Go small or stay home

Vancouver has never been recognized as a festival mecca in the same way that, say, Texas, or even eastern counterparts Montreal or Toronto have. Despite the fact that the last huge festival held just outside of Vancouver had problems that would evoke at least passing sympathy from Woodstock ’99 organizers, that doesn’t mean the festival scene is non-existent... it’s just a little more hidden. In this city, it’s all about going local and affordable. 

Some of these festivals have stepped into unstable territory in the past couple years, impeding our ability to rave about a thriving local festival scene. Combined with the state of arts funding in the province, it’s miraculous that any of these festivals are able to survive – for this reason they should be applauded (and attended!). So if you can’t afford a $300 Coachella ticket, don’t be too bummed (am I the only one out here that doesn’t care about Muse, anyway?). Instead, come to a much more intimate party where bottled water probably won't cost $6.

Music Waste June 2-5
More than just a music festival, this showcase of independent talent covers comedy and art as well. Music Waste is affordable, with $15 festival passes, and spans an impressive number of venues. Last year, the festival hosted 100 local bands. Anyone who struggles to grasp what Vancouver’s music scene is all about, and where the great bands are hiding can get an easy rundown just by reading the program for this festival. The fest is also surprisingly well-established, with 15 years of experience to its name.

Olio Sept 23-26
Olio caters to a similar scene as Music Waste, but it’s a vibrant newcomer to Vancouver. This festival, which encompasses music, art, film, and comedy made its debut just last August, with enough success to continue for a second year. The festival emphasizes mixed media, and also tries to balance local and international independent artists. Last year, Vancouver bands such as No Gold, White Lung and Twin Crystals played alongside Chicago group Flosstradamus and Old Money from NYC. 2010’s incarnation of the festival will feature an independent music-video competition.

Under the Volcano Aug 8
A North Vancouver institution, this festival is celebrating it’s 20th anniversary this summer. Held on the gorgeous waterfront of Cates Park, it is a day-long “festival of art and social change,” initiated by North Vancouver native and W2 creator Irwin Oostindie. Vendors adorn the edges of the park, and a stage with diverse musical acts is the attention-grabbing centerpiece. Previous acts have included popular Canadian bands such as Tegan and Sara, Black Mountain, and The Pack A.D., as well as international punk and hip-hop groups. Free shuttles to and from the event are offered all day to discourage driving, though the bus lines can get long by the end of the day.

Vancouver International Jazz Festival June 25 - July 4
Arguably Vancouver’s biggest festival, this incredible celebration of music offers a surprisingly musically diverse selection of free and ticketed shows. The big names are there – George Benson, Chick Corea, and Martha Wainwright, among others, but so are smaller acts, often doing free outdoor shows. It can also be a great place to spot up-and-comers. Pre-MuchMusic success, local act Mother Mother played a free Gastown show that was full, but modestly sized. A repeat of this would probably include gate-rushing at this point in their career. 

Victory Square Block Party (Unconfirmed) Labour Day
This much-beloved Labour Day weekend festival took a tumble last year, as a $750 field rental increase and lack of organizing support put progress to a screeching halt. The festival has always been free, and truly looks and feels like a community block party. 2007’s attendees suffered through a torrential downpour, but committed fans stuck it out in the wet dark to watch Victoria’s Frog Eyes perform an exciting and cacophonic set, as is their nature. Fortunately, organizer Cameron Reed expressed his intention to revive the festival this year, offering a softer blow to the summer’s end. Just bring an umbrella.

//Natalie Corbo
news editor

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© 2011 The Capilano Courier. phone: 604.984.4949 fax: 604.984.1787 email: editor@capilanocourier.com