Women in the Pit – Idles at The Rickshaw. 4th October 2018.

I am angry today.

Generally, I am angry that we live in a world where men still believe that aggression and physical dominance gives them power over other people.

Specifically, I am angry that my personal enjoyment of a much anticipated show by one of my favourite bands was tainted by the enduring shit-show of toxic masculinity that sadly typifies our society.

I am so angry, in fact, that I cannot adequately summarize what happened. Luckily, my totally badass friend Victoria Spooner (who also happens to be a rad bassist, broadcaster and all-round power woman – follow her on Twitter at @urban_sorceress if you’re interested – you should be), succinctly and accurately  summed up our shared experience for me by saying “I went to the show looking to connect with a band who I think see the issues I care about but then I didn’t get to let off steam like I wanted to because there was no space for me to do it. 

And that’s just it. There isn’t space. I don’t mean, of course, that there isn’t space in The Rickshaw (it’s massive). What I mean is that CIS white men are taking up all the space in the pit, with no regard for anyone else. Of course this happens everywhere, but last night was pitiful beyond words – men who have paid to see a band whose lyrics and ideologies are absolutely raging against everything that was happening in that room at that time. Idles’ frontman Joe Talbot said in an interview with KEXP on Wednesday: “I find acts of machismo grotesque. We need to question our behavior as musicians for the greater good – which is not “act like a man,” but act like a good person”. But the men in last night’s audience were either not listening, or had forgotten this message completely whilst shouting lyrics such as “Men are scared women will laugh in their face // Whereas women are scared it’s their lives men will take” and “The mask // Of masculinity // Is a mask //A mask that’s wearing me” whilst pushing women to the floor and elbowing them in the face, without even a hint of irony or self awareness.

No-one is asking to be given special treatment in the pit. We’re all there for the same reason. We are simply asking for space – space to dance or mosh or do whatever the fuck we want. Put simply, if you are part of the majority in that pit (usually a white CIS male) then make space for others. Power taken away from anyone who is a minority in that space should be given back. Just be self aware. Be a decent human to everyone. Not just women. Anyone who is struggling. Anyone who is shorter than you. Anyone who just wants to have a good time without having your sweaty elbows in their face. I grew up in the mosh pit. I can totally handle it. But a good pit is not a hostile parade of bitter masculinity.

Last month, I interviewed Joe Talbot for BeatRoute Magazine. Coincidentally (or perhaps not, since Idles are so vocal about their support of feminism), we discussed this precise phenomenon. Talbot’s stance on this was pretty clear: “It is disturbing how easily a bunch of men encourage each other to act like Neanderthals. we need to openly encourage men to take a back seat or just allow for  equal opportunity – that’s the key. We want venues to be safe places for everyone in the room”. I couldn’t have put it better myself.

I am embarrassed for the white CIS men of Vancouver. I am embarrassed that they would go out to see a band who vehemently protest against this kind of toxic masculinity and then behave in this way anyway. At the end of our interview, Talbot says: “I’ve been trying to think of a way to get women to the front without just doing a Kathleen Hanna, but I might just have to do a Kathleen Hanna”. Sad as it is, sometimes you’ve still just got to do a Kathleen Hanna.

Idles were absolutely fucking top, by the way. (Yes that’s right, my reviewing skills have hit an all-time high).

 

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Kitty and the Rooster – ANZA. Saturday 22nd September.

Yes that’s right: after a 3 month summer hiatus (during which I stared wistfully at a range of sunsets and returned to being a librarian – as you do) WMV is back, baby. Thanks for your patience. Over the next couple of months I’m planning to experiment with some different (more manageable) formats for reviews etc. So bear with me please. I love you all.

Anyway, if anything was going to inspire me to start reviewing again, it was an impromptu experience with Vancouver’s most delightfully bizarre band, Kitty and the Rooster, at Vancouver’s most delightfully bizarre venue, The ANZA.

