Get Wasted

Summer festival mixes comedy, melody and noise

BY: SARAH BERMAN, MEGAPHONE MAGAZINE

Strap on your party helmets because Music Waste is back for another five days of weird and wild music, art and performance.

Analog Bell Service photo courtesy of Sarah Cordingley

Analog Bell Service photo courtesy of Sarah Cordingley

The annual festival runs June 9 to 13 and features a veritable army of independent local talent. From art-punk and folk experiments to sketch comedy and mutant disco, this year’s lineup promises to excite the senses in bizarre and unimaginable ways.

“It’s all about music and experimentation and art,” explains co-organizer Sarah Cordingley—who also fronts a raucous guitar-synth outfit called Gang Violence. “It’s not about making money or getting big or any other industry elbow-rubbing bullshit.

“Basically we’re just about having fun and partying with awesome music.”

Industry bullshit aside, the buzz surrounding MW09 has been markedly louder than in previous years—thanks in part to some big names. The media-lauded Japandroids are set to rock the Biltmore for the bargain basement price of $5, while the Halifax duo Ghost Bees will headline an anticipated stripped-down folk set.

“The Japandroids have really blown up, as they say,” Cordingley says. “They’ve played with us for years, and were always really excited. Now it’s really exciting to have them be involved and to be so cool about it.”

Cordingley is a seasoned Music Waster, but she assures the festival is designed for newcomers: “A big part of Music Waste is for people to see music they don’t normally see. It’s so cheap to get in—you may as well go to check it out.”

Although a large chunk of MW09 celebrates Vancouver’s noise, punk and experimental scene, the festival’s most recent additions tend to span across many genres—or defy classification completely. For more subdued sets, Cordingley recommends visiting the Secret Loft.

“The Secret Loft—provided we don’t manage to get it shut down during the festival—is an amazing space,” Cordingley says. The second-story venue, which has recently been converted from a yoga studio, will host a number of up-and-coming pop, folk and indie-rock acts, including festival newcomers Analog Bell Service.

But because the Secret Loft is not an official music venue, bands and concert-hoppers are being cautioned to keep it down. “We’ve come up with a special set for it,” Bell Service singer and keyboardist Chris Kelly explains. “We’ve been asked to really strip it down … I think Music Waste is just afraid of stirring up the cops.”

Vancouver’s illegal venues have a long history of bad luck. “Lots of these places get blown up too quickly,” Cordingley laments. “End up turning into underage booze cans.” To ensure unconventional venues like the Secret Loft survive, Cordingley hopes both bands and audiences will make the effort to keep it underground..

In addition to live music, the Waste namesake has expanded into the world of visual art. With five original exhibits, along with a few in-gallery performances, the weeklong pass (still priced at $15 plus service charges) covers more than 25 uniquely paired events.

“I like that Music Waste is really trying to embrace all aspects of this emerging Vancouver scene,” says Kelly. “I think that helps combat this stigma that Vancouver’s not a fun city to hang out in.”

Also new to this year’s lineup is a fresh batch of comedians. Prominently featured in a series of promo videos, acts like Manhussy and Bronx Cheer share the same party mentality. “The showcase at Montmarte is going to be huge. There’s so many I think half the audience is going to be comedians.”

“My favourite part is just biking around in the summertime, catching as much as you possibly can,” Cordingley says.

Visit www.musicwaste.ca for the complete Music Waste schedule.

Following a Paper Trail

Sorry about that whole unannounced three-week hiatus thing.

With the ever-stressful combination of final assignments, Ontario visits and a brand new apartment I thought I may never live to see the month of May—but here it is! In case you’re curious, I’m staying here in Vancouver for the summer, writing for both Megaphone and Adbusters. Despite my recent neglect, I hope you continue to visit and enjoy my weird little corner of the internet.

In other news, there’s an art show opening tonight at the Atsui Gallery located at 602 East Hastings. It is called Paper Trail: Serial Material, and it will be throwing all traditional notions of gallery practices to the wind, and instead presenting a whole bunch of fun but simple DIY treasures.

From party posters to zines to homemade tit pins, the exhibition has a distinct lo-fi alternative vibe, and should prove to be good times all around. The show begins tonight at 8 pm and runs until May 30th. Check out www.galleryatsui.com for the full list of details.

Street Pets

Jill Baron and her three rats: Bear, Dixie and Ree.

Jill Baron and her three rats: Bear, Dixie and Ree.

