A MULTI-DAY FESTIVAL aimed at helping to secure a permanent all-ages music venue in the city will take place in Vancouver next month.

Local band BESTiE is presenting the four-day, all-ages music festival #Safe Fest, which will run from October 10 to 13 at venues around the city.

According to band member Rob Cameron, the festival is intended to offer an inclusive experience for all ages, and give young people a chance to participate in the local music scene.

“We have a great, really strong, vibrant music scene in Vancouver, and unfortunately, the way the liquor laws are right now it’s incredibly difficult for anyone under the age of 19 to go see a show, or access that music scene,” Cameron told the Straight by phone. “So we’re trying to make it accessible for kids.”

The festival will feature a mix of under-age bands and established local artists, including the Boom Booms.

The pricing scheme for the event is also aimed at making the event accessible for young people. Full festival passes will cost just $15, while all shows at Astorino’s, Red Cat Records and Neptoon Records will be by donation. Other showcases will cost in the range of $5 to $10.

“I know if you’re a kid and you don’t have a job, it’s tough to get money,” said Cameron. “Even if someone can’t afford $15 for a festival pass, they can still come see about half the shows.”

Profits from the festival will go toward the Safe Amplification Site Society, a non-profit that is working to set up a permanent all-ages venue in Vancouver, and to The Music Tree, a not-for-profit foundation dedicated to raising awareness of ecological community projects through concerts and other events.

Safe Amp is currently operating a temporary all-ages music venue at Astorino’s on Venables Street.

“At the moment…any established music venue that is regularly putting on shows is not allowed to have anyone under 19 in the bar,” said Cameron.

“So really if you’re under age and you want to go see shows, you’re either going to a rare music show at a hall that someone’s decided to put on, usually at a loss–because it’s really hard to make money if you’re not selling booze–or Astorino’s.”

Cameron said the idea for the all-ages festival initially came about as part of a challenge through the Peak Performance Project. The members of BESTiE , one of 20 finalists in the competition, hope to see the festival evolve into an annual event.

The submission deadline for bands interested in playing the festival is September 27. More information is available on the #Safe Festwebsite.

Liquor Policy Review

The BC Government is currently collecting feedback from the public on what liquor laws they should change. We think they should reduce ageism by allowing minors into licensed music venues, fixing the special occasion licensing system, and ending the ban on delicensing for all-ages events. Have your say over athttp://engage.gov.bc.ca/liquorpolicyreview/2013/09/14/blog-post-1/

NOW SETTLED INTO it’s semi-permanent home at Astorino’s, the Safe Amplification Site Society has cooked up two of it’s more high profile all-ages gigs for this weekend.

On Saturday (September 7), Byron Slack of Invasives joins Nomeansno’s Tom Holliston for a “rare acoustic set” at the Commercial Drive supper club.

The following night (September 8), Nardwuar brings both the Evaporators and Thee Goblins to Astorino’s for a free—that’s right, free—all-ages throwdown.

Joining the Nard is one of Mint Records’ newest signings, garage rockers Tough Age—a band led by Korean Gut’s Jarrett K, who was one of the founders of SASS, giving Saturday’s show a nice triangular symmetry. And who doesn’t like triangles?

"We’ve been fans of Jarrett’s other projects for quite some time now," Mint Records’ Shena Yoshida told the Straight. "So when (Mint label mate) Jay Arner told us about the completed record, we were really excited to hear it. The band works really hard and is made up of lovely people, so we were more than happy to help get it out there."

Yoshida and her crew are so happy, in fact, that they sent us a link to the band’s debut single for the label, “Sea of White”.

Mint releases the Tough Age album in November.

It’s Saturday night, almost 9pm, and we’re at the corner of Venables and Commercial.  Walking up to the old Astorino’s building, you wouldn’t know that there is an all-ages show starting in ten minutes.  Partially, because nobody is here yet, not even the opening band.  Partially because nobody shows up to shows on time in Vancouver.  It’s a thing- Vancouver Time.  If something is scheduled to start at 9pm, and you want to save yourself upwards of an hour of standing around awkwardly waiting for something to happen, show up at 11.  This seems to happen a lot at Astorino’s (affectionately SASStorino’s)  since theSafe Amplification Site Society (Safe Amp) started renting the space earlier this year.  It’s 9pm, the show is supposed to start, and nobody seems to care.

