The Georgia Straight - - Front Page - > BY JOHN LU­CAS, MIKE USINGER, AND KATE WIL­SON

The neat thing about West­ward Mu­sic Fes­ti­val is that, un­like most such events, it doesn’t fea­ture a cou­ple of head­lin­ers and a vast un­der­card play­ing out­doors while the pun­ters jos­tle for space in a field that will even­tu­ally turn into a mud pit be­cause, well, Van­cou­ver. In­stead, West­ward takes place from Thurs­day to Sun­day (Septem­ber 13 to 16) at some of the city’s finest venues—in­clud­ing the Vogue The­atre, the Bilt­more Cabaret, Venue, the Or­pheum, and the Im­pe­rial—and puts the spot­light on acts from near and far that are just wait­ing to be­come your new favourite. (With a few old faves throw in for good mea­sure, and yes, we’re look­ing at you, Mud­honey.) To get you started, we’ve made a list of six West­ward acts that are well worth your at­ten­tion.


(At the Vogue The­atre on Thurs­day) If gauzy, re­verb-slathered love songs hit you in that sweet spot, and you’ve al­ready worn out your vin­tage ’90s CD copies of Mo­jave 3’s Ask Me To­mor­row and Mazzy Starr’s So Tonight That I Might See, Greg Gon­za­lez has what you need. The Texas-based leader of Cig­a­rettes Af­ter Sex writes the kind of songs you might have put on a mix CD for your high-school crush, hop­ing that he or she wouldn’t miss the mes­sage. Gon­za­lez’s singing has been de­scribed as “an­drog­y­nous”, but we’ll go a step fur­ther and ad­mit that we’re not ac­tu­ally con­vinced that such a cheru­bic voice is re­ally com­ing out of a dude with a beard.


(At the Fox Cabaret on Satur­day) Some­times it takes a while to find one’s foot­ing. That’s cer­tainly held true for Mar­garet Glaspy, who seem­ingly ar­rived out of nowhere at age 27 with 2016’s Emo­tions and Math. Crit­ics praised the New York–based singer­song­writer’s fu­sion of win­some in­die rock, slurred jazz vo­cals, and seem­ingly hy­per­per­sonal lyrics. New fans won­dered why no one had paid at­ten­tion to Glaspy be­fore, even though she’d kicked around on the in­die-folk scene and re­leased a cou­ple of EPS. Ever found your­self stick­ing things out in a re­la­tion­ship sim­ply be­cause it was eas­ier than pack­ing up your records and start­ing all over again? With lyrics like “There’ll be too much time spent/won­der­ing where your heart went/have mercy on me/take your things from the apart­ment,” Glaspy can re­late.


(At the Vogue The­atre on Fri­day) If most pop stars strike you as pre­fab­ri­cated, soul­less au­toma­tons… Well, you prob­a­bly have a world­view with very lit­tle nu­ance. There is, how­ever, at least one up-and-com­ing pop star who ac­tu­ally wants you to think she’s a pre­fab­ri­cated, soul­less au­tom­a­ton. Poppy (for­merly That Poppy, and Mo­riah Rose Pereira be­fore that) is a Youtube star whose Lolita-an­droid per­sona has re­ceived far more at­ten­tion than her mu­sic has. We can re­port, how­ever, that we’re fans, thanks in large part to the Di­plo-col­lab sin­gle “Time Is Up”, a chip­per new-wave-flavoured ditty ex­plain­ing that, even though hu­man be­ings have roy­ally fucked up the planet and are des­tined to die off en masse, pre­fab­ri­cated, soul­less au­toma­tons like her will be just fine.


(At Venue on Sun­day) Saba is noth­ing if not pre­co­cious. Hav­ing grad­u­ated high school at 16, the now 21-year-old has spent the last five years cre­at­ing a cat­a­logue of smoky, jazz-in­fused beats topped off with ar­tic­u­late lyri­cal ex­plo­rations. Touch­ing on sub­jects that tap into the re­cent sad-rap phe­nom­e­non, Saba is vo­cal in his dis­cus­sions of de­pres­sion, and mar­ries his pro­found bars with a cap­ti­vat­ing de­liv­ery. A first-class mu­si­cian, the up-and­comer has the goods to en­ter­tain any gen­er­a­tion of rap fan.


(At Venue on Fri­day) There’s a rea­son Ravyn Lenae was in­cluded in Rolling Stone’s “10 New Artists You Need to Know” list in March last year. Still in high school when she made the cut, she has toured with powerhouse SZA and the hotly tipped Non­ame, bring­ing her ethe­real, quirky vo­cals to stages around North Amer­ica. Per­form­ing over funk-in­fused beats that wouldn’t sound out of place on an An­der­son .Paak record, the singer of­fers a fresh take on R&B in a mar­ket that’s sat­u­rated by pop-heavy hits.


(At the Im­pe­rial on Sun­day) Who cares about hit sin­gles, glossy mag­a­zine cov­ers, and al­most 58,000 In­sta­gram fol­low­ers? Some­times the fastest way to get a han­dle on some­one’s ca­reer is to check out the crowd they run with. Be­fore re­leas­ing her de­but al­bum, Oil of Ev­ery Pearl’s Unin­sides, ear­lier this year, So­phie had an im­pres­sive track record as a pro­ducer, work­ing with ev­ery­one from Madonna and Charli XCX to Vince Sta­ples and Let’s Eat Grandma. Thanks to a quite frankly in­spi­ra­tional take on shiny pop mu­sic, the enig­matic artist born Sa­muel Long is fi­nally get­ting more recog­ni­tion in front of the mike than be­hind the mix­ing board. Check out the re­gal, qui­etly pow­er­ful “It’s Okay to Cry”, and con­sole your­self that, as sure as heaven knows you’re mis­er­able now, to­mor­row is def­i­nitely go­ing to be a bet­ter day.

West­ward Mu­sic Fes­ti­val per­form­ers (clock­wise from left) Ravyn Lenae, Cig­a­rettes Af­ter Sex, Mar­garet Glaspy.

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