While East Vancouver celebrated the demise of a beloved venue with abandon, a smaller gathering in the West End launched an unexpected new haven for fun-having. Though it certainly wasn’t the first show hosted by Googly Eyes Collective, Elsethings Arts Festival — a collage of performance, film, art, and cozy hangouts — was charged with expectation, light, and new beginnings.
The sights and sounds on offer were part of a nation-wide showcase strung together by an Edmonton-based folk label called Cabin Songs. Googly Eyes artists curated local talent, rounding out a list of 70 acts in 15 cities from Victoria to St. John’s.
We Are Phantoms Again opened to a packed room. Artisanal tom kicks were met with call-and-answer vocal hooks over a pattern of comfy folk riffs. The happy couple vibes emanating from singer/drummer Cali Travis and singer/guitarist Jensen Gifford reached epic levels of adorable as they cued lyrics with their eyeballs.
Sound artist PrOphecy Sun used a borrowed boom box to loop organic feedback—filling the room with a foreboding, ghostly atmosphere. Her layered creations ranged from drone-y throat singing to bright operatic dissonance. Crouching over a spread of sequencers, effects pedals, and crisscrossed XLR cable, Sun manipulated a homemade theremin with surgical acuity.
Next up, Calgary exports Raleigh performed as a two-piece rather than a trio. The pair brought together refined folk, pop, and classical sensibilities in equal measures, coupled with sparse tongue-in-cheek lyrics.
At times pushing for harsh, discordant textures, Raleigh’s guitar and cello arrangements danced and mingled like Dirty Projectors’ riffage. Just as quickly as Clea Anaïs prodded her electric cello into gritty untraditional territory, a moment later she’d snap back into effortless harmony. “Savant” reeled through the crowd, washing a satisfied nod through the front rows.
The bands wrapped about the same time the beer ran out, but the crowd stayed and collectively sat cross-legged for a selection of National Film Board shorts both old school and nearly-finished. A swirl of animation set to Mozart harpsichord by Heidi Blomkvist was followed up with a locally-shot drama by Ariel Kirk-Gushowaty.
The evening was simultaneously a gift and a love letter. Proceeds funded both Atira Women’s Centre and Terra Wildlife Awareness, and several attendees walked away with free records and tees. But the devotion of artists and organizers behind the scenes sparkled just as much as the stage’s golden backdrop. Drawings and photographs lining the walls quietly referenced a tight-knit creative scene in bloom.
This reviewer’s takeaway was the origin of the festival’s namesake: a thoughtful six-song EP by Halifax folk artist Nick Everett & Everybody—released on the same day. While so many venues remain under threat of closure, it’s refreshing to see art finding a new home in Vancouver.