There is no shortage of summer-weekend entertainment options in Vancouver, but for the past half-decade or so, the surest bet has been the West 4th Khatsahlano Street Party. This year’s event, which kicks off Saturday (July 7) at 11 a.m. and winds down at 9 p.m., takes over West 4th Avenue from Burrard to Macdonald and features fashion shows, children’s entertainment, and yoga classes for the masses.
Best of all, though, is the live music that runs all day on multiple stages. From legendary shit-disturbers Slow and roots-music icon Frazey Ford to up-and-comers like Peach Pyramid, Gentle Mind, and Parlour Panther, there’s something for everyone. (Well, there’s nothing for people who hate music, but they’ll probably stay home anyway.) And admission is free. Really, actually free. No strings—or tickets—attached. Here are a few highlights.
(Hyundai Maple Stage at 6:30 p.m.)
If you like your singer-songwriters as smart as they are self-deprecating—and if you can’t seem to make a Spotify playlist that doesn’t have Cat Power, Angel Olsen, or Courtney Barnett on it—Haley Blais is about to become your new musical obsession. It takes a special sort of awesome to craft a sing-along refrain out of lyrics like “I never wanted anything/And I never got it.”
Kitty and the Rooster
(Trafalgar Stage at 5 p.m.)
Take the name Kitty and the Rooster, and combine it with the fact guitarist Noah Walker and drummer Jodie Ponto wear chicken and cat masks in their promo shots, and one might expect a barnyard version of Slipknot. Wrong. Because those things can be sweaty under stage lights, the masks tend to come off quickly as the duo unleashes a retro-spectacular sound that slots in nicely with Southern Culture on the Skids, Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, and the Reverend Horton Heat. Those who like a serving of politics with their country-fried goodness will want to muscle their way to the front of the stage for the ode to local real-estate idiocy that is “Paid a Million Dollars (To Live Like You’re Poor)”—a song that might as well be modern Vancouver’s municipal anthem.
(TD Music Burrard Stage at 2:30 p.m.)
The five members of Leisure Club may be so laid-back they’re nearly horizontal, but their music tells a different story. Punchy and upbeat, the group’s debut album builds catchy riffs out of surf-guitar licks and keyboard swirls. Breathing new life into the indie-rock genre, Leisure Club has created the perfect soundtrack for reminiscing about teenage summer holidays, filled with angst and promise in equal measure.
(Hyundai Maple Stage at 7:30 p.m.)
For a city that’s never gotten the media attention of Toronto, Los Angeles, or even Seattle, Vancouver has produced some truly killer songs over the years. Right up there with Slow’s immortal “Have Not Been the Same” and Dan Mangan’s devastating “Robots” is Sam Tudor’s “Truthful”, a quietly sinister meditation for those days when all you want to do is stay inside with the curtains drawn and the chairs stacked up against the door. The song is drawn from Tudor’s sometimes symphonic, sometimes stripped-to-basics sophomore album, Quotidian Dream, a record that—in the tradition of everything directed by David Lynch—leaves you with as many questions as answers.
(Music BC Balsam Stage at 7 p.m.)
Carmanah launched its debut album, Speak in Rhythms, with the earthy, rich track “Roots”. Not just a nod to the group’s environmental ethos, the title of the opening song is the perfect description of its body of work. Smouldering and bluesy, the group’s music is characterized by guitar stabs and tight harmonies, adapted to everything from intimate singer-songwriter ditties to big festival sing-alongs.