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By Vanessa Tam

Like most great things in life, Music Waste was created out of necessity.

A necessity for accessible places where anyone could go regardless of who they are or where they’re from, to both discover and support Vancouver’s local community of independent artists and musicians. Originally founded in the 1994 as a counter-culture music festival, Music Waste continues on as a completely volunteer-run organization that annually showcases over 70 local bands, artists and comedians across a variety of venues.

With the first day of Music Waste 2017 set for June 1st at Fortune Sound Club, we had the chance to catch up with Eleanor Wearing, director of the organizing team, about what festival-goers can expect this year.

Music Waste

Tell us about your first experience at Music Waste

My first experience with Music Waste was in 2013, which was the first summer I spent in Vancouver after moving here for school in 2011. Before that I had only attended larger, one-venue music festivals, and the idea of a festival being at a bunch of different venues across a city was really intriguing to me.

I attended a show at the Electric Owl and there were two stages – one upstairs and one downstairs. I didn’t know any of the bands playing at that point because I was just beginning to discover the local music scene, but I remember thinking that it was so cool to see a city put on so many shows to support local talent.

Last year you guys had a “strange magic” theme for the Art Waste, did you guys decide to do a theme for this year as well?

Although we don’t really have a formal theme that applies to all areas of the festival, this year we decided to work with dice and games imagery, and the slogan “All Bets Are Off.” You can see this imagery in the incredible logo that local artist Ali Bruce designed for us, as well as in the band and Comedy Waste photos that local photographer Lauren Ray took for us.

The “All Bets Are Off” slogan and games imagery is open to interpretation, but the way I see it is that the festival is so hectic and jam-packed full of different things to do that it’s difficult to predict what your weekend will be like. It’s better to get rid of your expectations and plans and just take a risk on going to see a brand new band or a venue you’ve never been to before. Maybe meet some new people and celebrate the local art and music community.

Music Waste

Accessibility has always been a cornerstone of Music Waste from it’s inception. Tell us about how the festival has been able to continue to remain accessible for people both as attendees and as participating musicians over the years despite all of the major changes in standard of living costs, venue costs, culture and politics.

The main way Music Waste strives to be accessible is financially. While we did raise the individual show price this year from $5 to $7, the festival passes are still only $15 which is still super cheap considering the number of music, comedy and art shows you can get into with the pass!

It’s also very cheap considering how much more expensive Vancouver now than it was even five years ago. With respect to bands, we try to pay everyone who plays the festival as much as we possibly can. That’s what we spend the most money on as the entire festival is volunteer run and organized.

Beyond finances, this year the group also made some changes to the way we selected bands. For the first time ever we had a committee of around 20 folks listening independently to submissions as we received them and casting votes. After submissions closed and all votes had been cast, the Music Waste organizing team met and made the final lineup decision based off votes and group discussion.

We tried to take the lineup decisions a little more seriously than in past years to try to include folks who may not have had a chance to play in previous years. One other thing the organizing team did this year was participate in Good Night Out Training and Narcan Training. We believe that this is an important step in working to make the festival more safe and inclusive for everyone who’s attending.

While Music Waste strives in some ways to be accessible, I think it’s important to note that there is always more we can be doing and that we welcome feedback from folks in our community about what they think is important to focus on.

Music Waste

In your opinion, what are some stand out aspects of the first day of Music Waste that you think people can really look forward to?

The Fortune show is going to be really great because you will get to see so many different things at once; it’s like a mini version of the four day festival that happens all in one night! You will have bands on the main stage and the art room stage, electronic artists in the Livestock Room, an Art Waste installation in the art room and a karaoke room as well.

I’m personally most excited to see Missy D perform on the main stage at the end of the night. Hip Hop and Rap are two genres Music Waste has not had a lot of in past years, so I’m really happy Missy D is on the lineup this year!

Anything else you’d like to mention about the future of Music Waste?

We’re stoked that Music Waste has persevered and stuck around for as long as it has! As long as folks continue to support the festival, bands, artists, comedians, organizers and volunteers who make Music Waste happen, I believe that it will continue to grow and shift to represent a big part of Vancouver’s local arts community.

Photos by: Lauren Ray


Music Waste 2017 kicks off at Fortune Sound Club on June 1st. Tickets are still available for $7 at the door or $15 in advance for all four days. Check out the Facebook event page for more information.