As my band and I arrived in Gastown early Thursday evening there was no doubt that the night was going to be special.Â Already, volunteers in bright orange shirts were scurrying around posting flyers, setting tents, and running cables and powerbars along Water Street, while the first set of the over 150 local musicians scheduled to perform began loading in. The stage was set and the air was electrified for the second annual Make Music Vancouver.
The Make Music festivals, also known as La Fete de la Musique, are all grassroots events, completely free and entirely volunteer-run. Ever since the first festival was held in France in 1982, the event has been celebrated every June 21, the day of the summer solstice and the longest day of the year, in over 450 cities worldwide; Vancouver having successfully hosted its first just last year. This year, the event took place once again in Gastown and extended out to parts of Yaletown.
By 5pm the music began and so did the crowds around each of the performance spots. What started out as small gatherings on the sidewalks soon moved out onto the street as thousands of spectators flocked to Gastown. I could see event volunteers attempting to urge people off of the street and away from moving traffic; some even holding hands and forming barriers to keep vehicles from hitting anyone. I had attended the festival last year, but was shocked by how much it had grown! This year, the streets were jam-packed and there were musicians representing every genre. As I walked up and down Gastown and Yaletown, I heard everything from folk music to electronic, metal to jazz, and even traditional music that had people salsa dancing on the road. Make Music Vancouver had turned Gastown into a dancefloor and police were forced to shut down Water Street.
I was so caught up in seeing all the amazing acts that I almost forgot that my own band, Shadows, was scheduled to perform that night. We were one of the last bands performing and, as our set-up time came closer, we realized that our van was parked in an underground lot on Water Street which was closed off! We were rushed around by organizers who were kind enough to try and find us a closer performance spot so that we could just carry our gear down, but luckily there was a back exit that allowed us to get the van out just in time. We set up as a crowd of family and friends gathered and, once we began, passersby stopped for a listen. They cheered us on, took photos, and even stayed after our set to chat with us. Like last year, the Make Music Vancouver spectators were amazing!
I’m still in awe of the energy, community, and spirit at Make Music Vancouver. If you missed this year’s festival, mark off June 21, 2013, on your calendar for next year! And if you’re a local musician, Make Music Vancouver welcomes all genres and performers, so why not sign up for the next one?
Main photo from www.facebook.com/MakeMusicVancouver