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Music by VICE

Guide to Vancouver's Live Music Scene

The days when bands like DOA and the Subhumans made Vancouver a major player in North America's underground music scene may have already slipped into the past, but a new generation of artists has cropped up in recent years, threatening to push the city...

by Michael Mann and Bradley Damsgaard
Mar 15 2001, 9:39pm

The days when bands like DOA and the Subhumans made Vancouver a major player in North America's underground music scene may have already slipped into the past (though someone ought to send a note to Joey Shithead filling him in), but a new generation of artists has cropped up in recent years, threatening to push the city back into the international spotlight. Due to the city's restrictive approach to live-entertainment and liquor-vending regulation, a lot of bands and promoters are forced to be inventive when it comes to putting on shows, making warehouse gigs, house parties, and gallery shows your best bet to catch some decent tuneage. Check out livemusicvancouver.com. They list pretty much everything worth seeing in town.

Bakelite Bakelite is two nerds on synthesizers and one on drums all yelping about things you sucked at in high school like science, math, and hooking up with girls. Sort of Kraftwerky, but a lot more hyped up and a lot less German. 

Rich Hope. Photo by Bradley Damsgaard
Black Mountain Pitchfork weren't totally off-base with the rim-job they gave these East Vancouver beardos. Drop some acid, turn on the backlight, and put on their self-titled album on Jagjaguwar. Before it's half over, Ozzy will pop his head out of your Sabbath poster and mumble softly in your ear, "Ey, 'ese guys are pretty good."

Channels 3 & 4 One of Vancouver's many noise-rock bands. Most people think they sound like pretentious art-school wank, but a small handful believe their sound is the new punk. Kind of up to you on this one. At least we can all take solace in the fact that they'll never be popular. Curiously, the member with the most hair under their arms happens to be the girl.

Fun 100 Brainless but brilliant dance party music. Everyone wants to compare them to Devo but their real primary influence is the '94 Canucks squad. The lead singer is a giant of a man who plays his keytar like he plays the female members of lesser-quality bands.

Hot Loins While they know how to write a catchy dance-floor track, they don't know anything about HTML and have possibly the worst website you'll ever see (www.geocities.com/are_you_sure_this_is_a_band). Among their many anecdotal accomplishments, Hot Loins are one of 100 bands you've never heard of who remixed Deerhoof's "Rrrrrrrrrght." There's also talk of the Mae Shi helping them with their debut release.

Josh Martinez Josh Martinez is the only MC in town who isn't a complete joke. No big surprise that he wasn';t born here. Check out his side projects, the Chicharones, as well as the Pissed Off and Wild.

No Luck Club Dan the Automator heard these guys and immediately signed them to his 75 Ark label, or so the legend goes. But 75 Ark went out of business before the No Luck Club debut dropped and the world never got to hear them. This is a shame because these three Asians do instrumental hip-hop and turntablism as good as anyone. The three of them working together on stage is almost as good as one Kid Koala, who is also from Vancouver, but forsook us for Montreal.

The Organ They're an all-girl group who've appeared on the L Word. They also have an androgynous lead singer who writes really sad lyrics. The only surprise here is that this musical cock-block actually sounds so, so good. Dead serious here.

Pink Mountaintops This is Steve McBean from Black Mountain’s side project. Or maybe it's the other way around since Pink Mountaintops put out an album first. They're not as popular, heavy, or stoned as Black Mountain, but they'll still make you want to run up to McBean and offer him a yank.

Primes Primes consists of a former rave DJ and a guy who's been in 15 different bands and has a really faggy haircut. Heavy industrial beats, screaming, and a drum kit that only has cymbals are also implicated, and at this point we really shouldn't have to tell you anymore to keep you from making the mistake of seeing them. Should you disregard this advice, be aware the video of them playing live at a house party projected on the backdrop is certain to look a lot more lively than the show you're at; it was recorded ages ago.

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? They recently put out an album on Kill Rock Stars, which would mean huge money were there not upward of 20 bandmates with whom to split up the check. It's OK, though; every member of the group has their own show on a college radio station, so they're used to not making any money.

The Doers The kings (and two queens) of acoustic punk with a militant East Vancouver feel, this band has some sort of witchy mind-control bargain with its audience, who tend to be a little, um, obsessive. Bassist Barry Doer swan-dived off a three-story building once, and should have died. Instead, he grew a huge-ass beard and talked Mike Watt into playing on one of their EPs. And they never shut up about it.

Photo by Tim Barber
Rich Hope Hope is an authentic white man from Alberta who plays insanely energetic electric blues, while also making the girls cry with acoustic ballads about how really sad he is. His band the Evil Doers is anything but evil judging by the way they burst into tears every time Hope yells at them onstage, which is a lot.

Midnight Dragon These velvet-draped record collectors sincerely believe that popular music peaked with the first Bad Company album. While by all logic this should put them in the same category of fun as the van ride back from a Renaissance festival, somehow the Dragon actually pulls it off, and make for a weirdly hot and compelling live presence.

Pride Tiger Members of S.T.R.E.E.T.S. and the kicked-out members of 3 Inches of Blood make up this increasingly popular warehouse party band. We recommend lubing up with an unironic appreciation of Thin Lizzy before seeing them.

The New Pornographers Perhaps you've heard of this indie "supergroup," as in the past year they've become, in local parlance, "e-fucking-normous."

Destroyer After several years of willful, artistic itinerancy, Dan Bejar has come home to the Couve, and we couldn't be stokeder. Destroyer is unbelievably well-respected and has been written about at length in such small, obscure zines as the New York Times, so there's not too much for us to add.

The Feminists Three lefty weirdos from the Kooteneys and a freaky-looking singer who make super-catchy pop, as if they all got whacked on the head so hard they ended up thinking Supertramp was punk.

Crystal Pistol Back in the 80s when Mötley Crüe was jizzing all over the Marble Arch, the members of Crystal Pistol were running around in short pants and dreaming up a glam-rock revival that the rest of us are still waiting for, 20 years later. Their dedication to public self-destruction and rancid pussy is sort of touching and nostalgic.

Rebel Spell Vancouver's street-punk scene will never die and Rebel Spell is easily the best of the bunch. Bassist Chris Rebel's exquisite bone structure is exactly the tonic you need after a long day of dumping filthy water on the windshields of angry motorists, dodging the cops, and huffing rubber cement.