Oh hey, I’m doing a bi-weekly Q&A with interesting local DJs in the Georgia Straight now.
Oh hey, I’m doing a bi-weekly Q&A with interesting local DJs in the Georgia Straight now.
Got to talk to one of the nice fellas from ODESZA prior to a two night stint at the Commodore Ballroom. In the spring, they’ll be headlining the Seasons Festival at the Pacific Coliseum.
We just launched the website for New Year’s at the Hotel Vancouver. If you’d like to come, be sure to get tickets soon as this event always sells out.
“Have you ever thought about getting your eyes lasered?” asks a friend with corneas so exquisitely curved they put the Fibonacci spiral to shame. You, bespectacled and with an astigmatism so bad you probably shouldn’t operate a motor vehicle after sunset, have but one reply to this oft-asked question: you tilt your head downward and stare at them over the rim of your glasses. Though your friend with a 20/10 looks a little blurry, at this moment you are their superior.
The eyes are the windows to your soul, the adage goes, which makes your eyewear the window to the windows to your soul. And as we move into fall, Vancouver retailers have plenty of options to help you project your strongest features with stylish specs. Or, if you’re a glass-is-half-empty type, use them to run sleight of hand and distract people from your worst ones.
Eric Dickstein has been a fixture in Gastown since 2006, when he opened dutil (303 West Cordova Street). But long before he established what is likely your first stop in the neighbourhood if you’re looking for quality jeans, eyewear was his passion. Located five doors down from the denim destination is his recently opened and hiply designed shop Durant Sessions (315 West Cordova Street).
The eccentric and friendly owner is quick to demonstrate his vast knowledge on the subject of eyewear by identifying the glasses worn by his interrogator: a four-year-old pair of Dita Statesmans. (Key benefit: they make you look a bit like Michael Douglas in Falling Down, so you can order breakfast all day at any fast-food joint.)
“Fuck exclusivity. It doesn’t exist,” Dickstein proclaims. “You can go online and find it anywhere. It’s a little bit of a farcical conversation to be having with the consumer. It doesn’t exist. So I thought: how can we take an optical store to another level?”
The answer was customization. Onsite, you can tint your lenses or frames with a variety of house-concocted colours. With frames, you can get especially wild by, say, mixing up the colours on the outside and inside of the arms and rims, then switching the finish from polished to matte, or vice versa.
“We want to up the ante and really be a part of the creative process and also let the consumer be a part of the creative process,” Dickstein enthuses.
Creativity doesn’t stifle convenience, either. Dickstein claims you can pick out a frame, have it all customized, and wear your new glasses home in a few hours, provided your prescription isn’t too complicated.
Despite Dickstein’s skepticism about exclusivity, there are rare gems available in-store. There are thick acetate frames inspired by Bob Dylan from L.A. brand Jacques Marie Mage (starting at $628); subtle wooden ones from the Midwest’s Anni (starting at $628); and sleek metal designs from Japanese line Eyevan 7285 (starting at $398). The latter, Dickstein believes, embody the move away from plastic frames.
“It’s natural to shift when everything is one way. In fast fashion it’s really easy to make plastic frames, and it’s hard to tell a $350 plastic frame by aesthetic from a $58 plastic frame. With metal frames you can’t hide inexpensiveness,” he explains.
Down the block is another optical boutique that requires little introduction: Bruce Eyewear (219 Abbott Street). Bruce has been a destination for stylish glasses in Gastown for a decade and last year opened up a second location, Bruce Too, in Mount Pleasant (3553 Main Street). Its equally welcoming and knowledgeable owner Nada Vuksic also notes the move away from plastic frames. However, she points out a shift towards…well, it won’t be a big surprise if you’ve ever set foot in East Van.
“The trend is towards more artisanal products. People want uniqueness and they want craft. They don’t want mass-produced,” she says.
Styles she highlights utilize vintage vinyl records, courtesy of Hungarian brand Vinylize (starting at $509); welded nails, by German-designed, Italian-crafted line Kuboraum (starting at $529); 3-D–printed polymers, from Germany’s Mykita (starting at $629); and buffalo horn, on a collab between Mykita and Damir Doma ($2,299).
“Because of what we do and the product we carry, we’re really big on asking people to come in with an open mind,” she says to those perhaps weary of stepping outside their comfort zone and forking over more money to artisans. “Come in and let us take you on a little journey.”
You’ll be in good hands with her as a guide on your vision quest. Mykita has designed and named a pair of frames after her, and Vuksic deftly identified the well-worn, Bruce-purchased Statesmans as well. An employee at the store also noted the coating on the lenses is all but gone while giving them a complimentary cleaning.
“A frame is basically constructed to last two years with daily wear. And your prescription should be redone every two years,” Vuksic confirms, then suggests owning more than one pair might be wise.
“If someone goes to the opera and then is, I don’t know, a garbologist, you’re going to have different needs and different wants and you want different looks. It’s like having one pair of shoes that you wear to everything. You’d never do that.”
So time for a new pair, or maybe two. Sure, they’re likely making remarkable advances in the field of reshaping your eyeballs with lasers. But it’s probably best to put that off a few more years and maintain your superiority over those with better visual acuity by looking sharper.
this article was originally published by the georgia straight in august 2015.
Fuck the federal election. Tonight’s the night you have to make the biggest, most important decision of the year: is it gonna be Dîner en Blanc or Ce Soir Noir? Well, for me the answer is the same as it’ll be on October 19. I’m gonna abstain and watch Netflix because I don’t give a fuck.
A bit of background for those of you who have amazingly been able to avoid all of this: Dîner en Blanc is a thing that some people really like. You get to dress up in white and get drunk with 4,500 other people at a secret outdoor location.
It is also a thing that other people really do not like for harmless reasons such as its air of exclusivity and its whopping $45 admission. Mostly you can chalk this all up to basics loving to complain about any event they’re not invited to that costs more than free.
Out of this tension arose Ce Soir Noir, which is essentially Dîner en Blanc: Cynical East Van Hipster Edition. It’s a free gathering at Crab Park in the DTES where everyone is welcome until some of the park’s regulars inevitably start hurling obscenities at you. One day when I was eating lunch at Crab Park a drunk man kept yelling at me, “GET OUT OF MY YARD” and I kind of couldn’t argue with him.
The organizers were probably banking on 50 of their friends showing up, but the event went viral so quickly it’s astonishing the Fat Jew didn’t aggregate it. Last time I checked, around 2,000 people had RSVP’d for it on Facebook. (Let’s be real though: it’s the sort of thing that people like to say they’re attending but don’t actually go to. Like art openings, protests, and your band’s first show.)
Meanwhile the city’s population—minus 4,900 or so would-be park partiers—is sick of hearing about all this bullshit. I get it’s a Tuesday night, but c’mon. How depressingly dire are things in Vancouver right now if this is what people are getting excited about?
