Local talents take over the first night of Westward Music Festival

Gang Signs with Peregrine Falls, Spruce Trap, and ACTORS 9/14/17

Photo courtesy of MRG Concerts
Photo courtesy of MRG Concerts

The first-ever Westward Music Festival kicked off Thursday [Sept. 14] at several venues including the Vogue, the Biltmore, the Imperial, and Fox Cabaret. Much has been made about WMF’s headliners like Vince Staples, A Tribe Called Red, PUP, and Bishop Briggs (and rightfully so), but night one at the Fox showed off four of Vancouver’s own fine talents.

From the careening drama of ACTORS’ dark post-punk – filled with neon keys, cutting guitar, propulsive drums, and deep, sometimes fuzzy basslines – the night jumped to tailspinning post-rock with Spruce Trap. With two guitars and drums, the trio created an illusion of a much grander ensemble. Think a condensed Godspeed You! Black Emperor, mostly the Montreal titans’ spare moments of beauty and clarity when the dust settles in one of their apocalyptic soundtracks. It was quite a sight seeing the two guitarists, Eric Furugori and Isaac Jeffs, kneel on the floor during the apex of their first song and twist the knobs and switches on their pedal boards creating all sorts of squiggling, spastic noise. 

Peregrine Falls were deliciously destructive as always, continuing the noisy trajectory set by Spruce Trap but shedding the conventional beauty of the latter band’s more melodic moments. Peregrine Falls’ searing fusion of metal, jazz, and unbridled discordance rose from Gordon Grdina whipping his guitar mercilessly with a bow and Kenton Loewen beating his kit until every part of it rocked and nearly fell over. Grdina addressed everyone sitting at the back of the room: “That’s cool ‘cause you got the best seat in the house.” He encouraged everyone else to move right up to the front because they were already up there. (“Might as well. You’re already here.”) Standing adjacent to the door though, I think I had the best spot; the breeze wafted through the entrance, hitting me as if I was feeling the force of the band.

Gang Signs shut down the first night of WMF at the Fox with their signature organic electronic pop-rock. Live instrumentation including 80s sci-fi chase music synth makes this band. Unfortunately, though, all multi-venue festivals risk stretching attendance too thin. By 12:15 am, the headcount for even a band as beloved as Gang Signs had dwindled to around 35 people on the floor. At least everyone was mostly drunk and dancing, clearly enjoying themselves, unconcerned by the vacant space around them.

Sept. 16, I head to the Vogue for a more sonically uniform affair featuring local punk bands Sightlines and BRASS and touring punks from L.A. and Toronto, Touché Amoré and headliners PUP. Will the floor be fuller and throbbing? Here’s to finding out.

Leslie Ken Chu

Leslie Ken Chu

Contributor