With lyrics about dicks, lady gardens and masturbation, Kitty and the Rooster were already right up my street. But Jodie Ponto’s (Kitty) incredibly powerful voice, coupled with the skill of guitar-wizard (Rooster) Noah Walker and the harmonies and dance-moves of backing singers the Cockettes was a wonder to behold.

The audience had a blast dancing to the band’s awesome cover of Bloodhound Gang’s The Bad Touch and chanting along to their catchy and hilarious lyrics on tracks such as Shameover and Paid a Million Dollars (To Live Like You’re Poor).

The duo sing about everything from being ‘a lousy lay’ to Vancouver’s housing crisis. But behind the ludicrous lyrics and playful merch (including ‘cock suckers’ and ‘pussy lickers’), Ponto and Walker are exceptionally talented musicians. Their sound is a perfect blend of tight guitar riffs and rhythmic drums, resulting in an upbeat bluesy-surf vibe that demands to be danced to.

Kitty and the Rooster are definitely a band to see live – their stage personas and charismatic performance make them the most fun you can have with your clothes on on a soggy September Saturday in Vancouver.

 

 

Vancouver’s own takes Melbourne – an interview with Meiwa, aka Kristie McCracken.

Vancouver-born dream-soul r&b babe Meiwa is taking Melbourne by storm with her ethereally beautiful new single, Wonder. The songwriting for her new track comes from a deeply emotional and spiritual place. “This is the first track I released as Meiwa. It was written this past Valentine’s day when I was feeling particularly blue. Instead of eating chocolate and drinking wine in bed, I dragged myself to a yoga class. During a heart opening posture, I had wave of emotion surge through me and began to weep and my mind went to a place I had been once before. I was approaching what I thought was a deserted island when I saw a little girl climb out of the trees. It was me as a child. She asked, ‘Where have you been? I’ve been waiting for you.’ And we walked along the beach together, getting to know each other again. What I interpreted from this was that my inner child had been abandoned for nearly 25 years, and stuck at this specific age from a traumatic experience that was never addressed. The song is illustrated through the eyes of my inner child, asking adult-me, ‘Did you forget? Did you care for me?”

Meiwa officially launched her new single on June 29th at Some Velvet Morning in her newly adopted home of Melbourne. “The launch will be my first performance with a full band; Michael Cooper on keys, Jamie Stroud on bass, Ryan Haus on drums, and Helena Leijon Eriksson and Nic Duqe on backing vocals. The rehearsals are sounding amazing and our energy together is beautiful and magnetic, I look forward to many more shows with these legends!”

Meiwa was born to be a musician and has been supported all the way by her musical family members. “Mum says I was singing when I was born and attributes my vocal abilities to being colic as a baby. Ha! Some of my earliest memories are singing karaoke at family parties, ‘Somewhere Out There’ from the movie An American Tail was my jam… closely followed by ‘Country Road’ and anything by the Bee Gees. My grandparents on both sides were very musical and creative; on my mum’s side, my gung gung played many classical Chinese instruments and my poh poh was a beautiful classical singer. My grandma on my dad’s side was a school teacher and played the organ and accordion. Both my parents can sing (they might argue!) though neither of them pursued music. We grew up listening to Bob Dylan, Neil Young, The, Rod Stewart, Bee Gees. My parents have always been incredibly supportive of my brother and I in pursuing music.

The first song I wrote was on the piano around age 4 or 5. First song on the guitar at age 10. I was in choir and band in elementary school; in grade 7 I played bass guitar in jazz band, that was a real highlight. My first performing band started in 2001; an all girl 4-piece band called Stained Glass. We had 1 song and 2 dance routines. It brings me joy reliving these memories – I’m currently laughing out loud!”

Kristie’s first real performance as a solo artist was in 2007 at the Media Club in Vancouver. “It was Aaron Nazrul’s (The Boom Booms) album launch party. You can still find the Youtube videos floating around. That’s where I met my singing soul mate, Janette King. The moment we sang together, we burst into tears, it was magic. At our first jam in August 2008, we recorded 3 songs and created our band The Ponderosas.”