Sure, if you’re lucky there’ll be some inflatable foil letters or those balls emblazoned with “LOVE” to pose next to, but that’s a below average Instagram opportunity at best. Hell, I’ll pay you $45 if you can recommend a bar that isn’t rife with those sort of narcissistic assholes that self-identify as “creatives” and think flash mobs are still relevant. Sadly, I think this means I’ll never make it past the HR department interview at Hootsuite.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against people gathering in parks and having fun. That is totally fine unless it’s after 8 p.m. and you’re in the one across the street from my condo. (I love my bohemian neighbourhood, but seriously, I’m trying to get my kid to sleep.) It’s just that the build-up to these mundane events has been the social media equivalent of a slow, never-ending Brazilian wax. (It’s a habit I picked up in prison.)
Of course, counter-events are nothing new. The Slamdance Film Festival started as an underground alternative to the Sundance Film Festival. Closer to home, artist entry fees to the now extinct New Music West are what inspired Music Waste. (Did that even happen this year?) But in 2015 we have competing colour-coded picnics in parks that’ll draw identical, equally terrible, over-sharing douchebag crowds.
Pick out a good movie and keep off the internet tonight, because it’s going to be bad. If only Pretty in Pink were available on Netflix. John Hughes sure knew how to tell a good story. With black and white divisions between the rich preppies and the cool kids from the wrong side of the tracks, it was so easy to decide who to cheer for. Unfortunately, with Dîner en Blanc and Ce Soir Noir the only side the rest of us can root for tonight is rain.
I snapped a photo of pregnant, naked she-devil sculpture across the street from my apartment, and immediately became rich and famous beyond wildest dreams.
Thanks to Drex for having me on the air!
At 1:20 p.m., the Squamish Valley Music Festival app sent out a push notification posing a question: You charged up for Day 2? You likely were if you immediately knew that was a reference to the Drake and Meek Mill feud that’s consumed our lives these past few weeks.
For many, the whole Squamish Valley Music Festival this year was Drake plus 80 or so other acts they didn’t know, didn’t care about, or forgot about years ago. Who even knew that guy from the Killers was still kicking around? I figured his guylinered ass had long been relegated to greeting hefty conventioneers at some dilapidated Las Vegas casino like Circus Circus.
Yeah, you probably noted a few shit-hot rap, EDM, and banjo dudes when the bill was unveiled a few months back. But all our eyes kept going back to that one name at the top: Aubrey Graham, he who started from the bottom and overcame his beginnings to teach us all to YOLO. Drizzy, he who thoroughly trounced Meek Mill in the Great Rap Beef of 2015.
Champagne Papi, he who followed that up with a performance at last week’s OVO Fest where he proceeded to piss on Meek Mill’s grave then have an afterparty so great multiple people were shot. Wheels or whatever the fuck his name was on Degrassi, he who couldn’t be hotter right now and is undeniably the biggest thing in rap music.
But his performance was hours away and there were non-Drake acts of note to see.
Luckily, there was plenty of festival fun to be had in the meantime—like binge-drinking in a Pokémon costume—despite overcast skies and the ever-present threat of heavy showers. Thankfully the music festival gods would never dream of fucking with the 6 God. But would they smile upon your cellphone’s battery life too?
Kicking off shortly after 4 p.m., soul-revival outfit Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings delighted those over at the Tantalus Stage. If you are a fan of “Rehab” by Amy Winehouse or “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson—which I’m pretty sure everybody on the planet is—be aware that many of the Dap-Kings played on those songs.
However, as good as the band is, the group took a backseat to inimitable Miss Sharon Jones, who put that “Evolution of Dance” YouTube video your grandmother sends you every year to shame. After informing us that we’d be getting “None of that twerking”, she went on to demonstrate the boogaloo, the jerk, the pony, the twist, the funky chicken, and more.
The crowd ate it up and attempted to mimic her moves with varying degrees of success—I told you she was inimitable.
All this was especially impressive considering the 59-year-old soul woman recently beat cancer. Jones addressed this between songs and even during “Get Up and Get Out”. As things ended with an inspiring performance of “100 Days, 100 Nights”, it stopped raining, the clouds parted, and the sun actually began to shine down on the festival.
Actually, that didn’t happen and it began to rain harder towards the end of Jones’ show. But just go with it, okay. I’m trying to be fucking poetic or something here.
Apparently Aussie duo Peking Duk playing EDM and Top 40 club bangers at the Blueprint Arena can make the rain stop though. Still, crowds were somewhat sparse at the festival’s dance music stage; apparently, for some, 6 p.m. is too early to turn up.
“We came all the way from Australia. Let’s fucking rave,” came a command from behind the LED DJ plinth.
Female festivalgoers were hoisted onto shoulders, wrists were flicked, and the bass was dropped. Then, to demonstrate Peking Duk’s total control over us, we all laid in the mud at the behest of the lovable dude bros so they could play “Sandstorm” for “the ultimate tribute to Darude.” (People who check their dignity at the festival gates appear to have a lot more fun at these things than the rest of us.)
As I ran off, one of the Duks gushed, “You cunts are bananas and we love you.” If you’re unfamiliar with the culture Down Under, this is the highest praise an Australian can bestow upon you.
Anticipation was high among the large, high crowd over at the Tantalus Stage for the pretty motherfucker who reps Harlem. All the bad bitches in Squamish—and I’m sure a few good bitches too—jockeyed their way upfront as two lesser members of the A$AP Mob, Nast and Twelvyy, took the stage and started with “Hella Hoes”. Then the stylish A$AP Rocky and his impressive gold grill appeared and did “Lord Pretty Flacko Jodye 2 (LPFJ2)” then “M’$” from his latest album.
“How the fuck y’all feeling out there? It looks like y’all came to party,” Rocky astutely noted, before drawing attention to an R.I.P. Meek sign that someone in the audience was holding. The next song, “L$D”, got dedicated to all us trippy motherfuckers and a sing-along ensued.
Then the show got weird. After virtually every song A$AP Rocky commanded us all to show our titties. True, women flashing their breasts to rappers is a time-honoured festival tradition, but this time it got a little too lecherous. (I guess some performers check their dignity at the festival gates too.)
Near the end of his set, we got the bombastic “Wild for the Night”, and we were pounded with beats produced by Skrillex as well blasts of confetti and smoke.
The only way to follow that up, obviously was further requests for “Titties!” and “Can I please see some more titties?” Clearly, Rocky is not an ass man.
Back at the dance stage, A-Trak was on the decks and giving us even more A$AP Rocky and Skrillex tracks—people kept their shirts on this time, though. Once again, there was a pretty mediocre turnout. Especially so considering the guy has been a world-class talent since he was winning DMC DJ battles at 15.
