By Jeevin Johal
VANCOUVER – With the summer months coming to an end, and winter rearing its ugly head around the corner, threatening Vancouverites into a lengthy hibernation, MRG Concerts provided us with one last surge of sonic adrenaline in the form of Westward Music Fest.
Premiering its first year, Westward boasted an eclectic lineup of artists from around North America, and spanned across some of Vancouver’s most popular clubs and concert venues including the Imperial Ballroom, VENUE Nightclub, and the Biltmore Cabaret. The lineup also helped showcase some of our city’s own brightest stars, offering a healthy dose of local favourites. Whatever your poison, Westward had something to stimulate and intrigue the senses, whether you chose to go to one show, or bounce around all weekend.
Toronto punk rock outfit Pup made their triumphant return to Vancouver selling out the Vogue Theatre at one of the most anticipated shows of the Festival. The band shred through some of their most catchy, anthemic tracks off of their stellar 2016 album The Dream is Over, and even sprinkled in a few older, choice tracks. Opening with their smash hit, “Doubts,” and ending the night with “DVP,” the band’s ferocity never slowed down, and audience members kept up with all the fury, inciting a circle pit that would make any punk rock purist proud. The only casualty being the usual few, lone shoes with nowhere to walk to.
Los Angeles Post-Hardcore group Touche Amore provided support making for an even more relentless night, but the real treat came from local punkers, Brass, who were given the opening slot. Quickly rising from playing every small club and dive bar in the city, to finally dawning the stage at the Vogue, Brass more than earned their spot on this roster, never letting it go to their heads and remaining true to everything they stand for: Pure Punk Rock.
Another Toronto star on the rise, Charlotte Day Wilson, had the pressure of playing before rap superstar, Vince Staples. Wilson’s unique blend of soul and folk was a soothing precursor to what was to come, though her talent may have been slightly lost on the audience, who were hyped up for big beats and flashy lights. If you could hear over the chatter though, you discovered Wilson’s angelic beauty through passionately subdued vocals that fused with delicate funk rhythms.
Vince Staples – Live at The Vogue Theatre – Photo by Bryce HunnersonThen of course there was Vince Staples. On his latest album Big Fish Theory, Staples explores an America on a downward spiral of violence and racism. At only 23, Staples has developed a bleak world view, and his cynicism comes off intensely in his live show. For most of the night, he remained in silhouette before a bright orange screen as thick clouds of fog poured throughout the audience. Alone on stage with only his microphone in hand, Staples captivated the crowd, cruising through tracks from throughout his discography. Probably the biggest name on the bill, Staples most certainly brought the ruckus to Westward Fest.
Closing out the festival were frequent Van City visitors, A Tribe Called Red, whose lush and colourful live show always succeeds in enticing audiences to get up and dance. By merging elements of their First Nations heritage with an array of contemporary electronic influences, A Tribe Called Red have procured a status in the Canadian music scene that not only entertains, but reminds us of their culture’s historical significance in our country.A Tribe Called Red, Pup, The Biltmore Cabaret, The Vogue Theatre, Venue Nightclub, Vince Staples