It’s still easy to see why people get confused about the space.  A charming, homemade sandwich board, with teal blue backdrop and hand-painted red letters indicate that there is, indeed a show:  “All Ages, Come In!”.  However, as welcoming as this lovely sign is, the actual building itself is a bit ominous, and even more so since the installation of a grey, wire fenced gate at the top of the two steps leading into the venue’s somewhat confusing entrance.  The more obvious and accessible entrance is locked, and gives off the impression that there is absolutely nothing going on in here tonight, but if you keep walking you’ll find the sign, likely hidden behind a small crew of folks smoking and chatting.

Once you cross the threshold into the “Red Room,” (named after the clear centerpiece of the room — a circular hole in the ceiling, complete with a mirror reflecting those standing below, a red light bulb, and a big, glittering disco ballsuspended from the middle) it appears as though little has changed since the old days when it was a bingo hall in the 70s.  In fact, a now defunct BINGO board hangs on the wall to the left of the new makeshift stage that set, waiting for the first band to arrive and start the show.  A huge, empty floor spans a very long distance between the door and the stage, and I look around at other people looking around.  Nobody knows what to do.  It’s Saturday night, after all, and this is a dry venue.

Safe Amp, a local non-profit, has been fighting for a legal, sustainable, permanent, all-ages music venue in Vancouver for years now, and as a bit of a compromise, has accepted a shared-space rental agreement through Britannia Community Centre for a short-term trial at Astorino’s.  The deal is somewhat less than ideal for the group, but a good way to test out the waters as far as running an actual venue goes.  As such, Safe Amp has taken over this massive, dusty, poorly-lit, cultural relic of a hall that, no matter how hard they try, evokes all the awkward/horrific feelings of high-school dances past.  And no alcohol in sight to calm nerves.

Shortly after 9pm, members of the opening act Kidnap Kids rush in, rosy-cheeked, and only slightly flustered, right on time to start the show.  I can’t think of a better venue for this band, who wrote most of their songs while still in high school, referencing their suburban roots, hanging out at Seylynn Hall (an all-ages music venue in North Van).  The three-piece casually strolls on stage and wishes everyone who’d bothered to show up early enough a happy 2009.  The infamous twosome of Alie Lynch and Celina Kurz shot straight into a solid set of banter sprinkled between original songs and covers, arguing over whether or not a dedication should really count if the person isn’t there, telling us anecdotes about heartbreak, dating, and what it was like to be writing songs in high school with your best friends.  If only more high school kids were in attendance!  They played to an audience of about twenty people, about half of whom were of a differently-lettered generation from the band.  Their songs areinfectiously catchy, with clever lyrics and interesting stories woven throughout, and although they sometimes stumbled through false starts and a few mid-song hang-ups, they pulled off a successful set, for a room of people who it seems were content, but had also seen it all before.  A lot of crossed arms, a lot of uncertainty, probably wondering when they could politely run across the street for something other than the organic pop for sale at the door/concession stand.

Norvaiza, also known as Todd from the Winks, is playing next.  He’s been living in Montreal for years but has come back to Vancouver and has brought back some new tunes with him. It is quite amusing to watch the latecomers filter in; each one stops in their tracks when they find an incredibly hushed room and a surprisingly calm, solo set on a mandolin, with backing tracks playing through an ipod.  The audience sits politely, cross-legged on the floor, while Norvaiza’s songs dredge up a dreamy, beach vacation kind of feeling, which was very apt, since his straw hat and laid-back look screamed lucid escape. He holds his mandolin like it is an old friend; he clearly cares for it, but is familiar enough to be a bit rough with it when he sways it side to side throughout the set.  As lovely as thereverb-drenched mandolin songs are, attention spans start to wane, and as the set goes on, about half as many people are congregating outside as were once inside.  Those who stayed for the whole set clear out quickly as soon as it ends, while DIANE start to set up.