Now 33, A-Trak’s skills are still untouchable,. But despite his immense talent and credentials (he runs Fool’s Gold Records, and is one half of Duck Sauce, which is responsible for that “Barbra Streisand” song) who could think about dancing to his remix of Alesso’s “Cool” when Drake was imminent?
Okay, deep breathes now everybody. This is really happening. Get your cellphones ready. It’s likely only got a 20 percent charge at this point in the day but that’ll be enough.
After a video introduction, Drake took the stage and began with a brief version “Legend” followed by “Trophies”, this to the delight of everyone in attendance.
“Oh, I see y’all charged up. I go by Drake. I’m the Canadian guy that’s making all the American guys mad, ” he remarked before performing “Headlines”.
Dressed all in black, and grinning ear-to-ear the whole time, Drizzy rapped and crooned and was charming and engaging as shit. In addition to giving us offerings from his deep catalogue of hits like “Energy”, “Hold on We’re Going Home”, and “The Motto” he also performed ones he’s guested on like ILoveMakonnen’s “Tuesday” and Nicki Minaj’s “Truffle Butter”.
The biggest treat of the evening is when he performed “Back to Back”. This is only the third time the absolutely devastating diss track has been performed live. A testament to its power is it hasn’t been out two weeks, but everyone there knew all the words, especially the haymaker lines. Christ, the sort of the nationalistic pride this song has inspired among certain people is typically reserved for Olympic hockey tournaments.
“Do my ladies feel like singing a little more?” Drake asked, even though the answer was obvious. “That’s what festivals are for. You gotta sing the songs.”
Yes, yes the ladies did. Pretty much the only thing you can hate on Drizzy for is his ability to completely mesmerize every woman in attendance, and most fellas too. Seriously, faces were all glazed over as the crowd sang and danced along to every, single song. It’s impossible to comprehend what would have happened if Drake commanded everyone to take their tops off.
At one point, as rappers tend to do, the MC divided the crowd in two and tried to get both sides to turn on each other. We were competing from Drake’s affection as each side took turns singing “Started From The Bottom”. It was a close decision but the left side was declared the winner. That was my side and I’m pretty sure I was on the one who pushed us over the top. You’re welcome, left side.
Before the right side started attacking us with discarded glow sticks and empty mickey bottles, Drake united and conquered the audience by encouraging us all to sing “I was runnin’ though the 6 with my woes” for “Know Yourself”. This unforgettable show ended like it began, with him, fittingly, performing “Legend”.
How do you follow that one up? A raging EDM party back at the Blueprint Arena with Porter Robinson certainly works. It was suddenly mission impossible finding space to dance though. Dance addicts and LED-encrusted robots with laser pointer fingers on stilts crammed the joint, as the young producer played euphoric numbers like “Sad Machine” and “Divinity” late into the evening.
If you’re weren’t at Squamish Festival on Day 2, and are reading this, it’s too late. You’re going to have to settle for the Instagram photos and Snapchats of your friends. And even then, you’ll still only see a small fraction of what you missed out on as there’s no chance in hell anyone’s cellphone lasted the whole day on a single charge.
Spending an entire evening with someone who won’t stop bitching about their ex isn’t something any sane person looks forward to. However, it’s different when that someone is Taylor Swift—the biggest superstar in music and probably the most powerful woman on the planet.
I used that “probably” qualifier because Forbes disagrees and ranks her as the 66th most powerful woman. But that list is pretty suspect as they rank Angela Merkel in the top spot and I’ve never fucking heard of her. Can you blame me? Merkel sends out Facebook updates to her paltry 1.1 million fans in German, and doesn’t even have an Instagram account. Tay, on the other hand, has 77 million Facebook fans, which is comparable to the population of Germany, and consistently pushes out great pictures and video across multiple platforms.
Given Swift’s mastery of social media and the extraordinary commercial and critical success of her fifth album 1989, it’s no surprise she was able to sell out B.C. Place with ease. The 1989 Tour was Vancouver’s biggest concert since, well, two years ago when the 25-year-old phenom last graced us with a visit. Said another way, for the benefit of people born before 1989: this had the potential to be like catching Madonna’s Blonde Ambition Tour.
The Swifties were decked out for what was sure to be the best night ever. Elaborate LED-laden outfits and signs were lovingly made well in advance. If, gasp, you didn’t have an article of clothing or sign that lit up, you were in luck as an LED bracelet was waiting for you at your seat. Following two opening acts, whose sole purpose served to get you there early and buying the uninspired merch, our bracelets all magically lit up in unison. It was time for the main event.
Remarkably, the show started early—a first in Vancouver’s history. This was especially impressive considering Swift is so wholesome, she was probably busy the whole day healing kids stricken with blindness, leprosy, and paralysis at B.C. Children’s Hospital by merely smiling at them. Taking the stage in sunglasses, a purple skirt, and a sequined top and jacket, Swift opened with “Welcome to New York”. Deafeningly shrill squeals of “OMG” ensued and a new city record for selfies taken in a two-hour timespan was subsequently set.
“Good evening Vancouver. I’m Taylor Swift and there’s really nothing in the world I love to see more than a sold-out stadium of 45,000,” she informed her giddy disciples before launching into “New Romantics”. This was but one of many times she addressed the faithful. Sometimes she even went on five-minute-long motivational sermons. (tl;dr: Don’t let your mistakes define you.) If that wasn’t enough, there were lengthy video interludes featuring Swift squad members Lena Dunham, Selena Gomez, HAIM, and others doling out even more valuable life advice. (tl;dr: Taylor Swift is a great human being and women gotta stick together.)
T-Swizzle did pretty much all of 1989 with a spattering of hits from her previous albums. Notably, “Sparks Fly”, which hadn’t been performed on the tour yet, and “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”, which had one of the more spirited singalongs of the evening.
While this was happening, Swifties were treated to standard pop concert theatrics like costume changes, lasers, and a catwalk with neon trim that raised 25-feet in the air while rotating 360 degrees (Okay, that was a new one.) Joining her on stage were some other people, who appeared to be playing instruments, as well as a dozen male back-up dancers, whom she frequently had flirtatious exchanges with—even the eight-year-olds in attendance weren’t buying that, though.
Throughout the concert Swift teased there’d be a surprise guest. This was big news as at previous stops she’d invited out the likes of Lorde and the Weeknd. Was it going to be her beau Calvin Harris? Swift did seem to have a postcoital glow early on in the show. (Her squad can’t use this bracelet to track me down can they?)
Instead we got Nico & Vinz. I’m far more familiar with the work Angela Merkel, but the three performed Nico & Vinz’s hit “Am I Wrong” and, like every song this evening, it was extremely well received. Swift also pointed out that the Norwegian duo were there of their own free will even though they weren’t getting paid—an affiliation with Tay is better than money. That’s why Keds had photo booths inviting people to take “shoe selfies” set up all over the concourse.
