"My City" is THUMP Canada's year end series where we get tastemakers in five different cities—Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver—to reflect on their 2015 and tell us about the one party, artist, event, etc., that they feel defined their regional scene. Today we conclude the week with Bass Coast founder and one of our favourite Vancouver DJs, Andrea Graham (aka The Librarian), running down the artists, labels, and festivals that she couldn't get enough of.
Vancouver has been given the unfortunate nickname of "No Fun City." Despite the red tape, quiet streets, and plenty of rain, the underground scene continues to bubble up. While mainstream clubs and venues are thriving on Top 40 and EDM, the underground venues and independent clubs are far and few between. There is constant turnover and the underground spaces come and go with passion and heartache. However, there are many crews who continuously search out venues, release music online, and build the local and international community from their east Vancouver studios.
This past July I stood in the crowd at Bass Coast and had a moment of reflection that many of our local underground Vancouver artists have matured into world-class performers. Standout performances included Sabota, Tyler Stadius, Mat The Alien, Crystal Precious and Sweet Soul, and Greazu$. There were many other sets to note including Ekali, Funk Hunters, LWSD, Michael Red, and Max Ulis's five hour marathon as the sun came up.
Behind these artists are a network of crews and a strong community that continues to develop from year to year. Vancouver's Shah DJ's hold the torch for drum and bass and bass music. They promote shows regularly and help support other crews with their endeavours. Lighta! Sound artists are busy in the studio and many of the crew are active touring western Canada and beyond. Homebreakin artist Neighbour organizes a monthly night at the Beaumont called Body Language.
Turu Crew is developing a unique niche and Chapel Sound is continually releasing new music and touring abroad. Subversive and Bound by Sound are nurturing different shades of techno and Tank Girl's night Ting is going strong as Vancouver's longest running dancehall weekly. There are too many crews to mention all, but the beauty of Vancouver's underground is that all the crews work together to create a scene that is not defined by genre. Everyone faces the same challenges that results in a united community.
2015 launched a number of Vancouver's independent music labels into international spotlight. Perhaps the creative output is due to months of rain or the scarcity of live music venues, but this year produced excellent releases. Vancouver's 1080p and Mood Hut have rightfully garnered international acclaim. Low Indigo, King Deluxe, and Aufect Recordings have released numerous EPs that push boundaries while still being accessible. East Van Digital has the most constant output and a wide variety of styles while Silent Season contrasts with a focused sound inspired by the natural BC environment - excellent listening on a long drive.
Festivals are a celebration of the underground. They unite crews and allow each other to share creative inspiration. I was fortunate to travel all over Western Canada and the US with music this year and the festival season brought me to Contour Festival, WhatTheFest, Shambhala, Bass Coast, Northern Nights, Squamish Live, Atmosphere, Rifflandia, & Symbiosis Gathering in California. I found pieces of the Vancouver underground at every stop. Whether it was a familiar face in the crowd, a fellow Vancouver artist on the line up, or a familiar volunteer working abroad, the Vancouver underground had far reaches in 2015. And it feels like this is just the beginning.
As Michael Red said, "Shouts to the underground. Where things actually begin."