Thursday, February 11, 2010

My Wire article on the Vancouver music scene and the Olympics

Major edit! Some of you may have read my Global Ear scene report - "Off The Grid And Under The Radar In Vancouver" - in this space on this blog over the last two days, about the effects the then-oncoming Olympics were having on the experimental music scene here. Turns out The Wire, the magazine in which it ran, would prefer things that run in their mag NOT to run online on their writers' websites, which I am totally okay on... I had actually asked them if it was okay before I put it up, but it took them a couple of days to get back to me, and the Olympics were fast approaching, so I stuck it up anyways. Now that they have gotten back to me, I'm taking it down. Sorry, gang! If you haven't seen it already, and you want to read my scene report, you're gonna have to buy the back issue (issue 291, May 2008) or something...

Meantime, I don't want to just totally delete this entry, since there are a couple of valuable comments below, put up in the last couple of days while the piece was up. Here are, then, some links to cool musical projects in Vancouver that are dealt with in the article, and some photos of the bands, as a teaser to those of you who might want to learn more about our scene. Various music clips of the bands that I wrote about in that article are online here, first off, on the Wire's website.

The bands mentioned in the article are:

Shearing Pinx, no-wavy experimenters who rocked, last I heard in a bit of limbo since their guitarist, Her Jazzer Erin, has moved; the closest Vancouver has come to producing an answer to Sonic Youth - back when Sonic Youth actually had passion for their band.

The Mutators, RIP! Leif Hall of that noisy punk/ no wave spazzband is now in a couple of other bands; I particularly recommend Glaciers, a much more minimal project with Jeffrey Allport and Robert Pedersen.

The Rita - harsh-ish noise guy who was ubiquitous on the scene at the time of my writing)

The Sorrow And The Pity, spazz-jazz punk duo (or spazz-punk jazz duo) whom I still have yet to see cover Nomeansno's "Self Pity."

The all-female, open-ended Her Jazz Noise Collective, who, last I heard, were working on an anthology of their music and organizing new workshops for the city's weird wimmen to attend

BCVCO, an analog-synth band headed by Josh Stevenson, sometimes featuring Black Mountain/ Sinoia Caves keyboardist Jeremy Schmidt. Amazing music - lush improvised psychedelia that might really excite Terry Riley fans, say. For the more historically minded fans of electronic music, you might also want to check out early Buchla experimenter Philip Werren, whose SFU-based synth stuff has been released on Josh's label. (Both Josh and Jeremy of Shearing Pinx/ Fake Jazz were involved in the recent Vancouver/Victoria Jandek shows, by the way).

BCVCO by Femke Van Delft, not to be reused without permission.

Josh Stevenson by Femke Van Delft, not to be reused without permission

The Creaking Planks by Femke Van Delft, not to be reused without permission.

More on the fun side are The Creaking Planks, aka "the jug band of the damned," featuring Lee Shoal, pirate twin to Heather Jean McDermid of Vancouver New Music, a non-profit organizaiton who have put on some of the best shows I've seen of unusual music in this city. The Planks often cover songs by Al “I’m a Lousy Lay” Mader (also known as the Minimalist Jug Band - who will be performing with Sheila Gostick and Petunia at Cafe Montmartre as part of a Valentine's Day show on the 14th). I'm particularly fond of the Planks' arrangement of "Dead Man's Pants." Shoal's other band is Ejaculation Death Rattle - also featuring Dan Kibke of G42, Sean of Noobie Noobinson, and Ross Birdwise of god-knows-what-all-Ross-is-doing-right-now-he-sent-me-a-big-file-but-I-haven't-opened-it-yet. EDR has been on hiatus lately, but will be reuniting for the upcoming Fake Jazz festival.

I also plugged more noisy stuff, like Flatgrey and Sistrenatus; I mentioned the horror movie and metal influences on the latter's music (noise with an industrial tinge), but I didn't really do justice to the more ritualistic elements of his performances. Well worth seeing. I think the main guy in Flatgrey is out of town at the moment, alas. I don't always go for harsher stuff, but he was definitely one of its most interesting proponents.

Ejaculation Death Rattle at the Cobalt by Femke Van Delft, not to be reused without permission.