The final song of the evening was, naturally, “Shake it Off”, which she performed on the raised catwalk with all 12 dancers. As she belted out her “fuck you, haters” anthem, confetti sprayed everywhere, fireworks went off, and the LED bracelets all went haywire. The people attached to the bracelets did too.
Following that transcendent experience, 44,999 rabid Swifties jubilantly exited B.C. Place Stadium. Hell, even the middle-aged dads tasked with chaperoning weren’t looking nearly as downtrodden as they are at the conclusion of most pop concerts. But at the end of the day, this show was like most by-the-numbers pop concerts, and won’t go down as legendary performance by a superstar at the top of her game. Oh well, let’s try this again in 2017, Tay. Maybe Forbes actually does know what’s up and we should give that Merkel lady a closer look in the meantime.
There was a palpable sense of anticipation in the air as you approached the Pemberton Music Festival on Saturday for Day 3. Riding on the shuttle from Whistler to the festival, you passed a sign that said it all: “Welcome to Pemberton, You Lucky Bastards.”
The horsehead-sporting festivalgoers were in for a real treat today. On the docket was hip-hop’s current It Boy Kendrick Lamar, still incredibly relevant music and fashion icon Missy Elliot, and Jack Ü—the duo comprised of Diplo and Skrillex, two of the biggest and most exciting producers in the world, and… oh, shit. Sorry, I read the schedule wrong. This was the day featuring none of the festival’s topline talent and was to be headlined by Jane’s Addiction, Weezer, and a few other acts you probably don’t give a fuck about unless you’re stuck in the early ’90s
But as Mike Usinger aptly noted in his review of Day 2, the music at this fantastic event is almost secondary, and it’d practically be impossible not to have a good time. Even if, on paper, the lineup was a full day of acts you despised in high school coming back to haunt you.
As you walked in the gates around 2 p.m., Earl Sweatshirt was already hurling racial epithets and leading those at the Pemberton Stage in a rousing chant of “I’mma fuck the freckles off your face, bitch.” In front of a smallish, but enthusiastic crowd, the critically acclaimed rapper later asked “Y’all smart enough to learn a song right now?”
Unfortunately, we weren’t as it involved a very complicated hook. Like we’re talking four lines. Unperturbed, Earl Sweatshirt performed “Grown Ups” off his latest LP I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside. (The irony of performing songs off this album outdoors was not lost on the ex-Odd Future member.)
It should be noted that the artist born Thebe Neruda Lanu Kgositsilee was actually not wearing a sweatshirt, as that would have been absolutely insane. There was no escaping the heat and sun. While it didn’t deter many from wearing fuzzy Pikachu costumes, if you’re a pasty white guy who applies SPF 80 sun block with a paint roller, you likely didn’t make it through Sweatshirt’s whole show.
Walking past the Whistler Stage, you asked yourself was Moon Taxi seriously covering “Killing in the Name” by Rage Against the Machine? Or was that sunshine-induced psychosis coming on? Quick, double-time to the Mount Currie stage for Father John Misty.
The bearded, suited, and absolutely hilarious Father John Misty opened with the title track off of his latest I Love You, Honeybear. As great a musician as he is, it can’t be stated enough how exceptional J. Tillman’s between-songs banter game is. He’s probably funnier than anyone who performed on Pemberton’s Laugh Camp stage this weekend, and you almost wish his “chorus-less hits” would end sooner so you can hear him joke around some more.
“Look at this adorable poop,” he remarked at a mini-totem an attendee was waving that had the poop emoji on it. “What did we do for thousands of years of civilization before we could tell people what smiling pieces of shit we felt for them?”
He then grabbed the totem and waved it around while singing “Bored in the USA”. The song features a canned laugh track, but it was hard differentiate that from the cackling coming from the audience.
At the Pemberton Stage there is no fucking way Bleachers were covering “Go Your Own Way” by Fleetwood Mac. That must be a heat stroke coming on. Run, don’t walk, to the misting tent, which was on the way to Bass Camp where Ryan Hemsworth was about to begin.
The Haligonian DJ-producer was getting things going with a rather mellow set of R&BDM. (Is that a thing?) At least one woman with a rainbow-coloured LED unicorn SpiritHood was duly impressed.
While the Bass Camp is the single most dangerous place in our province for people prone to seizures, it’s also the place you’re least likely to hear Rage Against the Machine or Fleetwood Mac covers. So it’s worth the risk. Unfortunately, my visit there was brief and it was time to hoof it back across the field for Jane’s Addiction.
Let’s give the 56-year-old Perry Farrell his props. Lollapalooza, which he founded, is at least somewhat responsible for North America’s insatiable appetite for music festivals. And him and guitarist Dave Navarro undeniably still have charismatic stage presences, even though Ritual de lo habitual came out 25-years-ago and they probably could have done that set in their sleep.
Farrell wailed, and his voice held up. Navarro delivered ample guitar solos, and may have even made eye contact with the audience once or twice.
Random weirdness during their set kept things interesting. Specifically two dominatrix-looking types who made sporadic stage appearances to molest each other while wielding what appeared to be lightsabers or possibly large anal probes. And then during the show’s final number “Stop!”, two Suicide Girl-types were suspended 20-feet in the air by hooks that went through piercings on their backs.
Yeah, that’s a thing. Live a little, you prudes. (Anyone else absolutely terrified about goes down on the Jane’s Addiction tour bus?)
If you’re into gimmickry, Alice Cooper, a 67-year-old who is famous for being in Wayne’s World, delivered the surprisingly awesome show of the day. The shock rocker escaped from a straitjacket, impaled someone, and even found time to sing a little despite being decapitated by a guillotine.
The highlight of the show was when he got electrocuted during “Feed My Frankenstein” and transformed into a 10-foot tall monster. A guy and a girl next to me, dressed up as Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar, began doing “we’re not worthy” bows at the end of the song.
Ending his set with “School’s Out”, of course, Cooper received many more “we’re not worthy” bows and signs of the beast from the faithful. When the applause died down, you could clearly hear Weezer performing “Hash Pipe” on the next stage over, which obviously means you run in the opposite direction to see Chet Faker at the Bass Camp.
You’re probably right to be somewhat suspicious of Chet Faker. He’s a white dude from Australia who makes hipster R&B and broke through with a cover of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity”. But the “No Diggity” cover provided a rousing sing-along opportunity, and he followed that up with another favourite, “Drop the Game”, a track he did with Flume.
Sure his music sounds like the sort of thing cheesy dudes put on when they’re trying to be seductive, but in spite that—and no bass drops—Chet Faker satiated the sweaty, shirtless, and party hungry crowd. They liked the way he worked it.
While Broken Social Scene played on the festival’s largest stage to only a few hundred people, the biggest show of the day with Ludacris went down at the Bass Camp. I couldn’t even fight my way close enough to be able to see the Atlanta rapper.