The Ponderosa’s quickly became a hit on the Vancouver music scene, attracting the attention of both local artists and travelling musicians: “We attended an open mic at Calabash Bistro, where we met Patrick Watson Quine and Jonny Holisko of Natural Flavas. After our performance they invited us to join them on their Bob Marley birthday bash tour. We continued to sing backing vocals for Natural Flavas and got to support iconic artists including ‘Mr. Rocksteady’ Ken Boothe and Leroy ‘Heptones’ Sibbles. I’d say opening for Toots and the Maytals at The Commodore was a real highlight.”

Building on this early success, The Ponderosas became a well-known name here in Vancouver over the course of 6 years; playing festivals like Shambhala and Victoria Ska & Reggae Fest, and opening for international artists like Shaggy and Barrington Levy. “We were coined ‘world pop party band’”

I ask Meiwa about her experiences growing up as a female musician in Vancouver: “Fronting a band from the age 20-26 with another young woman of colour was an incredible experience. I think that the love and support we had for each other as bandmates and friends had a massively positive influence on how we experienced being in The Ponderosas and in our interactions with others in the music industry. We built Pondies from the ground up and were shown a lot of love along the way.” 

But this incredibly powerful formative experience of female solidarity was not without it’s hardships: “Sure, I cried during sound check a few times in the past as a result of being disrespected by a sound technician. I think that stuff will continue to happen regardless of who we are, and it’s not okay, and we need to be comfortable standing up for ourselves. I have since had many opportunities to stand up for myself in an assertive and graceful manner.”

Having said this, Meiwa is able to recall many times where she has felt respected and valued by musicians and music professionals of all genders: “As a backing vocalist, I have had many positive experience. In 2012 at a rehearsal for Victoria Ska and Reggae Festival, Leroy Sibbles of The Heptones requested we do a live video of “I Shall Be Released” acapella (check it on YouTube). And I’ll never forget at Surrey Reggae Festival in 2016 when Luciano the Messenjah took the time to introduce every band member by our first name, and he also called me empress. You can imagine, I squealed! To be clear; not all artists know or remember their backing bands on a first name basis. In many cases, we meet for one rehearsal before the gig and then we play. Overall, I have felt a lot of support and have had positive experiences as a woman in the Vancouver music industry.”

Meiwa is an inspiration for women and girls who love music – she is a fiercely independent woman who is passionately following her dream, wherever it may take her. Her advice? – “Surround yourself with people that care about you and that inspire you to be the best version of yourself. It’s all about building community. My top three pieces of wisdom are:

  1. Try new things! I’m always trying new things however big or small; sometimes it doesn’t work and then I try something different. At the end of the day it’s all working towards growing as a musician. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “I wish I could play (insert instrument)”. Try it! Try every instrument and give it a solid effort. You never know until you try.
  2. Ask for help when you need it. We can’t do everything on our own. And asking someone for help builds trust and strengthens relationships. Offering your help is important too. The music scene isn’t about sizing each other up, it’s about building each other up. We’re all in this together.
  3. Speak up and stand up for what you believe in. You can start a movement!”

The reality of being a musician is that you’ve got to be prepared to put the work in. “It involves a lot of sitting in front a computer. On average per week, I spend around 30 hours doing administrative work and 1 hour performing. Set up a good work space, stay organized, and be prepared to hustle! Being accountable and professional is huge! Also, learn how to properly wrap a cable! Surprisingly, it is a skill that not many people have, and my goodness is it valuable, especially when you’re working with other musicians, technicians, and engineers.”

