Music Under Siege
Published Jun 27, 2010In a city whose entertainment landscape is defined by prohibitive liquor licensing bylaws and high rental rates, it was only a matter of time before Vancouver's notorious "no fun city" reputation was immortalized on film. Two years ago, Melissa James started an online documentary about local bands and music venues. "It began as a small project about DIY [culture] and how to create your own space to play a show," James explains from her Chinatown office. "Then I realized that there were many factors that were creating those venues - in a few cases, they weren't underground by choice but more by force, because it was so difficult to start or maintain a legitimate place for live music in the city."
The project grew, and James teamed up with fellow documentarian Kate Kroll to make No Fun City, an exploration of Vancouver's uneasy adolescence through the eyes of local musicians and venue operators. With appearances by Skinny Puppy, 3 Inches of Blood, Nu Sensae and Japandroids, the film follows the rise and fall of underground music venues against a backdrop of widespread gentrification and a fickle municipal government. It's clear the film has struck a nerve. No Fun City premiered with two sold-out screenings at Vancouver's DOXA documentary film festival in May, followed by appearances at Calgary's Sled Island Film Festival and San Francisco's Frozen Film Festival. Future screenings are planned for Montreal, Los Angeles, and London, England. A presale DVD will be released later this year through NoFunCity.org. "We're realizing that some of these issues are being felt in other places as well - not just our no fun city," says James. "The only way things are going to change is if we start being proactive. We have to make sure that our music is supported. It's only no fun if you let it be."