Northern Beats: A Whistle-Stop Tour Of Vancouver’s Music Scene

Stretching across the West coast of Canada’s vast landmass, Vancouver does feel, at times, like it is at the edge of the world. Despite being thousands of miles apart from its East coast counterparts, the city has managed to form an identity of its own, drumming up a wealth of film, literature, food, and art. While visitors might flock to the area for the sheer amount of natural beauty on offer in the surrounding landscape, there is a great deal more to be said about life within the city and the projects exploding on local soil. For some time now, Vancouver has been heading up its own very eclectic music scene, unlike anything ever produced in the city before. Influenced by the UK, this music is a great deal grimier than one might expect, showing an altogether different local perspective.

Like all major cities, Vancouver champions a mix of musical styles, shining a light on all sorts of underground genres. Knowing where to source your style is simply a question of getting to know the venues on offer in the city. While it might be whistle-stop, this musical tour of Vancouver will give you some footing in the scene, helping you to head to the destination that is guaranteed to suit your preferences.

One of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, Gastown has a lot going for it. And while it might be bustling with strings of tourists by day, there are pockets of the neighborhood in which music is the raison d’être. If you’re looking for a great place to get to grips with the local music, Beat Street Records should be your go-to stop. Immense in its collection, this record shop is home to every genre of music imaginable, and it isn’t unusual to find yourself rubbing shoulders with some of the most popular local artists when you venture inside.

If you’re on the hunt for great music venues, taking a trip off the beaten track can really serve you well. While Vancouver does have its fair share of arena spaces, it is the galleries and independent shops to which you’ll want to look. Pop-up musical events are not uncommon in smaller galleries, and after hours, even the most unlikely of venues can be made into a makeshift music stage.

While one-off performances are helping to shape the city’s music, there are bigger things at play, giving people very real opportunities to make it big. Groundwerk is a grassroots community of producers who are each helping to develop the local scene. As well as supporting emerging artists and music festivals, the group puts on major arts events, blending artists from the local area with practices such as graffiti art. Shambhala, one of their most popular events, is a melting pot of electronic and bass-heavy music, featuring styles that are influenced by both Detroit and the UK. This is international stuff.

When it comes to clubs, things are very much on the rise, too. In areas like Mountpleasant, away from the downtown scene, underground music is really given the space in which to thrive, bringing with it a huge creative surge. Open Studios is one of the jewels in the area’s crown, helping emerging styles find their platform and their audience, giving any new style the opportunity to shine. On the other side of things, Vancouver Art and Leisure has been hugely important to the city for a number of years, helping to nurture an arts scene that is diverse in its representation. The club is known as one of the most inclusive places to be in the city, and any night of the week, you could be listening to a wholly different style of music.

One of Canada’s major cities, Vancouver is announcing itself as a serious player on the world’s creative stage. Nurturing a blossoming arts and music scene, the city is one of the most exciting places to be, offering a springboard for where contemporary styles will go next.

Hannah Lamarque
Hannah is a freelance writer and copy editor living in Europe. She writes about travel, art, design and culture and loves discovering hidden places in the cities that she visits.