Inspired by her success here in Vancouver, and encouraged by a whole host of awesome musicians, Meiwa relocated to Melbourne in 2017 to pursue her music career. “In spring 2017, I joined Vancouver band Buckman Coe on tour as backing vocalist and support act in Australia for a month. We had such an amazing time and I met so many wonderful people that I knew I’d be back. Later that summer in Vancouver, I met some really lovely musicians from Australia who were planning to tour BC and Alberta. The same night we met, I decided to help organize and join them on tour, and we had an epic few weeks of shows and adventures. In an attempt to lessen the heartache of having to say goodbye on our last day together, we sat around my kitchen table and I booked a flight to visit them in December. And what do you know, I’m still here! I’ve since rebranded from Kristie McCracken to Meiwa, released a single, got together a band of phenomenal musicians and all-round legendary friends, and have plans to tour and play festivals over the next year. I’ve also had the honour of joining Australia’s first lady of R&B, Thando, on backing vocals. It’s all been an incredible experience and I am so very grateful!”

For me, Meiwa’s story is a reminder that hard work and determination are all you really need to make your dreams work. Yes, it’s going to take time. No, it ain’t going to be easy. But if you love something enough, it’s worth your time and energy. Act from a place of love, badass babes.

Any last pieces of advice from this musical powerhouse?
“Your music is valuable and there is space for it in this world, whatever genre it is, or whatever box anyone tries to put it in. Keep doing you! Put your music out there, set up a Soundcloud account and share your music.”

 

 

Girls Rock Camp Vancouver: An interview with Ana Rose, organizer and ex-camper.

“Girls Rock Camp is designed to empower female oriented people to become part of the music industry, because it is very male dominated.” Ana Rose Walkey first joined Rock Camp as a thirteen year old camper in 2009, and now she is a key member of their team of organizers. “There’s a week-long camp every summer. The kids can learn to play whatever instrument they want – they don’t have to have experience. They form bands with other campers, and the goal is to write a song with your band and perform it at the Rio theatre.” Since 2009, a dedicated group of volunteer organizers have dedicated vast amounts of their time and energy to create, manage and sustain the incredible project that is Girls Rock Camp Vancouver.

“Girls Rock Camp is about letting these girls have an open space to express themselves. Everywhere else in the world there are taboos and walls that you have to jump over.  We try to include everyone.” Ana Rose tells me. “Anyone who identifies as female can join the camp. I’m super passionate about feminism – it’s so important. Because feminism isn’t just about women – it’s about being inclusive and getting rid of all kinds of oppression.” Ana Rose talks openly about how her views on equality translate into her work with Girls Rock Camp: “We really want to make sure that we incorporate all gender identities and sexual orientations. It’s awesome to have a camp that’s as inclusive as it can be, financially as well – it’s a sliding scale, so if you can’t pay the full cost just give what you can”. Rock Camp takes place each summer at the Urban Native Youth Association on East Hastings, “We have really good community connections and we’re very lucky because they donate that space to us every year.”

Ana Rose plays drums, but she’s not currently playing with a band. “I haven’t had as much experience of performing in Vancouver as I would like to. I find that I can be hesitant to share my ideas, especially in a group of guys. I’ve been in those situations many times where I’m in a band the male members write all the songs and there’s no changing it. That was the rule. They are really talented, so that’s awesome, but I found it weird because part of the creative process is letting other people have an input.” But more recently, there have been some positive experiences of working with other musicians “Luckily I’ve been jamming a bit with a friend of mine now, he’s super supportive and also kind of modest – so he will write a song but ask for my help, and that’s really nice. Finally I’m in a space where I feel perfectly comfortable. And we are able to tag-team and write a song together as opposed to someone saying ‘here’s what I wrote. Here are the chords. Play them.”

