weeks ago and I went to the beach, and then I watched a hockey game and I had the full knowledge that I could have gone snowboarding that day. My point is, what other city can you go to the beach, go snowboarding, go camping, and watch a hockey game—all within half an hour of each other?”
Kyprios, Vancouver’s poster boy for hip-hop, recently left his group, Sweatshop Union, to concentrate on his solo career—which is exactly what he’s done with new tracks like “City Woman” and “How the West Was Won”, a tribute to our unfortunately cup-losing Canucks. Golden outdoor concert memory: “De La Soul and Fishbone at UVic in 1996. It was a beautiful day, the album Stakes Is High by De La Soul is one of my favourite albums, and I was such a huge Fishbone fan—but it seemed like such an odd pairing. For them to come together and have a dual-headlining set on a campus that didn’t seem to have a lot of shows like that going on, it was really special.” Favourite thing about Vancouver: “Caulfeild Rock in West Vancouver. When I was in high school, we used to go there and drink and freestyle; you can see the city, the landscape, the Stanley Park bridge—I just have so many fond memories there, where I’ve been able to go there and write and relax.”
Stephen Lyons leads progressive-jazz band Fond of Tigers. The septet released its third album, Continent & Western, in September of 2010. Golden outdoor music memory: “The first big outdoor concert I ever went to was in Ontario, and then I kind of stopped going to them after that because I didn’t like it. These big outdoor festivals, I never go to them because it’s this massive road trip and I don’t drive—never had a driver’s licence. The fact that you can just take a bike down to this [Summer Live], I think that’s what appeals to me about it—especially at a time when people are questioning whether people in Vancouver can hang out in a public space together anymore.” Favourite thing about Vancouver: “My favourite thing about Vancouver is all the musicians that I know and work with, and their projects. There’s a lot of interaction between people. Dan Mangan has similar members to Fond of Tigers, even though the music doesn’t sound anything like it. There’s a great wealth of exploratory musicians who can do a lot of things and they’re so interactive and collaborative.”
Summer Live takes place at Stanley Park’s Brockton Point from Friday to Sunday (July 8 to 10).