DIANE get straight to the point, with a loud, driving sound that mesmerizes the crowd and even gets some heads bobbing to the all-encompassing rhythm that never lets up, under a thick wall of distorted guitar.  More people have come in at this point, and the crowd’s general tone seems to be a bit more lively, presumably from the help of the social lubricants provided by some of the nearby adult beverage purveyors up the street.  DIANE’s set has an almost hypnotic effect on the crowd that seems to shake the weirdness out.  Everyone looks much more at ease.

Tonight’s show is a CD release party for Collapsing Opposites’ sixth full-length album, “Revolution is Now.”  The artwork from the CD is very minimalist compared to previous releases, featuring a photograph of grey pavement, with hot pink text for the album credits.  When you open the case, however, you find an image of the outside of the Red Room at Astorino’s, digitally altered as though the name of the room was actually “REVOLUTION IS NOW.”

Ryan McCormick, Collapsing Opposites’ songwriter/vocalist, has been a large part of the Safe Amplification Site Society for years.  He was one of the founding members of the organization, and has poured hours of work into taking the organization from a simple idea to an actual venue, where he is currently throwing an all-ages show.  By listening to the themes of this latest album, you can tell that his dedication to the all-ages cause is an all-encompassing labour of love, that spills into the music, and tonight, for those lucky enough to be here, into the vast space of the Red Room at Astorino’s.

The set is a live performance of the new 9-song album, and starts with a song that sounds like a protest march chant, over a repetitive loop of circus-like guitars.  The band is ready to start, but the room is still nearly empty, so they start the music and wait for the crowd to filter in before shouting the opening line: “GENTRIFICATION!  GENTRIFICATION NOW BEGINS!”  The song is essentially a grocery list of things that are part of the problems that encompass our city, from cupcake stores, to music venues, ourselves included.  The song, and the album, are both incredibly self-referential, to the point where the chant ends in a repetition of, “PEOPLE AWARE OF THEIR OWN ROLE AS GENTRIFIERS!” The crowd is receptive, but not overly enthusiastic.  However, McCormick, now holding only a microphone, starts jumping around while singing on the floor, face to face with the audience.  The crowd looks mostly like they’ve just come either from the beach or the skate park, with sneakers and plaid shirts as the unofficial uniform for the evening.  Several people are standing with hands clasped behind their backs, but they aren’t bored, they are engaged- actively listening.  The lyrics are a pivotal part of Collapsing Opposites songs, and tonight, they have a message they’d like to get across- with a title like Revolution is Now there’s no room for misunderstandings.  Everything is pertinent.

As far as revolution goes, I’m not sure if it’s happening now, but soon.  But when McCormick tells the crowd, “You can sing along to this one if you want, it’s supposed to be an anthem for our generation,” you can’t help but feel proud to be part of this tiny movement of hope.

SASStorino’s will host shows for this year’s “Shout Back! Festival” which kicks off in the Red Room this Thursday, August 22nd at 8 pm. If you’d like to see more all-ages, sustainable venues and some great bands check it out!

Booking Form

Oops, we had a problem with our Booking Form for a few weeks! If you tried to book a show at Astorino’s and never heard back from us, your form never reached us. Sorry! Please try again: http://www.safeamp.org/events/astorinos.html

The year of venue death continues as Artbank prepares to close this August.   :(   

Since the beginning of this year, Vancouver has seen a surge in the number of evictions and closures of cultural spaces.

The 2013 dead-venue list already includes the Waldorf, the Junction, Rhizome, John, the Mansion, the Nines, ROYGBIV, and Nowhere, and we’ve only just entered June.

Many of these were small community spaces created out of nothing by passionate, independent artists in the most expensive city in North America, and without any support or legal recognition from the City.

The latest loss appears to be the Zoo Zhop, a Downtown Eastside record store and music venue that has been holding live concerts since 2009. Located at 223 Main Street, the Zoo Zhop has been an open and affordable space for local bands, and has built a vibrant community, serving as a launch-pad for many young artists and musicians.