This was one of those rare festival moments where I wish I was with a buddy so I could sit on their shoulders. (I’d even flash my tits if Luda asked nicely.)
“I got too many hit songs. I don’t remember them all,” the star of three Fast & Furious sequels boasted.
For an hour Luda delivered non-stop club rap hits like “Area Codes”, “Pimpin’ All Over the World”, “Southern Hospitality”, and “Stand Up” as well as tracks he’s guested on like Usher’s “Yeah!” and DJ Khaled’s “All I Do is Win”. While doing that, he gave shout-outs to alcoholics, weed smokers, and women with real asses.
“This might very well be the loudest motherfucking crowd I’ve ever performed in front of,” Ludacris exclaimed before ending with “Move Bitch (Get Out the Way)” and “Get Back”, songs he was reluctant to perform as he feared they might start a riot. They didn’t, but it was close.
As darkness descended upon Pemberton, the testosterone managed to go up yet another notch at the Bass Camp with trap DJ-producer RL Grime. Smoke blasts, lasers, strobes, and LED visuals ensued while RL Grime dropped explosive numbers by Drake, Kanye, Kendrick, and Jack Ü as well as his own original tracks and remixes.
If you’re the kind of person who likes to wear a pink hardhat while dancing with a gigantic Molson Canadian patio umbrella, this as good as it gets. And if you’re not, you still likely walked away with a wicked contact high.
The final act of the evening was 51-year-old Paul Oakenfold, who, eons ago, was the biggest DJ in the world. Starting his set with “Generate” by Eric Prydz, he kept the party going till well past his bedtime with progressive bangers. Shortly into Oakie’s set, a guy beside me remarked “He’s old as shit, but look at this. He’s still got it.”
He does. And sure, the Day 3 lineup was heavy on old dudes. But it didn’t stop the Pemberton Music Festival from delivering the wildest party in the province to us lucky bastards for the second year in a row.
this article was originally published by the georgia straight in july 2015.
You can make a strong case that deadmau5 is the most interesting figure in all of Canadian music, and the most recognizable brand in all of EDM.
For evidence of the latter, look no further than the launch event for Jay Z’s music-streaming platform, TIDAL. On-stage among music’s royalty was the Niagara Falls–born deadmau5—looking as comfortable as one can when one is wearing a mau5head and flanked by Madonna and Kanye West.
Also, deadmau5 is a cat guy.
But what makes the 34-year-old electronic musician, born Joel Zimmerman, truly fascinating, aside from his massively popular catalogue of progressive house tracks, is his life is a social-media popcorn flick. Calling out the people he regularly shares the stage with as overpaid, talentless hacks. Proposing to his former fiancée, Kat Von D, via Twitter. Taking Rob Ford on a Tim Hortons run in the Purrari, a Ferrari 458 Italia Spyder with a hilariously gaudy Nyan Cat wrap.
This modern-day theatre plays out online for everyone to see.
Plus deadmau5 has two kitties. Their names are Professor Meowingtons pHd and “the other cat”. He is undecided what discipline Meowingtons earned the doctorate of philosophy in.
His prolific online presence isn’t a one-way broadcast. You’d be hard-pressed to find any major artist more engaged and forthcoming, and lengthy live-stream video Q & As with fans are a common occurrence. In a recent one, which went on for five hours, he covered TIDAL (the launch was awkward, but he likes the platform because it rewards artists rather than labels, who fuck over music-makers on streaming royalties), releasing Skrillex’s breakout EP on his mau5trap imprint (Skrillex would have blown up with or without him), career advice for aspiring musicians (make human connections rather than online ones), and how he got his start in music (his first official release was a remix of Revenge of the Egg People’s “I’m Electric”, which he did under the moniker Karma K. Listening to it makes him cringe).
But did you know he’s got multiple cattoos, including one on his neck? So let’s talk about the cats, because every other topic has already been discussed and debated, ad nauseam.
Speaking with the Georgia Straight via Skype from his home in Campbellville, Ontario, the EDM superstar won’t confess to being a crazy cat guy, despite a mounting body of evidence that suggests otherwise. If you’re looking for the smoking gun, it might be that he humoured a 30-minute catcentric interview without calling his interrogator a fucking idiot.
Some of the questions were lighthearted: who likes lasers more, people who go to dance-music shows or your cats? “The cats. People are over lasers. They understand them. The cats just can’t seem to grasp the concept that it’s a light source coming from a little pen. It’s always magical to them. So weird.”
Others were deeply personal matters: you famously got your name because you found a dead mouse in your computer. Did you ever think that maybe a cat killed it and put it in there as a gift for you? “Doubt it. Didn’t have one at the time. It definitely crawled in an exhaust fan and just roasted on a video card.”
Even though his mother paints rather awesome pop-surrealist portraits of her son with Meowingtons and “the other cat”, deadmau5 didn’t grow up with cats. Rather, he turned to them later in life for the same reason a lot of us do: companionship. Meowingtons, a chubby tuxedo male, was adopted from the Toronto Humane Society five-and-a-half years ago, and “the other cat”, a runty grey female, made it a menagerie two years ago.
“They don’t have opinions,” he says of his fondness for the cuddly little critters. “I don’t know what my cat is thinking or planning.…I get to make up how he’s feeling, myself. They’re so enclosed and so withdrawn from the world that they think they’re the only fucking things in existence, which kind of gives them that air about them.”
Meowingtons is his favourite, and has active social-media profiles, shirts with his face on them, and his own line of headphones for cats. He had a mau5trap tour and compilation named after him, and appeared on the cover of deadmau5’s 2012 LP > album title goes here <.
“It was my album, to be fair. If it was someone else’s album I’d be impressed,” he says, modestly downplaying the cat’s impressive accomplishments. “There’s no real thing to the cat. He’s just a domestic shorthair cat. He doesn’t have a mustache and all that other shit. So he really doesn’t have a whole lot going for him in that department, which is why we can’t have some major cat-festival appearances.”
Fortunately, there’s no shortage of festival gigs for deadmau5, who, as noted, will be headlining FVDED in the Park, a two-day rager at Surrey’s Holland Park. If his recent power-outage-inducing show at Governors Ball in New York is any indicator, everyone should turn their lights off a few hours before his set starts to help conserve energy. Assisting in burning through countless gigawatts of Surrey’s electricity are R&B sensation the Weeknd; trap kings Flosstradamus; hip-hop shit-disturber Tyler, the Creator; and house DJ-producer Afrojack, who is also a former beau of superstar DJ Paris Hilton. Both have been popular online punching bags for deadmau5.
Despite Meowingtons lacking the “it” factor needed for superstardom, the cat and Paris have at least one thing in common. “I’ve always had this idea of doing a cologne for Meowingtons. Not for cats, but by a cat. And do a Meowingtons-shaped bottle,” deadmau5 schemes. “It would have to be some generic thing that you buy for the bottle. There’s no way Paris Hilton’s cologne is the best. Just make an awesome bottle, put your shit on it, and sell it. I was thinking of calling it Pussy Whipped.”
