On the nature of concerts: Whoop-Szo and co. open a window into local concert culture

Music, Music, Off The Vine, Reviews

Ontario folk/metal outfit WHOOP-SZO were joined by Chastity and Abbotsford’s own Villain Villain on June 30 at Brothers Bowling and Billiards, performing for a packed house. If there’s one thing that struck me while I bopped my head along to the hazy incarnation of surf-pop Villain Villain showered guests with, it was the fact that the entire gathering felt like less of a concert, in its formality and set-up, and more like a family gathering. The room wasn’t split between performers and show-goers; members of other local bands mingled with show regulars and newcomers alike.

And despite the black-leather tinge that visibly denoted the headbangers up front while WHOOP-SZO rocked on, the crowd seemed as motley as the night’s surf-pop/metal/punk lineup itself. Somehow, though, it worked. From one act to the next, shoe-gazers gazed, dancers danced, head-boppers bopped heads. This sense of community was only bolstered in my mind as I witnessed previous concerts being used as reference points for catching up in conversations. “Oh, I haven’t seen you since so-and-so, what have you been up to?”

It’s almost as if defying a genre-specific mould is ingrained within the concert culture of the Fraser Valley. Is it because, caught between two mountains—the cultural behemoth to the south and Vancouver to the west—Fraser Valley culture has no other choice than to patch itself up, a ragtag hand-me-down suit made of pop and metal and punk and folk and spoken-word poets?

“Music brings people together, it transcends social conventions.”

We hear it all the time: Music brings people together, it transcends social conventions. But what the hell does that mean? That doesn’t mean anything. Of course music brings people together— we all listen to music in one form or another. Such a blanket statement can’t quite capture the heart of the sentiment, which is that music forms community. I might work at a retail store and live in a different town than someone who works at a mill and hangs in different social groups than myself, but through concerts like these, multi-genre and niche, for lack of a better word, we bridge the gap.

I’m not a metal fan. At least, I haven’t been one for a while. I used to listen to some metal back in the day but that was ages ago. Chastity’s thrashing about up on stage sparked in me a curiosity about more discordant rock than I’m used to listening to. Why do I bring this up? Because not only can I, after the fact, write that this, through art, is how we build a stronger, more interconnected community, but I can see it happening within the framework of my own tastes.

If you asked me whether the night was enjoyable, the answer would invariably be, yes, you bet it was. But more than that I think it was also necessary. If there’s anything I’d like to see, it’s this kind of event, this kind of community, self-supported and ingrained within itself while still being open to outsiders, in other genres outside of music, such as literature or performances like drama or art.

If the current turn-out for and involvement in concerts can serve as an indicator, we’re well on our way there.

Black tri-dot

Photo by: Purple Sheep/ flickr.com