The current threat against the venue comes after an unannounced visit by Vancouver Fire & Rescue Services on May 30. The surprise inspection resulted in a list of 14 repairs that must be completed to comply with the Vancouver’s fire bylaws. While those repairs are reasonable requests that should enhance the safety of attendees, the list was preceded by a demand to cease holding concerts entirely, regardless of whether or not the repairs are completed.

The space has been inspected before, but it has never been ordered to stop holding concerts. There have been no recent amendments to fire bylaws that would make music in the space illegal.

In Vancouver, which has the most unaffordable real-estate market in Canada, arts spaces often close because, in the face of high rents and other costs, it is very difficult to break even. To make sure that artists and musicians are able to live and work here, the city should be taking action to address high rents being charged to retail, residential, and cultural spaces.

Vision Vancouver has so far been unwilling to act significantly on that issue. They argue that there isn’t anything they can do when spaces are evicted because of the financial relationship between tenants and landlords. The Zoo Zhop’s situation is different because the city clearly can act here. The venue is not threatened by financial or contractual issues; it is a regulatory matter suddenly being enforced by city staff.

The first time Vancouver was described as a “No Fun City” was back in 2002. Almost 10 years later, in an attempt to address what the city itself called “contradictory and outdated policies and regulations”, the Regulatory Review on Live Performance Venues began.

Earlier this year, staff finally made one small piece of progress, launching the Arts and Culture Indoor Event Pilot Program, which allows small events in spaces that would otherwise not be allowed to host them. Unfortunately, it does not help permanent venues like the Zoo Zhop, as spaces that hold more than two events per month are ineligible for the program.

The local arts community is still waiting for the rest of the understaffed regulatory review to be completed; in the meantime, venues like the Zoo Zhop continue to fall victim to inspectors given far too much leeway to decree an end to music with the stroke of a pen.

Instead of banning concerts, the city should take up a cooperative and collaborative approach to help facilities to make safety improvements while allowing them to continue holding events. The ability to keep this venue open and safe is well within the capacity of city hall.

Although action on the Zoo Zhop will not be enough to stop the systemic loss of art space due to high rents and gentrification, Vision Vancouver should certainly intervene here and show that their claims of support for the arts community are at least somewhat sincere.

A petition has been started by the operators of the Zoo Zhop and is available here.

Repost from Zoo Zhop’s facebook page:

The Zoo Zhop is a combined record store and performance space at 223 Main Street, which has held concerts by local and touring bands since 2009.

Last summer, Vancouver Fire & Rescue Services delivered a Notice of Violation asking us to make four minor alterations to the interior of the Zoo Zhop. We did that, and everything proceeded just fine. Until… this past Thursday, May 30, they returned unannounced and served a new Notice of Violation, asking us to “please not use this premise for conerts [sic]” and also to make 14 further alterations to the space. We had a concert scheduled for the next night and did not cancel it, thinking we would be given more than 24 hours to comply with the previous requests. Sure enough, the fire department returned, again demanding we “stop temporary activities - no shows, concerts” and this time threatening to “shutter” the building.

After nearly four years of holding concerts, why are we suddenly being asked to stop? Did the law change, or is the fire department selectively enforcing old laws? We will happily make the 14 minor alterations as requested, but we don’t think it’s reasonable to stop holding concerts completely. Music is not a crime, and our venue is a valuable resource for the local community that should be allowed to continue.

If you agree and want to help, please email mayorandcouncil@vancouver.ca, fill out the Vancouver Fire & Rescue Services feedback form at http://vancouver.ca/your-government/send-feedback-about-fire-and-rescue-services.aspx, sign our petition at https://www.change.org/petitions/vancouver-fire-rescue-services-vancouver-city-hall-work-with-the-individuals-at-the-zoo-zhop-to-allow-events-to-continue
 and spread the word through online and mainstream media.

Thank you for your ongoing support. Please sign the petition below and share it with friends.