After discussing literal pussy, it’s tough to steer the conversation towards his live show and 2014 release while(1<2), which he refers to as his first “artist album”, as opposed to a compilation of dance singles. This was initiated by asking how he feels he’s pushing things ahead musically so he’ll be able to provide for the cats for years to come.
“I think a cat could live a full and awesome life on less than $20,000.”
While that figure may seem a little high, keep in mind that deadmau5 recently purchased Meowingtons a miniature LP 47 Superveloce. “It’s a Lamborghini, so he has his own little whip,” he explains. “We took out the steering wheel so he could fit in, and put down a little cat bed and stuck it in the office so he can bug my assistant all day. When he’s tired of doing that he just takes a little nap, and it’s pretty funny.”
The Internet agreed. A photo of Meowingtons in this luxurious bed received nearly 47,000 likes on Instagram.
But for those of us who follow deadmau5 online, there has been an alarming shift from cat posts to high-performance-automobile posts over the years. Where do his priorities lie?
“Like, do you mean if they were both going to fall off a cliff and I could only save one?” he asks for clarification. “Uh, I guess it would depend on the car or cat. Yeah, if it was Meowingtons versus a LaFerrari, I’d help Meowingtons out on that one.”
It’s worth noting that a LaFerrari has a sticker price of over a million dollars. It’s also worth noting that the car’s manufacturer sent deadmau5 a cease-and-desist notice because of customizations done to the Purrari. In the past week he’s settled similar disputes with the Toronto Fringe Festival, over a parody titled Deadmouse: the Musical, and with the world’s biggest rodent, Disney, over “mouse ear marks”. We can all sleep well knowing the musical will happen, there’s room in the world for Mickey ears and mau5-heads, and a Nyanborghini is in the works.
Looking ahead, deadmau5 has no feline expansion plans, which is a shame. “Two is enough. I don’t want to be a crazy cat guy with cats everywhere.” But as great as cats are at cleaning themselves obsessively, sleeping in hilarious positions, and shedding on everything you own, they simply cannot be trained to protect your property. It has been an unfortunate and regular problem at deadmau5’s Campbellville estate as random people keep showing up in his driveway, presumably to catch a glimpse of Meowingtons. Still, he’s enthusiastic about the solution.
“I actually did some research. In Canada, if someone is on your property or breaking in, you can have a [firearms] possession-and-acquisition licence, but you can’t shoot anyone. You couldn’t even beat the crap out of them. But, as it turns out, if you post signs every 50 feet that say ‘Beware of Dog’ and you get a couple of trained fucking killers it’s fair game. I’m actually in the process of working with a guy who’s got a litter coming of interbred wolf/German shepherds,” he explains rather devilishly. “I’m sure the dogs will be cool and not rip my cats apart.”
Whether dogs and cats and mau5 can peacefully coexist under one roof remains to be seen. What’s certain is it’ll all unfold online, and we’ll be sure to ask him all about it next time he rolls through town for a headlining festival gig.
I wish they offered a class on Beyoncé when I was in university. True, I graduated before Destiny’s Child disbanded, but since the trio’s 1999 album The Writing’s on the Wall the writing was on the wall that Bey would be lionized in academia with 300-level Sociology courses in schools across North America. My term paper would be on “The Duality of Sasha Fierce and Beyoncé”, and I’d be sure to include a photo of Blue Ivy on the Works Cited page—as if any prof who penned a syllabus for this course could resist writing A+ next to that kid’s face.
I am not a pupa in the BeyHive, but at the same time I don’t have a death wish and wouldn’t take the course just to spew contrarian platitudes such as “Bey’s overrated. Why isn’t there a Jay Z class? This is reverse sexism.” (There’s always one in every single class.) However, I am a firm believer that you should take as many dumb electives as you can. The more dubious in educational merit they are the bet- ter, as they’ll help hone your bullshitting skills. These will prove valuable later in life if you ever want to win friends, influence people, or, you know, procure employment that doesn’t make you cry like a decidedly un-fierce also-ran in the shower every Monday morning.
I spent many sleepless nights slaving over essays on Shakespeare. Over a decade removed from school and still no one wants to yak about Hamlet with me—the real tragedy is most people into the performing arts are on life support and in a vegetative state. Dropping knowledge from that mandatory 100-level Stats course never charmed the interviewer for that plum gig I desperately wanted. And then there was a class on the weather. Yes, the weather. Somehow Clouds 101 was deemed essential for obtaining a degree. While my cumulonimbus identifying skills are unfuckwithable, every time I point one out to the person next to me on the bus they end up switching seats.
I should have been studying Mrs. Knowles instead. Bring her up to that same cloud-hating asshole and they’ll be hanging off your every word. Yoncé is all on our collective mouths like liquor.
Don’t fret the inevitable “Yes parents, I am taking a class on Beyoncé and this is a perfectly sane thing to do with the tuition money you’re giving me” conversation. They’ll see the light when you eloquently break down why Kanye is right and she deserves all the Grammys using a third-wave feminist critique. Besides, you can add, Religious Studies is a thing, and the Queen Bee is more popular, influential, and relevant than at least three of the top five major ones.
Nothing about the Cultural Hegemony of Bey, Gentrification and Craft Beer, the Intentional Communication of Ronaldo’s Abs, or Rihanna’s Instagram: Why We Can’t Even on the docket this semester? Doesn’t matter. The scholarly world moves at a glacial pace, and doesn’t recognize genius as quickly as you do. So put a ring on your education, and opine about “The Political Economies of Game of Thrones” (Poli Sci), “Grumpy Cat and the Theatre of the Absurd” (English), “Lady Gaga, Tony Bennett, and Oedipus” (Psychology), or the “Cultural Appropriation of Twerking” (Sociology). Just be sure to hurl around a few Marxisms like “commodity fetishism” or “means of production” and you’ll do fine regardless of how flimsy your argument is.
“Who needs a degree when you’re schoolin’ life?” you ask. Well you can accomplish both when post-secondary educa- tion is in line with your interests. So fill up your tub halfway with dumb electives and ride them with your surfbort over the next four years. That, or you can spend the rest of your life lamenting missing out on that Beyoncé course as you keep a careful eye on the offerings in the Continuing Studies department.
this article was originally published by elective magazine in march 2015.
If you’re an out-of-touch 35-year-old male, attending an Ariana Grande concert is great way to be confronted with your own mortality and irrelevance. Quite frankly, up until a few days ago I had no fucking clue who she was apart from what I’d gleaned from tabloid headlines. But apparently, while I was taking a nap, she conquered pop music this past summer and can pretty much sell out Rogers Arena now.
