Vancouver’s quietest music festival has come to an end

If you aren’t in a band yourself, you probably know somebody in a band. You probably also know how difficult it is to find places to play shows in Vancouver if you aren’t famous enough to fill out the Orpheum or the Pacific Coliseum. Forced to play in either alcohol-oriented venues where the music is the secondary element, or illegal venues that are hard to find and constantly in danger of being shut down, both local musicians and their fans are feeling the strain. When Scratch records started hosting live music shows, however, a beacon of hope shone through the fog of musical desperation.

Due to declining CD and record sales and expensive downtown rent, Scratch records has moved from their location on Richards St. to a smaller space on Hastings St. Their old lease didn’t expire until the end of the year, however, so Scratch started hosting small live shows every weekend to help pay the rent and encourage the local music scene.

Photo by JJ Brewis
While the space isn’t licensed as a music venue, organizer Ryan Dyck explains that instead of using it as a storage room for four months, they wanted to give small local bands a venue to play at. They hosted three bands a night, with the goal of trying to get all their favourite local bands to play. 
“The city found out right away,” said Dyck, “they have been very supportive of it, but they want us to get a permit. So right now it’s 'private parties’ and we aren’t advertising.”
As the location isn't in a residential neighbourhood, the only complaint had been about smokers loitering outside the venue. They solved this problem by asking people to walk around the block if they wanted to smoke. On the Scratch records Facebook page, they explain their desire to not get shut down, and that they “appreciate your cooperation in [helping] us be transparent in the neighbourhood.” Evidently, they were not trying to host secret shows or fool anyone, but intending to utilize their vacant location in a positive way for the music community.

However, on Thursday the 14th, the good times came to an end. THOR, Broadway Bullies and The Shiny Diamonds were scheduled to play a show, but when the bands arrived to play, they encountered a problem. “Due to our Facebook and Twitter activity about the shows,” the event page reads,  “the landlords have locked us out of the premises as we are using the space for live music, which is against the terms of our retail and office only usage as specified on the lease.” The show was cancelled, and all currently scheduled shows are cancelled as well. They express interest in finding a new venue for the shows, but the initial concept is over.

“It was a good venue because it was all ages and it was easy to find,” explains Alex Pomeroy, guitarist for Woolworm, who played at Scratch several weeks ago. “And it was about the right sized venue for watching local indie bands that no one really cares about, like mine. It sucks that it couldn't continue.”

While the shows may be over, Scratch records was still able to positively contribute to the number of all-ages venues in Vancouver, at least for a time. It was a casual and supportive environment, a welcome contrast to the pubs and house shows that local bands are typically found at. “You need places for the new local bands to play,” explains Dyck. “This is where the exciting stuff happens.” 

//Sarah Vitet
Arts Editor

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