Multifaceted, multicultural and full of ingenuity – the arts and music community of the Yukon is widely appreciated, well-funded and extensively advertised.
At least, some parts of it.
At the colder, less hospitable edges of the creative community, less radio-friendly fringe groups vie for funding, airplay and stage-time. Among these groups is the raucously passionate heavy music scene – a subculture that spans rock, punk, hardcore, and heavy metal. Local heavy groups have been having an increasingly difficult time booking gigs over the last decade, due in part the boisterous nature of the music and the crowds it attracts, as well as a city-wide decline in live music venues.
In fact, one of the only remaining rays of light for local bands is the Jarvis Street Saloon, which is hosting a much-anticipated event on Friday, June 2nd featuring local groups Warrmauth, The Vagitarians, Chainsawdomy and Hoarfrost.
Joel Gilchrist, local promoter and vocalist for Chainsawdomy, is grateful to the Saloon for hosting the event, and wishes there were more venues willing to take a chance on heavy music.
“We need more bars open to experimenting and welcoming this kind of music, because there is a metal scene in this town, and as far as the bars are concerned, there’s money to be made,” he says.
The bands all understand the trepidation that a bar owner might have with regards to the rebellious nature of the music and subsequent audience, but as Gilchrist explains, much of this caution could be based on an unrealistic stereotype.
“They might think their bar will be damaged or disrespected, people will show up and wreck the place, which is never the case any time I’ve been to a show; metal bands and audiences generally aren’t destructive at all.” He adds that bars are also missing out on a potentially lucrative customer group.“This town is growing, I meet a lot of metalheads that are new here in town and have never seen any metal shows here, they never get the opportunity to. Particularly with summer coming and all the students and stuff, there’s the opportunity for metalheads to have a good time and bars can make bank off that.
“We need more bars in town to be open to the idea of hosting metal shows, even if only for profit. As musicians, we don’t care about the money, anything we make playing shows is a bonus and just gets put back into the band, but at this point, we just want to perform our music and have a good time, because it’s what we love to do.”
Local musician Mike Jones of The Vagitarians corroborates Gilchrist’s opinion.
“I think we [the heavy scene] are an integral part of the Yukon’s music community, and we’re often overlooked,” he says. “As far as convincing [venues to host us], it’s more like, show ’em our liquor receipts!”
At the moment, there are a number of metal bands in town that all want to play gigs, but it’s so rare for a bar to book a metal show that once they do, the competition to get on the bill can be high; Chainsawdomy has been waiting months for a chance to debut their new original material.
“All the bands want a chance to showcase what we have, we need the exposure,” says Gilchrist.
Addam Parsons of local doom group Flora Colossus offers another angle: “The other issue is that a lot of venues aren’t accustomed to heavy music; oftentimes the sound isn’t ideal or there isn’t enough room for crowds or moshing. Not to say bands aren’t happy to play anywhere we can, we certainly are glad to take any gig that comes our way, whether it be outside, in a bar, or a basement show. But I think that says something about how hungry the bands in town are to play shows.”
Here, Parsons touches on an important point. Metal shows don’t always need to be in bars, though they most often are, and as drummer Dustin Parsons points out, this further limits a potential customer base.
“Limiting shows to 19+ cuts a huge margin of audience in half. I remember being an underage fan and wanting to go to every local gig, but most were in bars. Don’t get me wrong, bar shows are great, but I don’t think the scene can do as well if we only get the chance to play one bar once in awhile, and we don’t let the kids come out and bang their heads.”
Finding all-ages appropriate venues is yet another challenge.
“We played a couple all-ages shows, at Epic Pizza and Battle of the Bands,” Gilchrist remembers, “but it was obvious that the whole crowd there was not geared for a metal show. When a death metal band comes on it’s a hard left turn. It’s important that people who do want to see death metal have a place to do it.”
Gilchrist hopes that more bars and all-ages venues will start to follow the lead of Jarvis Street Saloon by opening their doors to an unfamiliar, wildly enthusiastic and welcoming subculture.
Catch Warrmauth, Chainsawdomy, The Vagitarians and Hoarfrost at the Jarvis Street Saloon on Friday, June 2nd. Doors at 9:30 p.m. Everyone is welcome.