"Vancouver, You're Lucky": Music Waste Showed Off the City's Vibrant DIY Scene

With Apollo Ghosts, Future Star, Sad China, Clara Sanchez, Buddie, Empanadas Ilegales, Gadfly, Itemfinder, Megamall

Jodie Jodie Roger | Photo: Jean-Michel Lacombe

Published Jun 7, 2022

Returning to in-person music for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, the 2022 edition of Vancouver music and arts festival Music Waste unfolded this past weekend, from Thursday, June 2 to Sunday, June 5. Spread out over handful of East Vancouver venues, both indoors and outdoors, the fest presented a wide range of acts and genres, primarily focusing on up-and-coming local talent. The excitement was palpable, as artists seemed eager to share all the material they've been putting together these last two years.

While everything we saw at the festival was worthy of praise, here are some standout performances that showcase the breadth of what Music Waste, and Vancouver's DIY music scene at large, has to offer.

Future Star

Performing at the venue where she first held hands with her partner, Vancouver synthpop auteur Future Star capped off the festival's first night at the Red Gate Arts Society with a set loaded with understated significance and beauty. Through a series of short, evocative vignettes performed through voice and electric piano, Future Star consoled and delighted in equal measure. These were songs of longing, sometimes of domestic bliss, pleas to make all interactions have personal meaning, or demands to have comfort an arm's length away. The performance felt intimate and safe, like a conversation between close friends sitting in a living room late at night after most people have already left the party. Occasionally, Future Star kept time with finger snaps, syncing to a fast, arpeggiated piano riff, words tumbling over the notes with ramshackle charm. The set's end was unceremonious yet charming, the singer admitting she needed to work in the morning, and that it's best she got home. Fair enough. And so, two songs later, Music Waste's first day came to an end.

Apollo Ghosts, Itemfinder and Megamall

A trio of bands played a packed off-the-floor show at Main Street institution Antisocial Skateboard Shop on Friday night, transforming the store into an awesome ad hoc venue that also felt like a great party.

First up was local act Megamall, who delivered alternately scruffy and bouncy post-punk with a Pixies edge. Bassist Alie Lynch's vocal affectation channelled prime Alanis as she sang the absurdist line "Break both my noses" over an ear-worm slacker riff on standout "Two-Faced."

Seattle's Itemfinder followed with their grunge-pop amplifier worship, decks and skate shoes nearly vibrating off the wall with every chord hit. Though it was a struggle to hear the band's vocals over the guitar din, singer and guitarist Keen more than made up for it with every defiant, skyward thrust of his Gibson Explorer.

Closing out the evening were Vancouver scene veterans Apollo Ghosts. They played their jangly post-punk with impressive muscle and precision, due in no small part to the addition of new drummer Dustin Bromley (also of fellow Music Waste performers Brutal Poodle). Vocalist and guitarist Adrian Teacher spent the evening making the best of his guitar's radio transmitter unit, wandering the skate shop and playing his high-wire riffs in the middle of the audience whenever a vocal break allowed for it. The band's energy was contagious, their smiles mirrored in a crowd that hung on every word and danced to every beat. "Vancouver, you're lucky," repeated Teacher throughout the night, speaking to the wealth of talent on display at Music Waste, and to the generosity of community members who made it possible.


Many of Music Waste's sets were performed from a canopy tent set up in the back parking lot of the venerable Kingsgate Mall, a Mount Pleasant community staple that's the object of much affection and gentle ribbing for its hodgepodge of essential services, niche boutiques and out-of-time aesthetics. A good fit perhaps for Buddie to play a mid-afternoon set of fuzzed-out power pop that recalled a whole lineage of ragged, tuneful rockers stretching back to Big Star's '70s output, by way of '90s grunge grit. Having relocated from Philadelphia to Vancouver at the tail end of 2021, the band's Dan Forrest wasted no time assembling a great band to play these songs, with keyboardist and backing vocalist Anna Zeleny deserving a special shoutout for performing with a broken leg. Forrest's melodic turns evoked greats like John K. Samson and the Mountain Goats, while his songs' distorted guitar blowouts managed to somewhat soothe the sting of LVL UP's dissolution years ago.

Empanadas Ilegales

Who knew psychedelic cumbia was the perfect ward for Vancouver's late spring showers? Empanadas Ilegales, who play a delicious, psych-fried take on Latin American dance music, got bodies moving in the Kingsgate Mall parking lot, despite the increasing downpour. Salsa rhythms and saxophone collided with effects pedal wizardry courtesy of the band's Ricardo Perez Guerrero, making for body music that didn't sacrifice experimentation at the altar of ease of expression. The band ably moved from slinky dub grooves to frenetic percussion excursions, and the crowd matched every beat, some dancing with abandon in the spray, others crowded under the tiny audience canopy tent, limbs constricted but no less bopping, as rain poured over the edge. An easy Music Waste highlight that needs to be seen and heard.

Sad China

"Who thought they were gonna get a workout at Music Waste?" asked Sunny Chen, a.k.a. Sad China, mere moments into their jubilant Saturday evening set at neighbourhood haunt the Lido. Judging by audience's pogo-hopping and frenzied dancing, it seems like quite a few came prepared to sweat it out to the project's crystalline, art-damaged pop. Chen's presence was electric and infectious, frequently leaving the stage to party with the crowd, and gregariously sharing the mic with those eager to shout back at them. "We waited an eternity it seems, but good things come to those who wait," Chen sang over percolating, marimba-ish synths during a performance of the title track to their 2021 album ilyimy, one of the night's purest moments of catharsis and a great encapsulation of what it feels like to have Music Waste back in a live setting in 2022.


There's something uncanny about doom-y, vampiric stoner rock being performed in the harsh light of day. Gadfly, playing the Sunday afternoon show at Girls Rock Camp Vancouver, seemed to frankly abhor the sunlight. And yet, despite singer and guitarist Homa Khoshnavaz expressing her discomfort with the setting, the band did not burst into flames and turn to dust — instead, they gave one of the festival's most blistering sets, and it was the audience members who were reduced to ashes. Gadfly fuse Persian folk melodies to titanic riffs of the Iommi and Pike variety, all while injecting a hearty dose of '70s prog and psychedelia into the mix. And while the wah-wah solos and organ runs harken back to the era of velvet vests and perms, there's something forward-looking about the band's mix of influences, nudging the boundaries of metal and doom ever outward. With an LP rumoured to be dropping later this year, Gadfly is a Vancouver band to watch.

Clara Sanchez

Singer songwriter Clara Sanchez claims to have caught the country music bug sometime during the pandemic, and boy howdy, this is one case of transmission we can all be glad for. Enabled by her talented pedal steel player Alex, Sanchez captivated the hearts of an attentive, deathly quiet Wise Hall on Sunday evening to close out Music Waste. Hushed, assured and gorgeous, her voice glided over simple acoustic chords that showcased her excellent songwriting and melodic sensibilities. A cover of "I Never Will Marry," a country folk standard famously recorded by the Carter Family and later performed by Linda Ronstadt, rounded out the set and fit in perfectly. Sanchez ended with a song interrogating her relationship to the land she inhabits as a Filipino settler on the unceded territory known as Vancouver — a quiet, considered kōan, grappling with hard questions and doubt, the latter of which the singer eventually chooses to shed. Sanchez currently only has a two-song single out in the world, but we hope there's much more to come.

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