Look, we enjoy summer music festivals as much as anyone. Sure, there’s nothing better than standing in a baking field full of sweaty strangers while the sun fries the contents of your skull. Equally awesome is having to suffer through an undercard filled with acts you don’t care about while you’re waiting for the ones you do.
Actually, you know what? We’re just going to call it here and now: summer music fests totally fucking blow. Westward Music Festival, which takes place from Thursday to Sunday (September 12 to 15), is different. With a wristband, you can plan your experience so that you only have to see the artists you’re truly excited about (although we do hope you save room for a few surprises). And forget about elbowing someone in the face to score a two-square-foot patch of soil in an open field—Westward takes place at some of the city’s premiere venues. We’re talking hipster-approved cabarets like the Fox and the Biltmore, plus soft-seaters like the Vogue and the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
With a lineup that includes international acts and buzzed-about locals, there’s something at Westward for every kind of music fan—even the type of masochist who would rather watch a show under the merciless oppression of a blazing summer sun. Here are a few of the shows we’re most stoked about.
Queen Elizabeth Theatre on Friday
If Lil Nas X didn’t exist, George Miller would likely be touted as the prime example of an artist who successfully parlayed viral Internet fame into a bona fide music career. Credited as the person responsible for the “Harlem Shake” meme, the long-time YouTuber formerly known as Filthy Frank also racked up major streams as his alter ego “Pink Guy”, whose most popular song featured the charming refrain of “Shut the fuck up/You’re a fucking cunt.” As Joji, though, the Japanese-born Miller takes his craft seriously, and his brand of lo-fi, atmospheric R&B has earned him an entirely new audience and landed him on the Billboard charts. That’s pretty damn impressive for a guy who once turned a list of porn-video titles into a rap song.
Rickshaw Theatre on Saturday
Stick with something long enough, and sometimes your dreams come true. Back at the tail end of 2010, a then up-and-coming California singer-songwriter known to her mom as Elisabeth Maurus told the Georgia Straight that her major obsessions included David Lynch in general, and Twin Peaks in particular. Flash forward through the better part of a decade, and the artist who performs professionally as Lissie has made significant strides in her career. If you watched the famously out-there director’s Twin Peaks reboot in 2017, you might have caught Maurus performing her dreamy “Wild West”—off her fourth album, My Wild West—at the Roadhouse bar. Sometimes it takes one genius to recognize another. Genius will also do as a descriptor for last year’s Castles, which suggests that Lissie has more than earned her place at the same end of the bar as Julee Cruise and Stevie Nicks, not to mention Laura Palmer.
The Deep Dark Woods
Fox Cabaret on Thursday
You want hurtin’ songs? Like, old-fashioned tear-in-your-beer weepers? The Deep Dark Woods has your hookup. The Saskatoon-spawned alt-country outfit wrings every last ounce of heartache out of tunes like “Teardrops Fell”, “Pacing the Room”, and—this one ought to resonate with a Vancouver audience—“All the Money I Had Is Gone”. We’re sure Deep Dark Woods frontman Ryan Boldt is a perfectly content guy in real life, and the group’s rootsy sound will make fans of Neil Young and the Band equally happy, as long as they don’t listen too closely to the lyrics.
Queen Elizabeth Theatre on Friday
As you might have noticed during this week’s torrential downpours, summer appears to be over in these parts. Not in the world of Phum Viphurit, however. The Thailand-born, New Zealand–raised singer-songwriter is perhaps genetically, if not geographically, predisposed to look on the sunny side of life. The 24-year-old does exactly that on his debut album, Manchild, where songs mix breezy chillwave with yacht-club soul and easygoing funk. You might know him for the sun-dappled smash “Lover Boy”, and its accompanying video—which will get you thinking it’s time to book a plane ticket to someplace where summer runs 365 days of the year. The man known to his fans simply as Phum also loves Mac DeMarco, which alone should be enough of an endorsement.
Vogue Theatre on Thursday
You could call her the Orville Peck of hip-hop. (Then again, you could also call Orville Peck the MF Doom of alt-country.) The fact that she is never—and we mean never—seen without a balaclava or a mask made out of bandannas has ensured that Leikeli47’s true identity has been the topic of much speculation. The Brooklyn-based rapper has explained that she hides her face simply because she’s too introverted to perform without it. We’ll accept that explanation, and if she keeps certified bangers like “Tic Boom” and “Money” coming, Leikeli47 can come out on-stage in a damn Big Bird costume for all we care.
For full lineup at ticket information on this year's Westward Music Festival, go here.