Homeless find new ways to house four-legged friends

BY SARAH BERMAN, MEGAPHONE MAGAZINE

Jill Baron knows that caring for an animal is an immense responsibility.

Since she was four years old, Baron has been a devoted owner of many cats, dogs, birds and rodents. She even volunteered at the SPCA for 11 years. But last winter, Baron became homeless. Despite cold weather and colder criticism, Baron continues to care for three rats and two cats on the streets of Vancouver.

On a Commercial Drive sidewalk—in front of a Mr. Pets franchise—Baron sits cross-legged, reading a book. In front of her, she props up a small notebook that simply reads: ‘It’s easy to ignore me, but I do need your help.’

“I’ve gone without food for an entire day—many, many days—to make sure my pets ate well. Not just ate, but ate well,” she said, while motioning toward the rats tucked away in her jacket. “My oldest rat ever was seven years and four months old—which is impossible for a rat. They usually only live one to three years.”

Baron volunteered for the SPCA for 11 years, before becoming homeless last winter.

Baron volunteered for the SPCA for 11 years, before becoming homeless last winter.

Baron is just one of many homeless people in Vancouver who own a pet. Although many people think the homeless should not be allowed to care for animals, research shows a pet can be an important survival tool for a homeless person; and they often offer extra love and attention to their furry friends.

But homeless pet owners, until recently, have been largely left out in the cold. Just last year, most shelters in Vancouver would not allow pets to stay with their handlers. However, five new shelters that accept pets have finally given homeless pet owners and their companions a chance to get off the streets.

Mya Wollf, manager of the newly opened Stanley/New Fountain Shelter on Cordova Street, believes the city’s new shelters will help people like Baron get back on their feet and into permanent residence.

“Vancouver is moving in the right direction with pet allowances in shelters,” Wollf said.

In December, the municipal and provincial governments teamed up with the Street-to-Home Foundation to open five emergency, low-barrier shelters: First United Church, 240 Northern Way, 1435 Granville, the Stanley/New Fountain, and 1442 Howe. Since then, these shelters have put a roof over the heads of dozens of pets and their owners.

“We’ve got two dogs right now,” Wollf said. “It improves the morale just having a nice fuzzy creature around.”

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Quiet Riots

Photo by Stephen Connor.

Photo by Stephen Connor.

Police tell the Cobalt to turn down the volume

BY: SARAH BERMAN, MEGAPHONE MAGAZINE

When it comes to punk and metal shows, there are few Vancouver venues as loud and proud as the Cobalt. Attached to a notorious Single Room Occupancy hotel, the hardcore bar is praised by fans as the last haven for underground and extreme music in Vancouver.

But after nine years of punk rock patronage, the Cobalt may have to shut its doors for being a little too noisy. Last month, three separate noise complaints brought Vancouver police to the bar’s doorstep within less than a week.

“We’ve been getting these weird complaints—after nine years of nothing,” bar manager Wendythirteen explained. She said Vancouver’s after-hours noise bylaws might put the Cobalt out of business.

Diane Shepard is a property use inspector for the City of Vancouver. She said bars with extended hours are subject to specific and testable noise requirements. “If we have complaints, we’ll go out and take readings. If they’re not in compliance, we’ll go from there.”

“The hoops they put you through are impossible,” Wendythirteen lamented about the city’s late night licensing restrictions.

To stay open past midnight, bars like the Cobalt must be equipped with metal detectors, security cameras, ID scanners and adequate soundproofing. Owners of the nearby Astoria Hotel bar recently spent $120,000 on a soundproofing upgrade, to comply with city standards.

Sound upgrades at the Cobalt will cost upwards of $50,000. Wendythirteen says she simply can’t pay for renovations. “I can’t afford it, nor am I willing to do it,” she said. “The slumlords won’t fix their shit—why should I put money into fixing their building?”

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24 artists, 24 hours

Here’s something  rad happening next month:

24artistsBeginning on Saturday April 18th, 24 local artists will be making art around the clock, to raise money for a Downtown Eastside Centre for the Arts.

The fundraiser will be held at the Interurban Gallery at Hastings and Carrall Street. The gallery will be open for viewing the entire 24 hours, and will end with an art auction.

A friend of mine who makes artist trading cards will be participating. Check out the Facebook event page for more details.

