There are a lot of venues in the Fraser Valley that showcase local talent. Just within Abbotsford you’ve got SippChai and The Spotted Owl hosting somewhat regular open mic nights and poetry readings, you’ve got Oneill’s and Brother’s Bowling hosting gigs, and you’ve got Field House Brewing Co. and their backyard sets, just to name a few.
You’ve also got Carport Manor, a privately-owned house. Or, more accurately, a garage underneath a privately-owned house. On October 5 (a Wednesday, of all days), Saskatoon five-piece rock group Soul Mates took to the stage after an opening set by Aaron Levy, and annihilated their set, along with everything and all the people in this garage-turned venue. It was a beautiful thing to witness. It made me wish I’d brought earplugs, but not because the music was objectionable. In fact, it was the opposite. It was sublimely dissatisfied and full of energy and tension, like six cars simultaneously converging on and crashing into an already-burning building — but in a good way.
Firstly, the fact that you’ve got a venue being set up inside a house, as opposed to being set up inside, well, an actual venue, speaks to the position that bands and artists in Abbotsford and the Fraser Valley currently face. We’ve got the people, we’ve got the microphones and guitars and a mandolin kicking around somewhere; why is it necessary to host a show in a house? These are important questions. (And keep an eye out for future coverage on Abbotsford’s emerging arts scene, because I’m going to ask them again. And also I’ll answer them).
After Soul Mates brought down the room’s collective hearing ability by at least three decibels, Valley darlings Villain Villain took the stage. I hadn’t seen Soul Mates play before, but I had seen Villain Villain previously, and let me tell you, they are only getting better. They were good before, busting out hazy, distorted surf-pop while lead singer Jaydee Bates elongated all the vowels in every word so that they each last 10 years. They were good.
Oh man, did they get better. Nitya St-Laurent’s drumming got tighter, Luke Kokoska’s guitar riffs got funkier and more ambitious, the synthesiser added miles of satiny, velvety goodness, and Bates’ howls filled the room.
If anything, shows like Wednesday’s prove that, despite what seems like a fragmented arts scene, Abbotsford actually has some of the most committed musicians, artists, and community members out there.
Which begs the question: What’s missing?