I must have walked past it five times before I noticed the cracked-open door and blackened noise leaking out onto the daytime pavement. Pupils shooting open to accommodate the sudden darkening, I walked in, hoping that I hadn’t come through the wrong entrance.
At 7PM, the Red Gate Arts Society was still rather quiet, all of the audience’s attention was drawn to the stage, where Bored Décor was preparing for their set. Playing with both the automated cool of krautrock and the excesses of glam, their music had a clockwork texture. On the highly machinated “Hardworking Man,” an undeniable tic-toc rhythm underscored moments of wild passion: pianist Ryan Quist nearly knocked his keyboard off its stand during a particularly involved instrumental section.
With two stages in adjoining rooms, the first annual Glam Fest didn’t leave much time for breathing between sets. Once a performance ended on one stage, the adjacent room would begin shaking with an equally intriguing sound. Here, Spesh Pep, a group that hovers somewhere in between glam, psych and pop, delivered a set of entirely unreleased songs. All three members employed their singing chops at various points in the performance, each having distinct proclivities and abilities, and all together providing a diverse collage of music.
The venue began to swell with people smiling, sparkling and highly conversational. It started to feel like a perfect microcosm of a community: friends were common and bountiful and a sense of camaraderie was carried long into the night. As a newcomer to Vancouver, this buzz of familiarity made me feel like I was being welcomed into a new city.
After making a brief trip to grab some food (at 9PM the festival still had six hours left), I returned to find a full-blown shift in the music. Since Prxncxss Aprntly’s boisterous and confident performance, Glam Fest had grown exponentially more aggressive and noisy, with Alien Boys and Terrifying Girls High School both exhibiting wonderful speed and technical prowess throughout their sets.
One of the more absurd moments of the night came courtesy of Rambone and The Wet Reality, whose frontperson donned a Fishman costume and translucent cape. After calling out for “Scottzilla,” a member of their band who had not yet made it to stage, they began their first song with the repeated declaration, “There is no Scott.”
It was the penultimate act of the night, Eric Campbell & The Dirt, who delivered one of the most unique performances of the festival. Taking cues from a wide array of influences — from traditional western music to blues and punk — they commanded attention with their strangely orchestral and elegant sound. It was the kind of music that begs for the label cinematic with its ability to transport you into its own unique reality.
Perhaps this was the festival’s greatest success — amidst the strife and toil of the modern social climate, Glam Fest created its own little one night CBGB: a free, accepting, and ceaselessly creative artistic community. No doubt next year will be even better.