Ana Rose also experienced sexism as a female musician in her high school band “We had a rock band class, which was so awesome. But I was the only female drummer of course, and I always found that my teacher would put the guys on the good songs, even though I could play them. We did Sweet Child O’ Mine by Guns N Roses which has always been one of my favourite songs, I LOVED playing that on the drums. But at the school show, he gave the song to a male drummer – I remember thinking, come on man! I love this song, I wanna play it! It was kinda frustrating, and it got to me.” But her experience at Rock Camp has meant that Ana Rose was determined not to let this stop her from pursuing her passion for music “On the flip-side, there’s Rock Camp and the group of women that I’ve met through that, who are all so talented and helpful. And I’ve found it interesting that when you get immersed in a scene that’s just women, it’s a totally different experience – everyone’s just having a good time. I of course there are cases of jealousy and rivalry, but in general we are more supportive of each other instead of tearing each other down. We all go to each other’s shows. And I know that if and when I do get into a band, they would support me 100% – I already have a fanbase! It’s shown me that it can be just a matter of finding the right people to surround yourself with.”

Ana Rose tells me that she could “blab forever” about Rock Camp and how it helped her as a young musician in a male-dominated industry, and she is clearly very passionate about the project. “Honestly, the reason I became a musician is because of Rock Camp. It’s really cool now, being an organiser and seeing more of the behind the scenes stuff and actually realizing how much work it takes to put this on. It’s this group of women who are literally volunteering hours and hours of their time to put this on. And that in itself is so inspiring. Just to have people who care so much about this. It’s crazy, having being a camper, to see how much goes into this.”

At this point, I play the stereotypical journalist and ask Ana Rose what advice she would give to young women who’d like to explore getting into music. She laughs: “Step one: go to Rock Camp! But on a more serious note – I still struggle with this, but just believe in yourself, trust yourself and try to get your voice out there. Yeah it’s tough, but music wouldn’t be a thing if people didn’t just put their stuff out there. But yeah – go to Rock Camp. That helps a lot. We’ll all support you, we’ll be there for you, we’ll get you on your feet.”

“Volunteering at Rock Camp is so rewarding!  It’s such a magical thing. I always have to prepare myself not to cry when I talk about Rock Camp because it really changed my life. It is the push that brought me back into music. It can be tough as an instructor, because you’re in a room with ten kids and you’ve got the 8 year old who’s never played their instrument before and then you’ve got the 17 year old who can play better than you. But then it’s kind of nice too because you get the older kids helping the younger kids. And they do that on their own terms a lot of the time.” Girls Rock Camp are looking for volunteers to support their camp this year (July 9th-13th): “Get involved! Even if you don’t have a musical background you can volunteer.”

Movements like Girls Rock Camp are redressing the balance at a grassroots level – teaching young women that they can achieve creatively in a world that still seems determined to encourage us to believe that we have to ascribe to patriarchal gender roles. Teaching people of all genders about equality is the only way to generate real change, and Girls Rock Camp is doing an incredible job of perpetuating that message across North America (and further). Find out more or sign up at https://girlsrockcampvancouver.ca.

Eastside Studios Grand Opening Party – Friday 1st June.

Crowds of people turned out to celebrate the opening of Eastside Flea’s new 20,000sqft arts and culture space in Vancouver’s Strathcona neighbourhood, Eastside Studios. In the wake of the recent closure of some of Vancouver’s most beloved spaces (see here and here), this marks a valiant endeavour to buck the trend of the city’s cultural community spaces being eclipsed by big business and real estate. The jubilant community feel that is always present at The Eastside Flea is brought to a whole new level in the party atmosphere of their incredible new space. The decor in the warehouse is minimal but effortlessly cool – vintage lamps, coloured lighting and colourful foliage add spots of brightness to the enormous space.

It’s not long before crowds flock in and start to revel in the celebratory atmosphere. DJs Paisley Eva and Hannah K of DAME kick off the party with some huge tunes – their set is clearly designed to get people dancing and it does the trick perfectly. By the time the bands are ready to go on the crowd is fairly hyped and people are whooping in support and excitement.

The event is opened with Babe Corner’s first ever live show. It is clear from the beginning that they are a phenomenally talented bunch. They have impressive stage presence and really know how to work a crowd. Their set is fun and interactive and the audience are loving every minute. They could do with a differentiating their set a little between songs – at times their stance can be a little stiff and lacking in confidence. But their music is great and they look and sound like they were born to play live. They have not released any music as a band yet but I certainly think they’re going to be one to watch on the music scene over the next few months. This was an ideal opportunity to get the ball rolling and they grabbed it with an admirable energy. By the end of their set, the audience was raptly gathered around the stage.

