We give you the best, the worst, and the just plain weird of the mu­sic world for the past 12 months—in­clud­ing why all our mu­si­cians might some­day move to Regina.

Our favourite mu­si­cal head­lines of the year, from the year in Bieber to jam­ming with Archie

The Georgia Straight - - News - By Mike Usinger, Kate Wil­son, and John Lu­cas

It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times. If you sur­vived 2018 and all of its bit­terly di­vi­sive politics with your san­ity in­tact, con­sider your­self lucky. There were some things even the most beau­ti­ful song couldn’t set right, but for the most part, mu­sic made it all bet­ter. Here are our picks for the best, worst, and weird­est sto­ries to come out of the mu­sic world in the last 12 months. THE YEAR IN BIEBER This was the year we all freaked out over Justin Bieber’s sup­posed in­abil­ity to con­sume food like an or­di­nary hu­man be­ing. A photo of a Bieber look-alike sit­ting on a park bench and tuck­ing into a bur­rito side­ways went vi­ral in Oc­to­ber and man­aged to con­vince a sadly large num­ber of ob­servers that the Cana­dian pop star finds eat­ing to be an in­sur­mount­able chal­lenge. That was a hoax, but what’s true is that Bieber mar­ried Hai­ley Bald­win in Septem­ber. Hai­ley is the daugh­ter of ac­tor Stephen Bald­win, a sup­posed born-again Chris­tian who once founded a for-profit min­istry ded­i­cated to lin­ing his own pock­ets. Not to be out­done, Bieber has been no­tably more out­spo­ken about his own re­li­gious con­vic­tions in re­cent months. He even cred­ited his lord and saviour with pro­vid­ing a tem­plate for mar­ried life, writ­ing on In­sta­gram in Novem­ber: “Re­la­tion­ships are hard and love isn’t al­ways easy but thank you Je­sus for show­ing me how!” Who wants to break it to the guy that Je­sus was a life­long bach­e­lor?

GOOD­BYE, LOTUSLAND Ten years ago, Van­cou­ver had a healthy sup­ply of ram­bling old rental houses—many oc­cu­pied by un­der­ground artists and mu­si­cians. To­day, most of those houses have been ripped down for du­plexes with a laneway house. That, and a sky-high cost of liv­ing, partly ex­plains why Van­cou­ver acts—tough Age, Kevin Halpin, Sally Jør­gensen— con­tinue to pull up stakes and move to more af­ford­able cities like, um, Toronto, Ber­lin, and New York. This year’s South by South­west fes­ti­val of­fered ev­i­dence for the the­ory that lo­cal mu­si­cians are in­creas­ingly giv­ing up. Toronto and Mon­treal were each rep­re­sented by 11 acts at one of the most fa­bled small-club fes­ti­vals in the world. Van­cou­ver sent three. In the months that fol­lowed, the Cobalt shut down, leav­ing a ma­jor hole in a city al­ready lack­ing venues friendly to smaller bands. The Zo­las put a poignant ex­cla­ma­tion point on a bleak sit­u­a­tion in Au­gust with “Bombs Away”, a fuzz-pop breakup let­ter that singer Zach Gray de­scribed as fol­lows: “This track goes out to ev­ery­one see­ing their favourite spots and favourite peo­ple get priced out of the city and won­der­ing if they might be next.” Sad as all this is, the good news is Regina awaits your perma broke ass with open arms. VAN­COU­VER’S VERY OWN For those look­ing for a lit­tle bit of cul­ture from the Six, 2018 de­liv­ered. Drake’s much cov­eted Oc­to­ber’s Very Own (OVO) cloth­ing line opened its first store in Van­cou­ver this year, lo­cated on the very bougie 1000 block of Rob­son Street. Turns out that high-street prices didn’t de­ter lo­cals from turn­ing out in force for the sought-af­ter streetwear, as the lineup to get into the build­ing at one point stretched the length of a city block. With all the cool kids now rock­ing Drizzy’s de­signs, ex­pect to see a flurry of gold owls in the new year.

TIME’S UP FOR HED­LEY One of rock ’n’ roll’s dirty se­crets is that stars big and small get away with shit that wouldn’t be­gin to fly in the av­er­age bed­room, mo­tel room, or hair-farmer hot tub. Thank Christ, then, for the #Metoo move­ment, which saw women around the world come out swing­ing against men who’ve used po­si­tions of power to do in­ex­cus­able things, of­ten sex­ual. While Har­vey We­in­stein and Kevin Spacey dom­i­nated in­ter­na­tional news, the Van­cou­ver mu­sic scene had its own head­line maker. In Fe­bru­ary an Ot­tawa woman ac­cused Hed­ley singer Ja­cob Hog­gard of rape af­ter the two hooked up via Tin­der, and an­other woman from Toronto stepped for­ward in March with more al­le­ga­tions. Although ar­gu­ing that both en­coun­ters were con­sen­sual, Hog­gard was charged in July with one count of sex­ual in­ter­fer­ence and two counts of sex­ual as­sault caus­ing bod­ily harm in­volv­ing a woman and a girl un­der 16. This has hope­fully sent a mes­sage that, if a small-pota­toes Cancon rock star can end up in the cross hairs of #Metoo, le­git­i­mate mu­sic-biz stars bet­ter take no­tice.

