At first glance, Burnout Cafe on East Hastings appears to be closed for the night.
But even though the door is locked and the open sign is unlit, there’s a sizable crowd milling about in the connected undercover area on a handful of wooden picnic tables, along with the muffled sounds of live music and a glimpse of purple light shining from the cafe’s side door.
Welcome to A-Whole-Lotto-Jams.
Featuring a lineup of 10 local bands and an equitable take on prizes, the small-stage show has $10 cover, cheap beer, and sets of three songs per band with some breathing room in between.
“The idea came about to help invigorate local bands, up-and-comers—people that want to come and party,” says Cameron McDougall, the Vancouver music producer who organized the event. He says that the hope is to turn A-Whole-Lotto-Jams into a regular thing.
“Judging by how awesome it is tonight, we’re gonna try to get it going weekly, as soon as possible,” he adds. “I think it is very important to get up-and-coming bands to be less nervous and kick the cobwebs off and just come and play it in front of some people and have a good time.”
It’s not only the chance to perform in front of a crowd offered for participating bands, either; instead of a battle-of-the-bands system with judges and their accompanying pressure, A-While-Lotto-Jams opts for a random prize draw, with all bands having equal chance at recording studio time, a tattoo, pickle-back shots, and other goods up for grabs. The Brahmankind, a five-piece prog/alt rock band, ended up snagging the inaugural event’s grand prize of $200.
Sara Wazani, the band’s guitarist, notes that the night feels like a financial win not just for the artists, but for the attendees, as well.
“You’re paying $10 for so much good music. It’s not just a moral thing to support local; the music scene here is so sick,” she says. “There are so many talented musicians, and you can go see them at a fraction of the cost.”
She says they would definitely play the event again, and was thrilled to be on a bill with artists (them being Lazy Dynamite, Junita Thiessen, Bloom Effect, Mick Lane, Magnifuego, Anton Seth, Fridge Line, the ENDof4, and Discord Disco) they’d never performed alongside before.
As for the next time you’ll be able to catch a backroom event like this at Burnout Cafe? It’s looking hopeful, says cafe barista Megan Howitt, who helped to orchestrate the night.
“I’m a musician myself; I just love putting anyone and everyone on stage,” she says. “I really like supporting musicians. I think that’s actually more of my thing than being on stage myself, I’ve realized: creating spaces for people to do performances.”
But A-Whole-Lotto-Jams will likely have to find a new venue in a few month’s time, as Burnout Cafe is expected to be knocked down come October.
“I think that the cafe owners always knew that this building was only going to be here for a good time, not a long time,” Howitt notes.
So here’s to a whole lotto good times in the meanwhile.