The second band of the night are local fuzzy surf-pop duo Monsoon Moon. Marie Foxall not only plays drums like a badass but absolutely bosses keys and vocals too. Foxall’s deeply emotive vocals are reminiscent of Julia Cumming from Sunflower Bean. Their latest release, ‘The End’ is a catchy and lyrically meaningful track and their live performance of it flawlessly encapsulates the heavy intensity of the lyrics.

The third band of the night are absolutely amazing riot-babes Necking, who I’m not going to go on about because I totally fangirled them in my last post. But they’re awesome. See them live!

If you weren’t there on Friday, you absolutely need to check out the new Eastside Studios – it is a real beacon of hope in a music scene blighted by venues forced to close and bands unable to afford practice spaces. Go and support them!

Red Gate Grand Finale – Saturday 26th May

A marathon line-up of twelve bands, all of whom have benefitted from the creative altruism that Red Gate is famous for, have turned out to celebrate the incredible arts space. I don’t use the word celebrate lightly here – amid a development application to change the space’s land use to retail and the crushing rental prices which are plaguing the city, it may seem that Red Gate (and other independent creative spaces like it) have little to celebrate. But nevertheless, the fond farewell truly feels like the kind of raucously joyous party that Red Gate’s shows have come to be known for.

The feeling of jubilation is compounded after the last performance, with the announcement that Red Gate has found a new premises on Main Street. This is big news – it means that the venue and it’s staff can continue to offer a safe haven for the city’s most talented creatives. Because Red Gate is and always has been more than a music and arts venue – it is a safe space for people from all backgrounds to express themselves creatively, and to find kindred spirits and collaborate on projects. I have not been a resident of Vancouver for very long, but already the sense of community at Red Gate has been overwhelming. The thought of the space closing is devastating, even to me, and I cannot imagine how it must feel for the people who have made this place their creative home.

The bands play from the venue’s back loading bay and vast crowds fill the sunny yard with undiluted joy – dancing, hugging and waving their hands in the air. It would be impossible to review all of the incredible diversity of musical talent that has been showcased here today (even if I hadn’t had a few tinnies, in the spirit of celebration, of course). Personal highlights include the delectably discordant dark post-punk of Lié, who describe themselves (accurately) as ‘cold punk’. Their set is thrashing and furious, and the energy in the crowd is electric. The pulsing basslines and heavy riffs ring out into the surprising vigour of the mid-afternoon crowd. It feels like this is when the show really comes alive, and its quite a beautiful moment.

Another band that really stood out for their raw vivacity and talent were Vancouver’s totally fierce Necking. Their astutely comical lyrics on tracks such as ‘Daddy Issues’ and ‘Stop Singing’ are delivered with the perfect amount of riot grrrl venom. Necking’s live performance is an astounding roar from start to finish, and their short, catchy punk tracks get the crowd moving more than any other band on today’s epic bill.

The last band of the day, Adrian Teacher and the Subs, absolutely summed up the heartening diversity in the music scene here in Vancouver. Adrian pointed out that on their American tours, people always make comments about Amanda P. being their drummer: “They’re like – ‘wow, a female drummer!’ and I always say ‘Man, you should come to Vancouver.’

Music for Mental Health – Kintsuku ‘Amaryllis’

Kintsuku is the ambient electro-pop solo project of the extraordinarily versatile musician Ellie Jones, previously the vocalist for alt-rock outfit Move in Circles. Her latest track ‘Amaryllis’ is due to be released today in support of Mental Health Awareness Month. Kintsuku has been raising money for the mental health charity Mind all month through her JustGiving page and will be donating all proceeds from the release during May.