Art and Anarchy

Downtown Eastside artists give the Cultural Olympiad the middle finger

BY: SARAH BERMAN, MEGAPHONE MAGAZINE

There are many reasons to hate on the Olympics. Housing promises have been abandoned, the cost of living is rising, and millions of city dollars are being wasted—all for the sake of the 2010 Games.

Gord Hill's "Resist 2010"

Gord Hill's "Resist 2010"

So, if you like art, and want yet another reason to shake a fist at that hideous tooth-shaped Olympic countdown clock, mark your calendars for Friday, March 13. The unlucky night marks the beginning of an underground anti-Olympic art show called Art and Anarchy.

Art and Anarchy is the brainchild of 12 anti-authoritarian artists, who are concerned with the Olympics’ slick marketing and cultural appropriation. The show’s overarching message is pretty clear from its posters, which simply read: “Fuck the Cultural Olympiad.”

In the basement of the historic Tellier Towers (located at 16 East Hastings) Art and Anarchy will be showcasing a radical collection of sculptures, carvings, paintings, jewelry and video art. Pieces by Gord Hill—a well-known carver, illustrator and Olympic resistor—will be on display along with a barricade used during a tent city protest.

The artists, who do not receive any funding for their work, hope to show the Downtown Eastside’s creative community the perils of accepting Olympic money. From the use of aboriginal artwork in Olympic marketing campaigns to the use of state-sponsored art to block out scenes of poverty—Art and Anarchy aims to let local artists know they are being exploited rather than supported.

Street performer and anti-poverty activist David Cunningham is one of many Art and Anarchy members who believe community art in the Downtown Eastside is being used to disguise capitalist plunder. Cunningham has lived and worked in the Downtown Eastside for 10 years, and has avidly spoken against other gentrifying projects such as the Carral Street Greenway.

“We see this style of community art as an aesthetic of social cleansing,” he says. “The only opportunity VANOC has to represent itself in the neighbourhood is to give money to artists. This creates a façade of progressiveness, where they can claim to be investing in the community.”

Cunningham says community art is sometimes used as a physical barrier, to divide and disguise parts of the neighbourhood. “As we move closer to the Olympics, art is being placed over fences. Art is literally being used as walls in the Downtown Eastside.”

“We want to recapture what is now been exploited,” he says.

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Punk rock saved the Minutemen—but will it save the Cobalt?

It seems one of Vancouver’s most prized punk, metal and extreme music venues is facing threats of closure, according to a growing Facebook group titled Keep the Cobalt Alive. More than 3,500 people have joined to ensure the beloved hardcore bar stays open.

Agent Orange plays February 22, 2009 at the Cobalt. Photo courtesy of Avenida Once.

Agent Orange plays February 22, 2009 at the Cobalt.

Reasons for the impending closure remain unclear. The Facebook group’s administrators have cited both noise complaints and Olympic politics as possible factors. While the Cobalt has thrived complaint-free for over nine years, Vancouver Police responded to two separate incidents of noise just last weekend.

On Wednesday, February 25th, the following update was posted by the venue’s vociferous concert promoter, Wendy Churcheen (known among Cobalt regulars as Wendythirteen):

“I WONDER WHO IN THE CONDO ACROSS THE STREET COULD POSSIBLY HEAR A SMALL VOCAL P.A. OVER TRAFFIC ON MAIN ST AND THE VIADUCT…I SMELL BULLSHIT….HERE WE GO…

WE HAD THE COPS THERE SUNDAY FOR THE AGENT ORANGE SHOW…OK…DOOR OPEN …BIG PA….MAYBE…..

BUT AFTER 9 YEARS WITH NO COMPLAINTS…5 OF THOSE WITH THE CONDO EXISTING…HMMMMM

AND NOW TONITE…SMALL VOCAL PA….COPS AGAIN….ANOTHER NOISE COMPLAINT….IS THIS HOW IT STARTS?

ARRRGGHHH…..THIS IS BULLSHIT…2 COMPLAINTS IN 3 NIGHTS…AFTER 9 YEARS OF NONE….

I’LL KEEP YOU POSTED AS THE SHIT UNFOLDS….”

The Cobalt is the home of both Monday Night Khaos and Fake Jazz Wednesdays—two weekly concert features that support local punk and experimental bands. Fans of the bar (located at Main and Prior, attached to the Cobalt Motor Hotel) have named it Vancouver’s “last true haven of the underground.”

A benefit concert is likely to be held to raise money for the venue. As of yet, no date has been selected.

Photo courtesy of Avenida Once.