So the first decade of the 21st century is coming to a close, and I keep telling you guys, I seriously think the Internet is really going to catch on and be huge!
There are many different reasons to read local blogs: they have a distinct local flavour, and they support the best of Vancouver’s music, arts and cultural community. Also, Pitchfork or Stereogum or Brooklyn Vegan aren’t going to tell you about a last-minute punk show at a house in East Van or a Halloween party at a secret loft space in Chinatown or when they’re serving free beer at the Royal Unicorn. [ed. That’s Fortune Sound Club to you young ‘uns.]
See what’s going on in your neck of the woods at these sites: a half-dozen of Vancouver’s best music blogs and websites.
Vancouver Is Awesome
The mandate of Vancouver Is Awesome (VIA) is simple: to tell you about the awesome people who are doing awesome things in Vancouver (which is awesome, by the way).
The VIA website proclaims: “If you want to read ugly, bad news about this beautiful city of ours, you’re going to have to look to traditional media and other blogs; VIA promotes everything that makes our city awesome, from old to new and everything in between.”
And now, VIA is actually more than a blog—as of July, it’s a fully registered, incorporated non-profit organization. Bob Kronbauer, who started it as a blog in February 2008, works full time as the executive director of Vancouver Is Awesome, which, according to him, involves “managing everything, building relationships with other organizations and businesses and trying to figure out ways that we can achieve our long term goals while keeping the lights on month-to-month.”
Kronbauer also serves as managing editor, so along with his full-time editorial assistant Dana Spitall, they oversee the content of the website. “We’ve got a few editors for different subjects who work probono as well as an eclectic mix of contributors from every neighbourhood in Vancouver who drop in here and there” Kronbauer explained.
Music is a big part of VIA and they’ve done interviews with notable local musicians such as Joey “Shithead“ Keithley, Tegan Quinn and Grant Lawrence. Kronbauer’s favourite interview, however, was none other than CiTR’s very own Nardwuar the Human Serviette, whom the website describes as “Not only a Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada institution but a shining beacon of awesomeness for our entire nation.”
“Definitely Nardwuar. Hands down, that was the best interview to do,” Kronbauer said. “And since I did it we’ve been working with him on other stuff, which is really cool … he’s incredibly thorough and super on top of his shit. It’s just an honour to work with somebody that cares so much. I love that dude.”
Kronbauer talked about his strategy in both ambitious and pragmatic terms. “The long term goal is to produce an annual book highlighting all things awesome in Vancouver and opening a community-minded storefront/gallery space where we could put on events and workshops. The short term goal is to simply survive as a company.”
After The Wonder Years, did you know that Kevin Arnold went on to become a director and producer of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia? (Totally true.) Everybody knows that Paul Pfeiffer went on to become Marilyn Manson (Totally untrue.). But whatever happened to Winnie Cooper?
Well, in 2008, Winnie became a Vancouver-based music blog, coedited by two DJs, Tristan Orchard and Christian Flores. They are ably supported by others, including Scott Wood, who does the Interview Show and Lucas Soi, who writes about the art scene. Orchard claimed they “wanted to share our love for music with a high-school crush kinda vibe to it. We skew towards pop but are into all sorts of music, not just the newest stuff. We like to find old gems.”
Winnie Cooper has been linked to by some of the top music blogs, including Pitchfork, NME and Pedestrian.tv, and their Interview Show has featured the likes of Andrew WK, the Black Lips, Soulwax, LCD Soundsystem and Peaches (“a really sweet lady, not the brooding sexpot you might expect” according to Orchard).
They’re also about as active as anyone around town when it comes to making stuff happen outside of the interwebs: in addition to the DJ sets they’ve performed and live acts they’ve brought to town, they’ve been putting on the fantastic weekly No More Strangers, where they’ve featured live music from some great local talent, inbetween sets by the Winnie Cooper DJs. No More Strangers has recently moved from Funky Winkerbean’s to Smiley’s, and Orchard said they’re also “looking to do a few shows at the reopening Balmoral on Hastings, so get your band to give us a shout.”