What makes a song a hit in this day and age? Is it ra­dio play? Is it down­loads? Or is it hav­ing a huge num­ber of peo­ple hear your song and love it? If it’s the last of those, then “Cuz You’re My Girl” cer­tainly counts as a hit. The song, by Van­cou­ver in­die-rock mu­si­cian Jor­dan Heaney, was up­loaded by Youtu­ber Alona Che­merys in the sum­mer of 2017. By the end of 2018, the video had racked up more than 3.5 mil­lion views. In­ter­viewed by the Straight in May, Heaney—who puts his mu­sic out un­der the name Yung Heazy—said, “I have no idea how she found the song. I just put it up on Sound­cloud, and it had, like, 100 plays or some­thing. She some­how found the song through the depths of the In­ter­net and de­cided to put it on her chan­nel. And it just hap­pened or­gan­i­cally. Peo­ple started shar­ing and lis­ten­ing to it. I didn’t even know it was up there for, like, a good two weeks. No one con­tacted me about it. It’s a weird story. I didn’t have any con­trol over it.” CELEBRITY EN­DORSE­MENT Car­rot­topped, steel-abbed KJ Apa caused quite the stir in Van­cou­ver this year while film­ing Riverdale, a Net­flix adap­ta­tion of the Archie comics. Although he was spot­ted in lo­cal night­clubs, on the White­caps’ soc­cer pitch, and hug­ging Brock Boeser at Rogers Arena, nowhere was the star more fre­quently seen than on-stage with tour­ing bands. Turns out he’s quite good. Af­ter con­nect­ing last year with U.S. jazz-blues artist Ron Ar­tis II to shred his axe at the Rail­way Stage and Beer Café, Apa went one bet­ter in 2018, join­ing Nor­we­gian su­per­star DJ Kygo in a per­for­mance of his sin­gle “It Ain’t Me” at Sur­rey’s FVDED in the Park. Prov­ing he’s not in it for the ex­po­sure, how­ever, Apa capped off the year with a half-hour jam with Saska­toon group the Stead­ies at Gas­town’s Guilt & Co.—a ses­sion that’s led to the small band blow­ing up around the world. The star will be film­ing in Van­cou­ver un­til April 19, leav­ing lo­cal groups four months to lobby for a guest ap­pear­ance.

STILL GO­ING Af­ter the Daily Mail printed a head­line stat­ing that lo­cal boy Michael Bublé had of­fi­cially re­tired from mu­sic, his fans were locked into is-he-isn’t-he limbo. No longer, the ar­ti­cle im­plied, would his vel­vety vo­cals be on hand to im­part deep wis­dom about love; no more would lis­ten­ers be re­galed by his lux­u­ri­ous croon. His pub­li­cist, how­ever, was quick to re­spond, telling the world that the Bri­tish pa­per had mis­quoted the singer, and that Bublé would not be hang­ing up his mi­cro­phone. Prov­ing that he is ev­ery bit the class act, the singer says that he asked the friends who reached out to him not to share the ar­ti­cle, but rather to send him pic­tures of their kids, be­cause “he’d much rather know about that.” HOPE FOR THE FU­TURE This sum­mer was the fourth time that Van­cou­ver played host to one of Cana­dian mu­sic’s high­est hon­ours, the Juno Awards. The city had a par­tic­u­larly strong show­ing among win­ners, with lo­cal-born Grimes tak­ing the crown for video of the year, North Van­cou­ver–raised Re­nee Rosnes scoring a win for jazz al­bum of the year, and city dweller Bria Skon­berg chalk­ing up a vic­tory in the vo­cal-jazz-al­bu­mof-the-year cat­e­gory. The fact that all three cham­pi­ons are fe­male mir­rors a wider trend that de­fined the week. The #Metoo move­ment had a strong bear­ing on the Juno events, with the or­ga­ni­za­tional com­mit­tee part­ner­ing with Good Night Out Van­cou­ver—a group that im­ple­ments strate­gies to end sex­ual ha­rass­ment and as­sault in venues—and or­ga­niz­ing a high-pro­file panel ded­i­cated to help­ing women in mu­sic ad­vance their ca­reers. Here’s to the emer­gence of more kick-ass fe­male artists.

HARD TIME ABROAD It sounds like the ti­tle of the best screamo song never writ­ten: “Hard Time in a Yoko­hama Jail”. Ex­cept that, for Van­cou­ver metal-punk vet­eran Daniel Bur­ton Whit­more, it’s a re­al­ity. Fa­mous among pre­gen­tri­fi­ca­tion Cobalt reg­u­lars for fronting both the re-formed Death Sen­tence and the grease­painted Iron Maiden tribute band Pow­er­clown, Whit­more was ar­rested at Narita In­ter­na­tional Air­port in late 2017. He was mak­ing the trek to Ja­pan from Van­cou­ver, and he was caught try­ing to smug­gle $7 mil­lion worth of stim­u­lant drugs into the coun­try us­ing his gui­tar case. In a Face­book post this fall, his brother re­ported that Whit­more— also know as Dan Scumm—has been to­tally down in the dumps af­ter be­ing in­car­cer­ated in a Yoko­hama jail. He also sug­gested that the singer might be able to for­get the end­less Japanese-prison march­ing drills, cross-legged sit­ting ses­sions, and barked or­ders in a for­eign lan­guage if old friends and fans would be kind enough to write to him. Or write a screamo song called “Hard Time in a Yoko­hama Jail”, and then ask Whit­more if he’ll pro­vide the vo­cals when he’s re­leased in 2022.

Photo by Rankin

Drake’s Oc­to­ber’s Very Own cloth­ing line be­came avail­able this year on Rob­son Street; A U.K. tabloid got it wrong when it claimed that Michael Bublé had re­tired. (Photo by Evaan Kheraj); Van­cou­ver’s Grimes won her third Juno.

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