If you’re equally clueless, Grande initially gained fame for playing Cat Valentine, a lovable, vermilion-haired ditz on Nickelodeon’s Victorious—think a musical Saved by the Bell with a far more jarring laugh track. (Yeah, I watched a few episodes. What of it?) This is a vital detail because the elementary-school- to high-school-age girls in attendance were all wearing cat ears as a nod to this character.
If you didn’t bring your own cat ears, the kind people at the merch stands were selling them in two varieties: black lace ($20) and light-up ($40). Other hot sellers, which made parents uncomfortable, were shirts with Love Me Harder emblazoned across them ($40) and booty shorts with I Got One Less Problem Without You on the posterior ($30). The mob scene for these keepsakes put iPhone launches to shame.
At 9 p.m. on the button, Ari took the stage for the Honeymoon Tour, this much to the delight of the faithful, nicknamed the Arianators. (Meh. Too bad Arian Nation was already in use.) Pairing a sparkly black skirt and top with her trademark thigh-high boots and a set of cat ears, which, astonishingly, were not available at the merch table, she opened with “Bang Bang”, a collab track with Jessie J and Nicki Minaj.
The show immediately started ticking all the good pop-concert boxes. An eight-piece band who didn’t do much or warrant an introduction. A dozen backup dancers bouncing out of trap doors. Costume changes galore. A massive LED wall complemented by smoke machines, lasers, and pyrotechnics. And, most importantly, Grande had already flown around the stage twice by the sixth song—once on a cloud and once on a chandelier.
But here’s the problem: virtually every other song the 21-year-old hitmaker has done features guest vocals. So you’re spending a lot of her set listening to the canned voices of Minaj and the Weeknd or watching videos of her boyfriend Big Sean (twice), Childish Gambino, and Mac Miller rapping. While this is happening, Grande just sort of shakes her hips while waiting to unleash maddeningly inoffensive lyrics ranging from “Here is what you need to do to get with me” to “We are broken up now and I sorta regret it.” Again, this all played well to those in attendance, and what the fuck do I know anyways?
We got all the megahits like “The Way”, “One Last Time”, and “Break Free”, and the show went as scripted. Except for one moment following a video tribute to her recently deceased grandfather. During “My Everything”, the title track off her sophomore LP, Grande actually choked up, missed a verse, and had a tough time composing herself. Did an errant piece of the confetti-snow that was falling from the rafters during this emotional number get in her lungs? Or was it possible she wasn’t grown in a vat of synthetic amniotic fluid by Nickelodeon’s marketing department?
Shockingly, it was the former. Up until that point, audience interaction was strictly of the “What’s up Vancouver?” and “C’mon, make some noise!” variety. But then she piped up and humbly thanked the crowd for supporting her music and sending funny tweets that make her laugh. “This is such a surreal experience. I’ve felt like crying all day. I never thought I’d be here,“ confessed one of 50 most beautiful people in the world, according to People magazine.
The precisely 90-minute set ended with her biggest hit “Problem”, which had video-screen guest vocals by Iggy Azalea. A huge bottleneck ensued on the way out, as the satiated jostled to purchase what shirts remained. When asked what he thought of the whole scene, one parent replied, “Well, it’s over. Ask the kids.”
You didn’t need to. Even geriatric Ariana Grande neophytes such as myself recognized that the selfie-stick-wielding hordes all looked like that hearts-for-eyes emoji at the end of the night. They are the future. Consider yourself warned.
this article was originally published by the georgia straight in april 2015
Dance music fans in Vancouver haven’t had it this good since newly legal club kids were in preschool.
At a mainstream level, international acts are bringing bass drops to town every week and there are so many massives going on it’s doubtful your body could handle attending all of them. And at an underground level, intimate after-hours gatherings go down every weekend night and the local acts playing them are getting international attention on sites like Boiler Room, FACT, and Resident Advisor.
The scene hasn’t been this vibrant since the heyday of the Lotus Sound Lounge, and the idea of opening a store that dealt exclusively in phat pants was a viable business plan.
At the forefront of the mainstream side of things is Blueprint, a company that’s grown as fast as EDM has in recent years. “Blueprint, which used to be a two-to-three-person operation, is now a 400-person operation,” explains Blueprint’s digital marketing manager, Matt Owchar, interviewed at the Charles Bar in Gastown. He is pretty on the ball considering that the grand-opening bacchanalia for the company’s latest property, M.I.A. nightclub in Gastown, has just gone down the previous evening.
Under Blueprint’s expansive, fun, and fur-lined umbrella are five other nightclubs and an equally large number of dance-music festivals. One of these signature blowouts, the Seasons Festival, starts today (April 1). Inspired by Seattle’s Decibel Festival, this five-day citywide happening includes over 20 shows at all of Blueprint’s clubs as well as a two-day, all-ages main event at the Pacific Coliseum headlined by international tastemaker Diplo and the king of melodic big-room dance, Eric Prydz.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the Seasons bill this year is that alongside EDM heavy hitters like Dillon Francis and Tritonal are local talent Bear Mountain and Sabota, as well as artists from underground dance-music labels 1080p, Genero, and Pacific Rhythm. If you were to describe some of these as EDM at one of their shows, the music would abruptly stop with a loud needle scratch, and the entire warehouse would stop dancing and stare at you.
“In our back yard we have all these amazing acts that are making waves internationally. And they’re awesome and they’re credible and they’re worth supporting and putting on a bigger platform,” Owchar declares. “It’s personally satisfying to take a label like 1080p and put it next to all these big-name DJs.”
This is what’ll be going down at the Free Association party on Thursday (April 2) at Fortune Sound Club. Organized by Natasha Lands and Chad Murray, this free event features three floors of electronic beats from some of Vancouver’s top underground labels. (Noticeably absent from the bill is Mood Hut, whose artists are touring Europe.)
With ample posters, photography, videos, and zines made by locals on display as well, it’s safe to assume that most attending this art-school-friendly show won’t be dancing in their underwear and a SpiritHood to Diplo this weekend.
“Going back seven, eight years, people that are now in the underground dance-music scene in the city, they were more in the punk-rock scene. They were dudes in punk-rock bands,” Owchar recollects. “It’s funny how the remnants of that scene have moved into this.”
It’s true. If EDM is the new rock ’n’ roll, then underground dance music is the new punk. An example of this is 1080p, whose sound might primarily be uhn-tiss-uhn-tiss, but whose ethos is pure punk. Launched by New Zealand transplant Richard MacFarlane nearly three years ago, the frenetic label has over 40 cassette releases from local and international acts.
The appeal of cassettes is that they’re fast and cheap to produce. All assembled by hand, they’re more of a limited-run, lo-fi, objet d’art reward for purchasing the MP3s than something most are bumping in yellow Sony Sports Walkmans.