From Blown Speakers
When longtime Discorder contributor Quinn Omori (whose writing has also appeared in Chart and the Tyee) started From Blown Speakers back in February 2005, he said “I guess the idea was always to keep it local, but mostly it was just another way to procrastinate during my undergrad.”
From Blown Speakers is one of the best ways to find concert announcements, both for touring acts coming to Vancouver and local bands playing around town. You’ll also find concert recaps and photos, Omori’s news and views about the local music scene and the odd contest.
The blog also features a listing updated at the start of each week of regular weekly and monthly events, such as Night Shift at the Astoria, Glory Days at the Biltmore and First Friday at the El Dorado. Once a month, Omori also books the talent for Damaged Goods at the Astoria, bringing bands like MT-40, Manta Ray-Gun and Techromancer.
Chipped Hip is another one-man operation run by a Discorder writer. Alex Hudson started the blog earlier this year and does all of the writing himself, but he said “I’ve also got to give credit to my webdesigner/BFF Mike Withers, who did an amazing job with the layout. It’s amazing how much more seriously people take you if you have a nice-looking site.”
And the site does indeed look fantastic. As far as content, the site includes album and concert reviews alongside interviews and other writing, with a decidedly local slant. “Like most bloggers, I also wanted to shine a light on some amazing, under-appreciated local artists,” Hudson said.
In addition to running Chipped Hip and writing for Discorder, Hudson is the Vancouver contributing editor for BeatRoute and has also contributed news updates and show reviews for Exclaim!, music features for the Tyee and “various odds and ends” for Guttersnipe.
Guttersnipe might be the first good thing to come from Nickelback. Let the website’s founder, Shawn Conner, explain: “Last November, I was angry about Nickelback; I’d heard a song with lyrics that were awful even by their standards. I had nowhere to vent, so rather than take out a pedestrian with my car I started Guttersnipe.”
The site, which includes concert reviews and musician interviews alongside writings about art, books and pop culture, is mostly Conner (with his two interns Tiera Foy and Romila Barryman), but with the support of a number of contributors. “One of the motivations for starting the site though was to get some of my favourite Vancouver writers in one place, which I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to do,” claimed Conner, a freelance writer who has contributed to a number of local publications, including the Georgia Straight.
Conner is currently working on a site revamp for Guttersnipe (which derives its name from the lyrics to the Clash classic “Garageland”) and is thinking about a party in January for the relaunch. “Of course,” said Conner, “that depends on Nickelback’s availability.”
Schitz Popinov is distinct from some of Vancouver’s other music blogs because of its focus on dance and electronic music. The blog was started by Tyler Hazelwood and RC Lair about three years ago, with Dustin McNulty and Dan Hawkins coming on board shortly after. These four have formed the core group behind the blog with support coming from many others in the form of posts, visuals, design work and editing.
Just recently, the Vancouver-based collective has brought their friend Jody Willson on board to contribute to the blog from her home base in L.A. “We are super excited about that as she is hooked up out there and a large part of our readership is out of Los Angeles and Southern California,” McNulty explained. “Having that connection is great for us … Look for some more interviews and quality content coming from her neck of the woods.”
Recently, after three years of Schitz Popinov, the blog was shut down by Google, apparently over their posting of a new Daft Punk song. “It’s a pretty huge bummer because probably 90 per cent of the music we post has been sent to us directly from artists or labels so for them to have the power to delete three years worth of work is ridiculous.” They’ve relaunched though, with a new home on WordPress and “it is much better to use,” McNulty claimed, but “we are still in the process of tweaking.”
In addition to DJ sets around town, the self-styled “schit headz” throw parties at their studio (www.schoolofmix.com). According to McNulty, their favourite memory was working with the late DJ AM. “We were lucky enough to have him come play at our studio before he passed. It ended up being DJ AM’s last ever performance in Canada, so for that we are eternally grateful and saddened at the same time.”
“As for the future we have lots in store,” promised McNulty. “We are trying to get away from just being a blog and more like an online magazine … We are looking at booking some West Coast mini tours as well as cross Canada shows too.”