Cameron Reed used to dream that everyone who griped about Vancouver’s “no-fun-city” status would just shut up and leave.
“They’d all move to Montreal,” he says, on the line from Music Waste headquarters. “But because they’d become the majority of the people in Montreal, nothing would end up happening there. And in a year or so we’d hear ”˜Oh, Montreal is so boring—Toronto’s where it’s happening.’ ”
He’s laughing, envisioning a group of locusts flying around, looking for a scene to feast on. And he’s laughing, too, because this week Vancouver is where it’s all going on, thanks to the festival that he and co-organizer Sarah Cordingley have assembled. By its end, late on Saturday night (June 13), over 100 bands, artists, and comedians will have performed or exhibited as part of 36 events at 24 venues. The acts include indie favourites such as Twin Crystals, Modern Creatures, and Shipyards, as well as recent Georgia Straight cover stars Adjective and Japandroids; if you’re looking for an overview of the best young acts in town, here’s where to find it. And the best thing, Reed adds, is that the party doesn’t have to stop.
“I’m not going to deny that I used to totally subscribe to that no-fun-city idea a few years ago,” Reed admits. “But then I started looking at it in the bigger picture, and I realized that Vancouver has a really strong do-it-yourself culture. Lots of people are opening up their own venues, or people will open a gallery and also have shows in there. People will book their own tours and save up their own money to buy a van. No one’s waiting to get signed, and no one’s trying to get a sponsor to put their logo on the side of the van to pay for it. It’s all very self-reliant.”
Reed identifies two main streams—or “music economies”—in the Vancouver scene. “One is those artists that will be Black Mountain or Arcade Fire one day—bands that come up in these local indie-music scenes,” he explains. “And then there’s the others that become the Sam Robertses or the Hedleys. These are the guys who know the exact bars to play in and the route to take for industry people to hear you. That’s nothing against their craft or their music, but I would say that Music Waste represents those people that aren’t so into ladder-climbing. I’m not saying that they don’t want to make it or be successful, but they’re playing music and not constantly trying to get some industry attention.”
One of the artists Reed cites as embodying this independent spirit is Ryan McCormick, the man behind the band Collapsing Opposites as well as one of the organizers of the Safe Amplification Site Society, whose goal is to set up a nonprofit venue where local bands can practise their craft irrespective of age, style, or noise ordinances. He’s also part of Music Waste’s network of friends and associates, having assembled an on-line guide to booking your own Music Waste–affiliated show as part of the festival’s Go Your Own Waste program.
“I definitely don’t want to get caught saying anything bad about Music Waste, because I think Music Waste is great, of course,” McCormick says by phone from his home. “But, like, a thousand bands will apply, and they don’t have space for a thousand bands to play at their shows. They don’t have enough venues and enough days to fit a thousand bands in, so they choose 50 or 60 that they like, and obviously that’s going to make some people upset because they don’t get picked or whatever.
“Go Your Own Waste is obviously a way to deal with that, but at first, to me, those shows seemed like they were almost secondary to the festival,” he continues. “I wanted to change that. So I volunteered to help with the Go Your Own Waste aspect, and try to make it easier for people to book a show. Personally, I always veer towards big, utopian ideas—the anybody-can-be-a-part-of–it kind of thing. I really try to fight exclusiveness, so this is part of that.”
Between his work with the Safe Amplification Site Society, his Go Your Own Waste guide, and his own artistic endeavours, McCormick is bent on turning the no-fun city into a new-fun city, and Reed agrees that this is not only desirable, but possible.
“The Vancouver independent music community is very strong, it exists, and it’s not underground,” says the Music Waste mainstay. “It’s right there for people to find it. They just need to pick up a college newspaper or go on-line and just look up ”˜Vancouver music’ or something. A couple of Google searches will land them on the MySpace page of a really cool band, so there’s no better time than now for people to step outside what they know.”
Music Waste runs at various Vancouver venues through Saturday (June 13).