‘Amaryllis’ is a crushingly emotive track, with lyrically choking refrains including ‘is this what it feels like to be disposed of?’ and ‘I lost you to myself’. This poignant narrative, paired with the deeply heartfelt delivery of each line, builds to an emotively soaring crescendo around 5:29, where there seems to be a beautifully harmonic outward release of pain. It feels as though this visceral outpouring has close ties with Jones’ purpose for this latest release – she speaks openly about mental health, and wants to encourage others to do the same “to try and help remove the stigma that surrounds the topic […] other people’s honesty can be infectious and it’s important to get this message snowballing: we are all human and we are all allowed to not be okay.”

Jones is passionate about helping others who are struggling with their mental health, after battling her own issues and witnessing those of close family and friends. “I thought spreading a positive message through my music could be a good way to start”. She has written a blog post about her own experiences here.

The track is musically intriguing – the delicate whirr, crunch and flutter of otherworldly sounds can be heard behind the atmospheric intensity of the music. This gives the track a subtly mechanical feel, which adds an unusual subtext and depth.

Jones’ soaring vocals are reminiscent of London Grammar’s Hannah Reid, but the music here is more thoughtful and interesting. Jones plays guitar and keys and does all the vocals and electronic experimentation herself. This alone is a remarkable feat, but her music has real emotional depth and absolutely nails the ethereal feel that is coveted by many current electronic acts.

You can listen to Amaryllis on SoundCloud and download the single on iTunes (with all proceeds to Mind during Mental Health Awareness Month).

Support Women in Music Vancouver to do more.

Women in Music Vancouver is a labour of love – I do not receive any financial support or sponsorship for my work, but without any income it is impossible to expand the scope of the support I can offer other women in music. I’d like to be able to broaden the project to include hosting shows and providing workshops, talks and resources for women and girls interested in music. So that’s why I’m asking readers and supporters if they could buy me a coffee Yorkshire tea to help fund the future ambitions of WMV. (disclaimer: absolutely none of your money will go toward purchasing actual coffee. I hate coffee).

I believe that recognizing what women are bringing to music here is imperative to creating a progressive and supportive scene where people from all backgrounds feel welcome and able to express themselves creatively. With your support, I hope to be able to expand the offer of Women in Music Vancouver to reach wider audiences and include real-world support.

You can help me (and hopefully other women and girls who love music) to live my wildest dreams by donating here: ko-fi.com/womeninmusicvancouver. I cannot begin to express how grateful I would be for any contribution, no matter how small. As someone who has always struggled for money, I understand how meaningful it is to offer any sort of financial support to someone else’s project.

Stand up and find your voice: An interview with Sam Shakspeare, Tour Coordinator

“I always loved music – at school I played instruments and did singing and was like ‘I wanna be a musician!’ but I realized that it’s a really cut-throat industry and I decided that I would rather work behind the scenes. I’m pretty driven – I want to be successful but not necessarily in the spotlight, in front of tonnes of people. I’d rather just be good at my job and be recognized for that.”
Sam Shakspeare immediately strikes me as someone who has always known what she wants, and who has worked bloody hard to get there.

“I wanted to do something creative and I came across my degree, which was Bachelor in Creative Industries – it had a big focus on networking, which was great. Throughout University I did internships at booking agencies and worked as a promoter on the side. So I hit the ground running as soon as I graduated – I applied for a job and I went to Sydney and got a job interview. And while I was there, I sent my resume around to other agencies in the city.”
This focus and determination paid off pretty quickly – Sam interviewed for two agencies and was offered jobs with both of them.
“On Saturday I got a call from the company that I’d originally gone there to interview for, saying ‘can you start Monday?’ And I was like ‘Well, I have to move to the city…’ – I was living in Brisbane. But then this other company contacted me and offered me the job as well. So it was the most full-on weekend I’ve ever had! And I made an informed but, I wouldn’t say snap decision, but I was under a lot of pressure, I had to do it quickly. I decided to go with the company that I didn’t originally go to Sydney for. It was a bigger agency. I definitely think it was the right decision.”

