The importance of documenting your local music community

In recent decades, Vancouver has found itself the a unique position of simultaneously being North America’s most livable city while also earning a reputation as the No Fun City. Some might point to this as the inevitable result of a city which opts for highly curated, government approved, and often privately sponsored events while stifling organic community growth. This can be seen as at-odds with a city which formerly produced a generation of famous musicians in the 1990’s who grew up in such organic communities as are being closed in modern years.

Growing up in Vancouver, I was not aware that I was witness to an ongoing narrative of the complex relationship between musicians and government. In the mid 2000’s, I was embedded in an expansive and inclusive music scene which permeated Vancouver and existed thanks to generous venue owners and musicians who would open their basements or apartments to DIY music shows. These gathering were focal points for youth to meet and established long-lasting communities. However, city officials became increasingly focused on mitigating what they saw as a hazardous and unregulated space. In response, the city introduced a series of bylaws to specifically curtail DIY venue spaces. Such bylaws include requirements for specific stage-heights and even prohibiting non-licensed dancing as a way to swiftly shut down music performances under the guise of bylaw non-compliance.

These actions were seen as an unprecedented threat to the fabric of these communities. A poignant series of mini-concerts where scheduled entitled “Dancing in our Debt.” These performances emphasized the tensions between the capitalist markets of Vancouver as being at odds with local organic communities. These performances occurred late at night in the lobbies of 24-hour ATMs of large banks. The shows would normally not last more than twenty minutes. Here is an example of one such event: https://flic.kr/p/6ianbu

During this time, my friends and I created a documentary which attempted to interview some of the people involved in these ongoing disputes. The documentary can be found here: https://youtu.be/jsc3mrfKq7M

Reflecting back, it is clear that the documentation itself holds a great deal of power and accountability for explaining why Vancouver is perceived the way it is today, as a city which penalizes organic DIY spaces and where only the most copacetic events may take place.

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