“A lot of people criticize this trend where house and techno has become popular with people who had previously made guitar music. But I think it’s really amazing and I’m coming from that zone,” MacFarlane admits at Matchstick Coffee in Chinatown. “It’s good people are discovering this. In my opinion, it’s a lot more fun than going to see a show with three bands.”
DJing under the name 1080p Collection, MacFarlane will share the stage at Free Association with one of his New York acts, techno DJ-producer Max McFerren (“Everyone wants to come to Vancouver because they hear there’s this insane house and techno scene”), and local celestial house architect Friendly Chemist.
Soledad Muñoz of Genero echoes 1080p’s DIY sensibilities. Her all-female, multimedia project, with a label component, had its first cassette release this past summer, featuring the wyrd electronic pop of Stefana Fratila. Since then, two more have followed courtesy of deep-house and techno producers Regular Fantasy and D. Tiffany.
“I felt like there wasn’t enough female representation within the electronic realm,” she says of Genero’s inspiration, interviewed via Skype from a Portland coffee shop. “I come from a very critical-theory-based practice. But I also think that academia has this separation from reality. I’m very into pop culture. I’m very much into music. And I’m very much into getting together and making things happen.”
If critical theory doesn’t sound exactly, you know, fun, Muñoz rejects the idea that being an academic feminist and having a good time are conflicting notions.
“That’s how it has to be. C’mon, I’m not just inside a room reading books all day,” the Emily Carr grad jokes. “To me it’s about opening the doors and being ‘Yes, we are here and we’re doing it. Everyone come dance with us. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be great, and also we’re very good musicians.’ ”
Performing at Genero’s Free Association showcase are house and techno DJ Jayda G (“She can carry a whole party if she wanted to with her energy”), rapper and R&B singer MamaRudeGyal, and tropical electronic soundscape weaver Ramzi.
Muñoz is quick to point out that the project wasn’t started as a “fuck you” to everyone else in the local dance-music landscape. “I appreciate what all of our friends have done for this scene in Vancouver,” she explains. “The community has made Genero. It’s not just me.”
In fact, none of these upstart labels are concerned about competing with each other. D. Tiffany, whom Muñoz can’t say enough kind things about, has also released tapes with 1080p. At Free Association she’ll be playing in the Pacific Rhythm showcase, and the label plans to release her work on a forthcoming vinyl compilation. Additionally, Pacific Rhythm has a brick-and-mortar store (441 Gore Avenue) where you can buy everyone’s cassettes.
“More and more people are getting into it. 1080p came along. Now there’s Pacific Rhythm. And us. It’s growing and, hopefully, it doesn’t stop at all,” Muñoz says optimistically.
There’s a pretty palpable sense of community bubbling up in Vancouver right now. A healthy underground and a healthy mainstream are byproducts of one another, and this year’s Seasons Festival is building a bridge between the two. When the stadiums and festival dance tents need new sounds to keep partiers moving, they look to the warehouses for inspiration. And when the novelty of the lasers, confetti cannons, LED walls, and DJs hucking cake at you wears off, there’s always room for one more on the city’s dingier dance floors.
this article was originally published by the georgia straight in march 2015
“You know the message you’re sending out to the world with these sweatpants?” Jerry asks a casually dressed George. “You’re telling the world, ‘I give up. I can’t compete in normal society. I’m miserable, so I might as well be comfortable.’ ”
That one exchange from an episode of Seinfeld that aired over 20 years ago has helped define the discourse around sweatpants. Any conversation you have about them is likely to shift toward George Costanza, the de facto style icon of comfortable dressing. Consequently, there’s a good chance you’ll look like a schlub if you step outside in a pair of sweats, unless you’re on your way to the gym or you have a rap recording deal.
Then along came fashion sweatpants, to the chagrin of belt manufacturers everywhere. Despite that oft-shared quote from Karl Lagerfeld that “sweatpants are a sign of defeat,” they’ve been popping up in Vancouver’s most stylish boutiques, and it isn’t difficult to spend more money on some comfy sweatpants than on some uncomfy skinny jeans.
“They’re more like fashion pieces. They’re definitely a different approach to activewear,” explains Natsumi Akatsuka, buyer and store manager for Roden Gray (8 Water Street). “People that work out want to feel like they’re dressed up too. But they don’t want to actually go all the way to wearing suits or dramatically change their style all of a sudden. They can actually put on nicer pieces and still feel like themselves.”
The current wave of fashion sweats, which it’s safe to assume no one is wearing to Club 16, place an emphasis on craftsmanship with tapered fits, exotic fabrics, meticulous detailing, and, occasionally, zipper flies. (Think about that last one for a moment.)
“Sometimes with normal sweatpants, you still feel like you’re working out or sleeping or lounging in the house. With high-end, top-quality pieces, you can still feel confident enough to go outside,” Akatsuka says while showcasing the sweats on offer at one of the city’s premier menswear stores.
Hearing Akatsuka passionately describe the artistry and attention to detail on pairs of Thom Browne cashmere sweatpants ($1,595) or the kolor Side Stripe ($475) makes purchasing them seem like a sane proposition. A more affordable option, and a top seller at Roden Gray, is the John Elliott + Co Escobar ($230), inspired by the U.S. soccer team’s warm-up outfits in the 1980s.
Fret not if you’re a bit lighter in the wallet. You can be on trend and on budget, according to Vancouver stylist and sweatpants proselytizer Leila Bani.
“It’s taking something that’s so pedestrian and being all, ‘It’s fashion. Look it up.’ There are two schools of thought. You can go for the elevated, tailored vibe,” she explains. “Or you can just rock it and go for a straight prison look, which is also amazing.”
For the former, Bani recommends homegrown line Reigning Champ (starting at $110), available at gravitypope Tailored Goods (2203 West 4th Avenue). For the latter, she recommends sweats by Champion and Fila. These are tough to find, so your best bet is to keep your eyes on the racks at Winners (various locations).
The consensus is that black sweats are good for blending in, while white or grey ones tend to draw more attention to the fact that you’re, you know, a grown man wearing sweatpants in public. If you’re sporting a pizza-stained T-shirt and ratty Reeboks, it won’t matter how much money you dropped on your fashion sweats. The key to pulling them off at work or as everyday wear is to complement them with a nice shirt and sneakers. Showering occasionally will also do wonders. Alternatively, Bani, whose recent styling credits include the likes of GQ, suggests just being comfy and not giving a fuck.
“I think it comes back to the lifestyle here. You don’t see people dressed up. I love Vancouver because I can be a slob,” she declares. “I’ll be comfortable in my stretchy shit. Whatever. Embrace it.”
this article was originally published by the georgia straight in march 2015
That’s an excerpt from Adrian Mack’s Top 10 albums of 2014 for the Georgia Straight.
Here’s a website I recently got up for the Arrival Agency New Year’s Party at the Hotel Vancouver.