Work party tomorrow
You want a legal all-ages venue in Vancouver? We can’t do it without your help! Specifically, tomorrow (Saturday May 25), we need some peeps to do a bit of physical labour. No skills required, just drop by and pull up yr sleeves! Any time between 10am and 4pm at 1739 Venables. More info at: https://www.facebook.com/events/159091937596952/
More QUOTES from election candidates on local music issues

TOMORROW IS ELECTION DAY! Are you ready? Yesterday we posted some ‘interesting’ quotes from various candidates. As promised, here is an ‘alternative’ set of ‘interesting’ quotes:

"The Green Party can’t explain the situation. We would change the liquor legislation. […] The Liquor legislation in this province should be modernized." - Green Party, Central Campaign Office

The BC NDP’s platform includes a commitment to undertake a comprehensive review to modernize BC’s liquor laws. If the NDP forms the next government, we would be interested in hearing your ideas for addressing this issue.” - NDP, Central Campaign Office

"we should take a look at liberalizing regulations on where performance can be held. This would most likely need to go hand in hand with modernization of liquor licensing regulations. But I am open to a variety of models here, as I believe live performance is one of the key ingredients to creating a shared cultural umbrella, and is therefore worth supporting." - Damir Wallener, Conservative Party, Cowichan Valley

"Aside from preventing teenagers from accessing alcohol and any other legal restrictions on venues hosting all-ages events, Today’s BC Liberals believe that decisions about children and teenagers attending live music events are best left to parents and families." - BC Liberal Party, Central Campaign Office

"our social liquor laws are badly outdated and can be changed  I believe people should be able to attend any music function no matter what age regardless if some people of age are drinking. Its good for families" - Brunie Brunie, Independent, Nanaimo

"I think that we have more problems because we have strict laws against consumption of liquor by youth in North America, where in Europe laws are more liberal. I think that without youth being able to attend it is harder for newer and more innovative acts to break out. If elected, I would work to get rid of all unjust and unnecessary laws" - Ryan Conroy, Green Party, North Vancouver - Lonsdale

"The laws have to be changed and updated.  If children were exposed to adults drinking sensibly and in a relaxed, safe, entertaining environment, they might be less likely to abuse alcohol when old enough to consume it.   I am not a drinker but I don’t think the law is reasonable." - Terry Platt, NDP, West Vancouver - Capilano

"antiquated liquor laws are not serving society anymore.  Why a venue cannot put on both all ages and 19+ shows is a result of red tape and that needs to change.  Compare BC to Europe where younger teens are able to attend these venues.  These countries experience a healthier attitude towards alcohol in general." - Duane Nickull, Conservative Party, Vancouver Point Grey

I think it is ridicules that the BC Liberals made all ages events illegal in BC for venues that hold a liquor-primary license. […] people are banned from events because of misguided liquor laws implemented by the BC Liberals. These rules will not solve the problem for-which they have been designed. […] I do not think age restrictions at events will effectively reduce under-age drinking. If given the opportunity, I will propose changes to the Liquor Control and Licensing Act” - Matthew Pedley, Green Party, Vancouver - Fairview


liquor laws shouldn’t make people roll their eyes.” - Nicolas Simons, NDP, Powell River - Sunshine Coast

"Banning citizens under 19 has no reasonable basis." - Gary Young, Independent, Cariboo - Chilcotin

"we have archaic liquor laws stemming from the age of Prohibition! These laws make it a pain for venue owners to provide more all-ages events in licensed facilities." - Susan Low, Green Party, Esquimalt - Royal Roads

"it would be great to open up live music venues to a young crowd." - Elizabeth Rosenau, NDP, Maple Ridge - Pitt Meadows

"Age restrictions are not ethical for merely attending shows." - Duane Nickull, Conservative Party, Vancouver Point Grey

"There is no reasonable explanation. Current liquour laws should be changed to allow all people to participate in these events providing they are not drinking under age." - Terry Teather, Green Party, New Westminster

"I don’t think they should be age restricted." - Kerry Lynn, BC Excalibur Party, Abbotsford West

