Pitch me a story at sarah dot berms at gmail dot com

Get Wasted

Summer festival mixes comedy, melody and noise


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.

Published June 2009. Photos courtesy of festival organizers.