I also made obligatory references in The Wire piece to Coastal Jazz favourites like Peggy Lee, Ron Samworth, and Dylan van der Schyff, but frankly - speaking a couple of years later, and speaking now solely for myself, since I say none of this in The Wire - I've grown a bit fed up with how every Coastal Jazz event in Vancouver showcases the music of these three (or that of Tony Wilson, or Torsten Muller or Francois Houle or Brad Turner or perhaps two or three other members of the club),while completely ignoring younger, newer improvisers, no matter how talented or hard-working. This may connect with the fact that you rarely see anyone from Coastal Jazz at Fake Jazz or Solder and Sons or below-ground venues (tho' you do catch a couple of the cooler members at the Western Front now and then). I don't want to fault the musicians, mind you - all have done things I've respected and enjoyed over the years (sometimes, admittedly, to my surprise!) - but Coastal Jazz sorely needs some fresh blood, I think, musician-wise (maybe Team Canada and Team Sweden could swap apartments for a few years?). The youthful improv scene around here is creative, varied, and inspiring enough (something apparent to a good many people, including visiting musicians, note) that Coastal Jazz is starting to seem a bit out-of-touch by virtue of not acknowledging it, a club so exclusive they may start seeming irrelevant. (Tho' hm, I see they're bringing Rene Lussier to town... I like Lussier, but do I want to see him play with Peggy Lee, Francois and Vivian Houle, and Dylan Van Der Schyff? Nnnngh. Frankly, I'd rather see him solo with an acoustic guitar, as when he last came here for Vancouver New Music...).

Anyhow, I was happier to include mention of various people I associate with 1067, like Fond of Tigers, Coat Cooke, J.P. Carter, and The Inhabitants. I'm glad that 1067 seems to have survived - I numbered it alongside The Cobalt (RIP) and Richards On Richards as an imperilled venue. It was never really my scene - it feels too much like an abandoned office space, for obvious reasons, and the constantly tentative arrangement of the venue seems to contribute to the fact that about half the time I go there I feel like I'm watching people jamming in their practice space, rather than putting on a planned public show - but it still is a necessary space in a city that has fewer and fewer outlets for creative musicianship, and every fourth or fifth gig I see there is fucking great. Not that I can really go there anymore, now that I live in the suburbs...

JP Carter by Femke Van Delft, not to be reused without permission.

The Sorrow And The Pity by Femke Van Delft, not to be reused without permission.

Anyhow, let's call this post a "tourist's primer to experimental music in Vancouver," in case some Olympics attendee was curious about the scene here. If you want to know what else I have to say about any of these bands, or what any of them say about the Olympics - you should buy that backissue of The Wire! Almost everyone on the arts scene in Vancouver that I've spoken to has been either openly hostile to the approach of the Olympics or at best nervous about the effects they may have - which was the case long before all the arts cuts were announced, tho' they're something more likely to affect Coastal Jazzers than Fake Jazzers. Still - happily - a lot of the bands mentioned above are still playing - still in hard-to-find, off-the-map venues, often with little recognition from the local press and only a handful of people attending, with the omnipresent risk of cops shutting down shows. But the scene is surviving. There is no cause for despair. Once we scrape all the Olympics advertising off the surface and send the tourists home, there will still be something real and vibrant and honest happening in the Vancouver arts scene... if you look for it.

See the comments section for more on the upcoming Fake Jazz festival and such...!

"Welcome To Vancouver," by Allan MacInnis. Use it how you like, I don't care.


Alan Ranta said...

Nice work, man. If that's your only ever article for The Wire, it's a good one.

Holly Rock said...

Fake Jazz is back on starting the first Wednesday of March! At Lick (455 Abbott). Also there's a fest coming. From their Facebook: "the first annual(?).FAKE JAZZ FEST is taking place march 24-28 spanning 5 nights 3 venues early and late running shows ///a few super special guests/performances///and a noise pancake breakfast....festival passes and a full line up will be made available shortly". Pancakes!

ammacinn said...

Alan - thanks! I'm pretty happy with it.

Holly - Woo! That's very good news! I suspected Fake Jazz would return, but it's great to hear!

And hell yes, pancakes! I was pancake chef at two of these - there are photos of me with my flipper at Blim when the first one happened, wearing my red Nihilist Spasm Band t-shirt. The one thing that the Wire actually removed from the article I submitted was that special vegan pancakes were on hand for certain members of the audience at one of these. It was just too far afield from the main point, but there's nothin' like being pancake chef at a noise event. I rolled my eyes when - it was Peter Plett and friends of his - they proposed these far more complicated pancakes be made, but when I saw the end result, I was drooling - those vegan pancakes looked amazing!