The 29th annual Music Waste festival returns to rowdy rooms across Vancouver this weekend. Running from June 1 to 4, it’s set to include four days of packed programming at a variety of intimate independent venues around the city, such as Green Auto on Pandora Street and Red Gate on Main Street.
“The idea is that you can kind of hop around—hopefully it’s a nice sunny weekend—and, just like a festival, [attendees can] move from stage-to-stage and catch a bunch of different people,” Raasika Gaugler, a member of the organizing committee, tells the Straight in a Zoom interview.
Music Waste originally started as a kind of a protest to Music West in New Westminster back in the ’90s. Bands had to pay an application fee to be considered for Music West, which was difficult for struggling musicians who just wanted to bare their souls onstage
“One year, a bunch of the bands that didn't get in were like, ‘This is ridiculous, we just have to spend money to apply to this festival that we didn't get into, screw that!’” Gaugler says. “So they made their own festival, and they called it Music Waste—like a spin-off of Music West.”
It’s now been almost 30 years, and Music Waste is the only one left standing. It remains volunteer-run, with profits from ticket sales going to the artists and the operational costs needed to keep the festival running.
Gaugler originally joined Music Waste right as COVID-19 hit and helped plan a virtual festival. Now heading into her third year on the committee, she’s in charge of programming—a daunting job for such a far-reaching event.
First was the matter of even deciding the line-up. Over 300 bands sent in submissions, vying for just 60 performance slots. A 30-person volunteer listening committee went through as many of the submissions as possible, providing feedback to the festival organizers who made their final decision at a listening party.
The organizing committee made sure to include a variety of different ages and genres in the final lineup, as well as keeping the focus on discovering new and emerging artists. The youngest musicians are 17 years old, Gaugler says. “It’s so nice when you see people of different ages applying.”
The festival has also grown over the years to include Music Video Waste and Art Waste. Music Video Waste includes a screening of music videos that one of the organizers, Schnüdlbug, has collected. Art Waste is coordinated by festival organizer and tattoo artist Baby, and will be interspersed between live performances, visual art installments, and tattoo pop-ups.
While Gaugler finds creating a balanced lineup that works with everyone’s scheduling constraints challenging, the most rewarding part is being able to see everything come together and meet the bands.
She’s especially excited for nina joon. Even though Gaugler had never heard of the indie pop artist until the submissions process, the second she listened to the song “top ten (we out)” she was hooked.
A UBC band, Mo1e, also played its first-ever show at Music Waste 2022 and will be returning this year. “Everyone in the audience had so much fun, the band had so much fun, and we’ve seen them a lot since then,” Gaugler enthuses. “It’s just so nice for us to see how excited they were and that we gave them the opportunity to play their first show.”
Music Waste takes place from June 1 to 4 at various locations. A festival pass costs $30 and can be purchased here. Individual venue tickets are $10 or pay what you can.