By Graham McFie
VANCOUVER — The 38th annual Powell Street Festival will be bringing a little of something for everyone while centring on the theme of roots.
Kristen Lambertson, general manager and program director for the Powell Street Festival Society, spoke of representing the roots and origins from Japan while exploring their presence in Canadian culture through this year’s theme. “We’re looking at how artists are exploring new paths and trajectories to their artistic expression and interpretation of what it means to have Japanese heritage or to be Japanese-Canadian,” Lambertson added.
From Aug. 1 – 3, there will be dance (both performance and participatory), music performances including a perpetual sound installation, a film screening, theatre performances, the launch of a chapbook and a speaker series. Additionally, all daytime events are free. “The festival has come to represent a homecoming for some people,” Lambertson said.
Emi Honda and Jordan McKenzie of Elfin Saddle fame can align themselves with this sentiment after recently returning to the West Coast from Montreal. “I’ve really been going through a process of returning to my own roots,” McKenzie said. “Also, the work we are presenting is kind of an act of trying to revisit the roots that connect all of us in the natural world and the cycles that intertwine within it.”
The work McKenzie mentions is the sound temple installation: a non-digitized motorized arrangement—or, “a primitive computer.” By rotating magnets on a central canister, certain switches will be turned on and off, supported by other secondary switches, to operate an air organ, a guitar, a ukulele and a turntable playing pre-recorded cycles. Meanwhile, a speaker will be mounted on drums to add percussion.
“When it’s running on its own it’s a bit more enchanting,” McKenzie said. “I like the idea of a person exploring it and coming up with their own way of looking at it and exploring it.”
Local band Late Spring approaches the roots theme from the opposite end: none of the members are from Vancouver. Guitarist and vocalist Casey refers to Yasujiro Ozu’s Late Spring, a Japanese film, as inspiration for the band’s name, and feels the name represents their moment in time as a band. “We all met during art school, Ryan, Nick and I,” said Casey. “Once we graduated, that gave us more time to remember what it was like to want to play music. That was something I felt I really wanted to return to that I missed.”
Kyla LeBlanc a.k.a. Kytami said she connects to the festival’s theme through her instrument and training. Being classically trained, Kytami then challenged her fiddle, and began viewing herself as a “violinextremist.” By combining electronic styles like dubstep with her fiddle, Kytami synthesizes past roots and the present moment, which the festival is glad to host.
“They’ve been trying to get me for a while,” she said. “I’m glad that the times have worked out.”
Powell Street Festival takes place August 1st-3rd in various venues across the city. Kytami performs Saturday, August 2, in the early evening and will close the day’s performances (stage to be confirmed). Late Spring opens for GRMLN Friday, August 1, at Electric Owl (926 Main Street); doors will open at 8 and tickets are $8 in advance/$10 at the door. Emi Honda and Jordan McKenzie perform Saturday, August 2, in the early afternoon at Centre A (229 E Georgia Street). Their installation will remain at Centre A until September. See http://www.powellstreetfestival.com for more information.BC, British Columbia, festival season, Japanese heritage, Powell Street Festival