"Years ago, when I was visiting in Ireland, I remember that the whole family could go to a local pub and enjoy the music. There were drinking age restrictions and intolerance for drunkenness but there was also a sense that everyone was welcome and could be accommodated. Recently, in Victoria, I was setting up a luncheon for the Churchill Foundation VI and the majority wanted to go to the Bengal Room at the Empress.  That would mean that our 17 year old Board member could not go to the meeting!  How silly is that.  We had to change venues and several of the folks decided not to attend." - Mayo McDonough, Green Party, Nanaimo - North Cowichan

"The BC NDP has spoken out against the piecemeal approach to changing liquor regulations that has been taken, including the recent changes made in November 2012 that impacted all ages events." - NDP, Central Campaign Office

My family and I attend several music festivals a year, and what typically happens is the of-age folks get an extra wristband at the gate. This makes enforcement on the alcohol side straight forward. Perhaps we could move to a similar model for club-like venues.” - Damir Wallener, Conservative Party, Cowichan Valley

"The existing laws have nothing to do with public safety, morality or control of minors and everything to do with maximizing control and picking winners and losers via limited prohibition and licensing. We would change the legislation. […] I would prefer to see the ability of a parent to take responsibility for a minor at an event rather than have the event be restricted based on age." - Chris George, Green Party, Shuswap

"age restrictions take away our right to use discretion both as patrons and hosts of music events." - Carlos Serra, Green Party, Juan de Fuca

"I believe that venues should not restrict young people based on the availability of alcohol, but rather on the venue’s ability to police the dispensing of such alcohol." - Kevin Mitchell, Independent, Fort Langley - Aldergrove

"I have spent a fair bit of time in the province of Quebec where the Liquor laws are more relaxed. Based on what I have seen there i can see no reason why our laws should be so restrictive.  In fact I recently went to a concert in the commodore which I wanted to take my 17 year old son too as well but alas……." - Tim Binnema, Green Party, Surrey - Fleetwood

"Last year, New Democrats stood with community partners and businesses, like Vancouver’s The Rio and Denman Theatre, to successfully fight for amendments to liquor regulations that would save some of Vancouver’s oldest cultural venues and help ensure community-supported small businesses like The Rio can continue to thrive." - NDP, Central Campaign Office

"I would make it much easier for venues to get a liquor licence" - Jeremy Gustafson, Independent, Vancouver - Mount Pleasant

"If the NDP forms the next government, we would be happy to meet with you to discuss ways in which we can work together to support community-based live music venues." - NDP, Central Campaign Office

"I am all for supporting the growth of British Columbian culture, and would like to see funding for music venues, as well as more tour and recording funding for independent BC bands." - Ryan Conroy, Green Party, North Vancouver - Lonsdale

"The average musician spends thousands of hours just to prepare for their first live event.  The very definition of a musician is someone who nowadays puts $5,000 in a $500 car to drive 100 kilometers to a gig to earn $50.  That has to change.  I am a musician and I will stand up for our rights." - Duane Nickull, Conservative Party, Vancouver Point Grey

"arts and culture is an incredibly important sector in British Columbia, and Today’s BC Liberals have demonstrated our commitment to it by launching BC Creative Futures, a strategy to support sustainable, long-term success for British Columbia’s creative sector. […] A key part of the strategy is a $6.25 million increase in arts and culture funding for this fiscal year, including a $5.25 million boost to the BC Arts Council. This raises the BC Arts Council budget to $24 million, its highest ever from government." - BC Liberal Party, Central Campaign Office

"we are increasing support for the BC Arts Council to $29 million annually" - NDP, Central Campaign Office

"any public venues should be at no cost for local live music."  - Gary Young, Independent, Cariboo - Chilcotin

"I am in favour of government supporting the arts.  Art, music, theatre gives pleasure to daily life. It is therapeutic." - Terry Platt, NDP, West Vancouver - Capilano

"Providing venues is a great way to encourage community involvement." - Chris George, Green Party, Shuswap

"I see a role for government to promote artists, which enhance communities and improve our quality of life.  Live music has never been more important in our communities."  - Nicolas Simons, NDP, Powell River - Sunshine Coast

"check my web" - Brunie Brunie, Independent, Nanaimo