Main Street Car Free Day serves up an endless cavalcade of ever-adventurous local music

    1 of 4 2 of 4

      No argument: the  Khatsahlano Street Party on July 7 is the biggest and best free rock ’n’ roll street party in Vancouver. With headliners this year including Frazey Ford, Slow, and Bif Naked­—and support performances from everyone from the highly witty blues-rock duo Kitty and the Rooster to the recently profiled Circus in Flames—there’s no excuse not to miss Khats, except maybe an extreme fear of crowds (or crowded buses).

      But if Khats is the summer be-there-or-be-lame event, Sunday’s Car Free Day on Main Street, while maybe still a smidgen less crowded, is every bit as vibrant and musically exciting. There are vendors and stages up and down Main between Broadway and 30th Ave., offering something for pretty much everyone.

      For the environmentally conscious, at noon, the Urban Haida Drum Group will be playing the Watershed Jam Stage, hosted by a DJ who is going by the moniker of Wil D. Salmon, who–we’re just guessing–might be offering some impassioned First Nations perspectives on the many ways we can protect our coast (from fish farms, from pipelines–take your pick of evils). There’s a Tragically Hip cover band, Bobcaygeon, jamming at 12:30 in front of the Cottage Bistro.

      The Main Street Plaza stage will be showcasing a performance from Fake Shark­—whose recent radio airplay suggests that trimming down the Lucio Fulci references in their name was a good move.

      There are dozens of other vendors and entertainments, which you can peruse a list of here

      But for local music geeks, the action really happens in the blocks between Neptoon Records (3561 Main) and Red Cat (4332 Main)—which expanse also includes the Accordion Noir stage, at Main at 21st. That locale offers an engagingly playful (and surprisingly diverse) showcase of squeezebox-centric talent.

      Stage organizer (and Creaking Planks accordionist) Rowan Lipkovitz tells the Straight, “This stage’s breakout talent this year is absolutely headliner Colombian cumbia band Breaking Boundaries, who we featured at our festival a couple of years ago, and whose star is truly rising this summer, with a new gig seemingly introduced every day.”

      But everything that happens at an Accordion Noir event tends to be pretty damn entertaining; note that the slate presented at the Accordion Noir stage is only “a taste of the musical buffet we’ll be offering at the 11th Accordion Noir Festival coming up the weekend of September 15 at the WISE Hall.”

      Rob Frith of Neptoon Records, meanwhile, is quick to enthuse about last year’s kickass performance of the Allman Brothers’ “Whipping Post” from guitarist Scott Smith.

      The versatile, ever-busy Smith will be playing with his unit Terminal Station again this year at the Neptoon Stage; Ben Frith–son to Neptoon owner Rob, and himself a musician who gets around–tells the Straight that this time out, the expanded Terminal Station lineup “is going to be doing a set of all Woodstock-era Santana,” adding that “if there’s one band that could pull it off, it’s them.”

      Down the street, meanwhile, Ford Pier of Red Cat Records is “tingling with excitement” to check out Sandstorm–featuring Red Cat’s own Penny Jo Buckner on drums (she also plays, Pier tells me, with Slow Learners, Himalayan Bear, and the Invisible Ray).

      Because I haven’t heard Sandstorm yet, I’m actually more excited to see Pier, whose new album with the Vengeance Trio, Expensive Tissue, is at least every bit as good as that trio’s 2012 bravura debut Huzzah

      The cover of the new CD drew has drawn some unexpected feministic ire online when someone chastised Pier for choosing a “very sexist” image for the art, which showcases what looks quite a bit like a female hip and shadowy crotch.

      Pier snorted in amusement at that, standing at the counter at Red Cat: “It’s David P. Smith’s armpit,” he deadpanned, explaining that “all the photos in the new album are from a series of close-up selfies that David took which appeal to me because they make the commonplace look alien or menacing or even sexy. Many of the songs on Expensive Tissue are about people who disregard the context of the thing they’re focused on, with the result that they see only themselves in that thing, or what they want from it or expect of it, and not what it is in its own right.”

      Sadly, Pier won’t be able to get away from Red Cat to catch acts at Neptoon (“I gotta towel off and get back behind the counter the very instant we’re done! Brad’s cymbals will still be swinging on their stands and I’ll be punching somebody’s loyalty card for their purchase of the new Black Peaches record!”).

      But people not actually working at Red Cat may want to consider racing to Neptoon’s stage for the 3 p.m. performance by the (dark-edged, spastically thrashy, punkily noisy) storc, featuring Neptoon’s Ben Frith on drums and local vocalist and man-of-taste Luke Meat on mic. People who caught Bison’s recent Earthbound anniversary gig at the Rickshaw were treated to storc as a co-opener, along with Needles//Pins.

      “That show was really, really great,” Frith tells the Straight. “I’m a big fan of both Bison and Needles//Pins, so it was an extra special one for me. Both bands were killer! It’s always nice to play a show when you’re friends with people in all the bands. All of them are amongst some of my favourite people in Vancouver. On top of all that, getting to see Brad MacKinnon playing the Earthbound stuff with Bison—that was super cool!”

      So why call a band storc, anyhow? Frith explains that the group “used to be called Birdface, and our logo came from that, since it kind of looks like a bird’s face. Anyhow, we were threatened with a lawsuit for having that name (for real), so we changed it to storc!”

      Frith—who also tends kit for the Vicious Cycles—“had known Luke for quite some time through the store and a little record club that we are both in with some other friends. I also knew Allen and Matt from playing shows with one of their previous bands, Brainbolt. I really loved that band, and had secretly always hoped to play with them.”

      He’s loving it, he reports. 

      Like Ford Pier, when not playing, Frith anticipates being stuck at his own store for most of Car Free Day, but lists other favourite acts as Jody Glenham and Colin Cowan (whose new project, the Margarita Machine, has only played one gig previously, at a wedding Frith was at). If he could make it to the Red Cat stage, he’d see Actors, he says. 

      “I’m usually doing the sound or moving gear at our stage, so I really can’t get away from our block at all. I’d love to be able to go and check out any other part of Car-Free Day.” At least he’ll have a real good vantage point to see Neptoon Stage acts.

      Asked who’d he’d favour from other stages, Accordion Noir’s Rowan Lipkovitz confesses that he just doesn’t know a lot of the acts playing this year (“Sadly, since spawning, I’ve fallen out of the loop about the hip new sounds.”)

      However, he continues, “I absolutely salute anyone presenting live music in Vancouver today! We”—the Accordion Noir enclave—“may not appear to have much in common with them, but we’re all different aspects of the same story, one of declining access to music venues in a city held hostage by real estate, to the extent that our best option is to set up on the sidewalk and play.”

      (Tho’ like I say, those who have actual money to spend on concert tickets can check out the full Accordion Noir fest in September).

      You can find more information on full Car-Free Day lineups on each stage’s Facebook pages; see the Accordion Noir Car Free Day Stage lineup here, The Red Cat Stage is here,  the Neptoon Stage is here:  

      See you on Main Street!