Fueled by only the tiniest bit of resentment for those in charge of the Vancouver music scene, day one of Music Waste Festival saw the Electric Owl play host to a last minute bill that was double the expected size. On account of city bylaws enforcing various fire and electrical precepts, the Zoo Zhop was promptly closed the week before, forcing either a relocation or cancellation of all impending events. It was due to the magnanimity of the Electric Owl that both shows could coincide under the one roof.
Within the bounds of the Owl’s asylum, it appeared as if some of Vancouver’s most notable acts were cornered in one of the last remaining musical refuges. Although nothing had been noticeably altered, upon filing downstairs into the basement, one would find the de facto Zoo Zhop and the artists who had originally been commissioned to play there. On this evening, eight bands played two stages simultaneously, and the fire regulations that saw the Zoo Zhop suspended would become all too real of an issue, as tempers flared in moments of great expression.
Störc, a three-piece punk rock outfit, stoked the downstairs room into a violent sweat. Heaving out darkened tunes with an attitude that suggested an even darker place their city could go, Störc let off the steam that built since their decampment. They were passionate and aggressive, and full of aroused hostility. The audience responded appreciatively.
Back upstairs was an entirely different exhibition. At 10 p.m., on came Total Ice, a two-piece band that could only be considered as an arranged noise. Although both musicians showed flashes of brilliance, proving to have an enigmatic cohesion, their breed of sound at times was distasteful, if not wholly unlistenable, as its discordant nature became all too distracting.
But the following act, Dirty Spells, were a collision of post-rock and indie beauty, led by a whimsical electric-violin and a duo of bass guitars. While many onlookers were caught up in the anecdotes of their own lives, many turned, stunned by the mellifluous sounds reminiscent of Mogwai and Godspeed You! Black Emperor.
Meanwhile downstairs, Phoenix Thunderbird pounded the audience with their beloved form of thrash metal. Grant Minor (bass), who plays more of a secondary role to Jordan Ardanaz (guitar/vocals) in the intoxication that is Thunderbird, graced the stage again right after as front man in Girlfriends & Boyfriends. With their amalgamation of guitar, bass, dual keyboards, and drums, the group reminded us of new wave bands from the early ‘80s, and why bass guitar kicks so much ass.
The final act in the basement set saw Juvenile Hall deal with the most raucous crowd of the evening. It might not have been just their conventional pop-punk sound that trashed the room, but the combination of booze and power chords nearly uprooted the subterranean crypt that housed more live than dead.
The final two acts on the main stage could not have been more different. BESTiE, a technically stunning beach rock group with a flair for falsetto fit the season perfectly. With their somewhat commercial edge, they made the audience swoon.
But as the night wore on and the concluding act DIANE took the stage, it was easy to tell that the extended nature of that night’s show had begun to take its toll on both audience and musician alike. While DIANE kicked into gear, the chugging bass and voice of lead singer Mel Zee capturing all those who remained, the room began to clear.
Despite the temporary demise of the Zoo Zhop, no regulations could douse the fire of those present at the Electric Owl on the first night of Music Waste.