Bussing in the wrong direction for 20 minutes meant that I arrived at The Avant-Garden’s International Women’s Day show halfway through the first set of the night. Since I had never been to the venue, and was not familiar with any of the artists on the bill, I had no idea what to expect as I climbed the staircase to the club’s second floor. What I found was a dimly lit room packed with people sitting cross-legged on the wooden floor facing future star, who knelt in front of a keyboard before a backdrop of red curtains.
future star’s set was very in keeping with the laid-back atmosphere in the room. Through the repeating synth melodies, soft, ranging vocals and quirky lyrics, they played a very unique and inventive sort of indie pop that proved that simplicity can produce remarkable music. They kept up a friendly banter with the crowd throughout their set, joke complaining about how their knees hurt and improvising their setlist out loud as they went along. It took future star a couple tries before they nailed the synth intro to their song “i don’t want you to look back and decide this was some kind of experience,” during which the crowd sat patiently and shouted out encouragements.
The mood in the space changed as people stood up in anticipation of Strange Breed’s set. These self-identified queer feminist rockers were incredible, even more so considering that they have only been playing together since June 2017. Their songs combined complex drum beats, strong shout-singing reminiscent of Corin Tucker and both melodic and heavy guitar to produce powerful, upbeat grunge punk. The whole band played with plenty of positive energy, which they transmitted into their dancy audience. The positive atmosphere they created did not, however, disguise the seriousness of the issues addressed in some of their songs — “The C Word,” an homage to consent, and “Gun Control,” a challenge to the hypocrisy of the NRA. I must admit that my favourite moment of Strange Breed’s set was when they covered feminist punk classic “Rebel Girl,” which turned into a giant sing-along with the crowd.
The third and final artist on the bill was indie group club sofa. They began their set with chill, down-tempo, distinctly surfy songs that featured jangly guitar melodies, slow yet inventive drum beats and beautifully bitter-sweet, almost haunting vocals. A notable shift was made after about the third song to a much punkier sound, when their drummer suddenly cranked up the tempo and started playing heavy beats and rolls. The rest of the band followed that energy, especially their frontperson who began jumping around and kicking the air and gesturing passionately along to their lyrics. During one of the pauses between songs, the group’s drummer took the mic and expressed to us club sofa’s stance that International Women’s Day is for all women regardless of any of their other identities, to which the crowd fervently voiced our agreement.
I strongly suggest that any fan of live music jump on an opportunity to attend a future star, Strange Breed, or club sofa show. The organizers, Hannah Sefidpour and Zoe Kompst, donated over 170 dollars of the night’s ticket revenue to the Downtown Eastside Women’s Shelter. A night of getting to see some of the Vancouver independent music scene’s most stand-out artists, while also supporting a small venue and a good cause left me feeling pretty good.