But despite this exciting start to her professional career in music, Sam’s first post in the industry was made challenging by the culture of the workplace that she was thrust into.
“The work environment was very male at that specific company. It was hard, in the sense that there was definitely, not necessarily among the agents themselves, but among the senior people, a misogynist tone, and there were no female agents. I got a job there in the accounts department, so I started there and then I moved into logistics.”
The chauvinistic conditions at the company led to Sam, as one of very few women working for them, being subjected to a plethora of stereotypes about women – such as being warned not to gossip or ‘spend too long in the bathroom’, and definitely no tears.
“So from the get-go, that was the tone that was set. There were some really great agents who had the opinion that they should help me progress because they busted their balls to become an agent. But there came a point, and I guess a big part of it was because of how male dominated the company was, where I thought, I can’t go on like this. I wasn’t enjoying it. I stayed for a year. It was my first job out of University so I knew I needed to last at least a year. And I learned so much, it gave me such a thick skin. I learnt how to be resilient. I figured that if I could work for this company, I can work for anyone. I 100% had to work harder to prove myself in that role because of all these preconceptions. I think that’s what women have to do in the music industry anyway – they have to work harder. I think Nicki Minaj said ‘if you’re a man and you’re successful and you work hard at something you’re a boss, but if you’re a woman you’re a bitch.”

“So yeah, I kind of kicked off my career with that negative experience. I think I knew it was wrong because I knew what I was made of and I knew what the other girls that I worked with were made of. I knew it was bullshit but I was determined. I just really wanted to prove them wrong, and even though I was so miserable, I told myself I had to be there at least a year. But honestly, I learned so much. I met a bunch of people through the company and I don’t at all regret working there. I really valued my time there and I met some really great people. I think that in the music industry, if we’re going to be blunt, the old guys are going to have to retire if things are gonna change. Once people are set in their ways, it’s very hard to change their minds.”

Sam now works in music management here in Vancouver, for a company who, she tells me, are far more progressive and employ a plethora of awesome women working in a range of different roles. Her experience here has been very much more positive and she has already experienced the opportunity for progression and personal growth. “Our company is working towards making a change. And I have no doubt that a lot of women have had to prove themselves in the industry, and that’s starting to be recognized. I think that the younger men are becoming more socially conscious, but I think that also it’s because women have stood up and found their voice.”

I M U R at Richshaw Theatre (Friday 11th May 2018)

I M U R are the second band to take to the stage in a show curated for the announcement of the line-up for this year’s Ponderosa Festival and they have got to be one of Vancouver’s smoothest bands. Their slick electro-soul soul grooves are beautifully lifted by the velvety vocals of lyricist Jenny Lea. Both lyrically and musically, tracks such as ‘Trippin’ on Feet’ and ‘FFL’ manage to span the boundary between aching desire and soulful depth. I M U R’s sound is a cross between the cool vibes of Jungle blended with contemplative vocals reminiscent of Eva Lazarus’ recent releases with Mungo’s HiFi.

I M U R are a multi-instrumentalist three-piece, and their sound and set-up is more than capable of filling the stage. However, at times their performance seems a little uncomfortable for them. It feels like perhaps their live set has undergone a recent revamp, and the band are still trying out their new moves and stage personas. Jenny Lea is an incredible dancer, and her outfit totally slays; but at times she seems to lack confidence on stage.

As their set warms up, so do the band. They introduce several new tracks and their stagecraft noticeably picks up here – almost as though the newer stuff has always been practiced this way. Rapper Tee Krispil from hip-hop trio The People Northwest joins the band onstage for one song and the ladies give an incredible joint performance. The band visibly loosen up during this section of the show, feeding off each other’s and the audience’s energies and really saturating the exquisite old theatre space with their richly soulful sound. By the end of the set, there isn’t an audience member who’s not dancing – which, for some reason, seems to be a remarkable feat here in Vancouver.