Shout Back Festival, now in its second year, billed itself as an “all-ages anarcha-feminist, queer, anti-capitalist d.i.y. music festival for anyone who wants it or thinks they might want it.” This year, the d.i.y. description continued to ring true, especially where the musical selections were concerned.
A glance at this year’s schedule revealed not only a cross-section of Vancouver’s d.i.y. underground—be it punk, noise, hip hop, or bedroom pop—but also represented bands from all over the West Coast. It’s an inclusive, broad-minded lineup, with a selection of co-ed bands mixed in nicely with the single-sex ensembles.
In the interest of being broad-minded myself, I headed down for one weekend—though it was mostly to catch Dead Soft and Movieland, whose shows I’ve wanted to attend for ages. First up was Dead Soft at the Artbank on Friday night. Not wanting to be the chump who turns up at shows to only support one band, I arrived early, just as an art show by Cargo Collective was wrapping up. I felt like a tourist in the moribund venue, or at least until I caught up with a few familiar faces.
But by the time Hooves leapt into the night’s first set, it was all good times, even as their light-footed indie rock (think a pastel-coloured Yeah Yeah Yeahs) took brief detours into more sombre territory. Frontwoman Paulette Cameron was a charismatic, active presence, bounding and twirling across the floor as her band interpolated the Kids in the Hall theme and covered TRUST between original cuts.
Dreamy noiseniks Scrambled Debutante played next, followed by audience-pleasing punks Skunt. By the time Skunt wrapped up their set, the room was packed and stifling; just in time for the indefatigable three-piece Lunchlady, whose sound seemed equally influenced by the Cramps and the Melvins’s Bullhead. The audience crowded in front to lap up their feral sludge, bouncing around as much as they could in a room half-packed with dozens of people. A friend turns up late and told me Lunchlady were awesome, before sharing the compliment with their costumed lead singer and guitarist.
The crowd thinned out by the time fellow Shout Back veterans Dead Soft (Nathaniel Epp on guitars, Keeley Rochon on bass and Graeme McDonald on drums) came on for the last set. Those who remained were in for a treat, now that there was ample room to freak out to their donair-sweet noise pop.
The next day, I headed to Astorino’s, looking forward to Movieland’s set. On my way there, though, I caught wind of their sudden absence from the lineup. What a bummer. But Bellingham’s Artistic Crisis (featuring songwriter and guitarist Jaedyn McGregor and drummer Tyson Ballew) quickly brushed aside jitters and sour moods alike — both theirs and the audience’s. With a maturity and confidence beyond her 12 years, McGregor juxtaposed songs of self-revelation and social conscience between stories of trips to the Vancouver Aquarium and helping out at children’s theatre productions of Pippi Longstocking. The future looks bright for this young artist, no doubt.
Sontag started the night’s streak of loudness, with a set that channeled the angsty noise rock of Sleater- Kinney’s debut. Diane followed with equally downcast dark punk. However dour Diane were, though, they weren’t humourless. “We’re BESTiE,” bassist and co-vocalist Mel Zee deadpanned as Diane took to the stage, in reference to a certain local band infamous for featuring topless women in at least one of their music videos. It was pretty funny in context, even if it wasn’t uproariously so.
The jangly, “lo-fi Canadian feminist labour surf pop” outfit Loose Tights threw on something a bit more intense, too, as Dan Oan (of Cascadia fame) filled in on drums for the night. Poor Choices, from Victoria, wrapped up the rawk in an appropriately thrashy fashion, but unfortunately played to a lukewarm crowd. Therapy (not to be confused with the Irish metal band) intrigued with their electronic stylings, but I had to leave early, missing their set and that of closers, Olympian indie poppers Margy Pepper.