Identity Music Festival Looks to Break Boundaries In Vancouver's Rock Scene
SUPPORT THE SCENE'S JAMES WEEKES HOSTS ALL INCLUSIVE FESTIVAL THAT CELEBRATES IDENTITY FREEDOM AND HEAVY MUSIC
Written by Johnny Papan
James Weekes is a well-known figure in Vancouver’s metal and punk rock scene. Born in Peru, Weekes was adopted and travelled around Canada before settling in Sechelt when he was six. After moving to Vancouver, he attended an audio engineering college and played in bands. He learned how to book and promote shows and started his own music blog, Hammer Records, alongside Rose Anson. Later, Weekes landed a job at Universal Records as an assistant engineer. This lead him to being a photographer for bands such as Dragonforce, Firewind, Children Of Bodom and Vancouver’s Unleash the Archers.
Now, Weekes currently runs and operates the Support the Scene YouTube channel where he interviews local artists and films live performances. He is also a member of the band Fallen Stars.
Though still identifying as male for the time being, Weekes is at the beginning stages of a female transition. An active member of both Vancouver’s music as well as LGBTQ+ scene, Weekes has now put has put together the inaugural Identity Music Festival, an all-inclusive event with a heavy-music focus to be held at the Red Gate Arts Society on July 6. Weekes spoke with Rekt Chords about the upcoming festival.
REKT CHORDS: WHEN DID THIS IDEA FOR IDENTITY FESTIVAL COME TO YOUR HEAD, AND WHAT KIND OF WORK WENT INTO PUTTING IT TOGETHER?
JAMES WEEKES: I’ve been learning more about the Queer and LGBTQ+ community here in Vancouver through promoters like CUSHY Entertainment and seeing a whole new side of Vancouver as I've started my male to female transition. I’ve been welcomed open arms by the music scene here in Vancouver but I know there are many members of the LGBTQ+ scene that would never go to Pub 340, or the Astoria or some of these underground venues around town because they are not sure what to expect. I want to make sure Identity Festival is a safe space so everyone feels that they can be themselves. If crossdressers, trans, gender queer people want to come, they can feel safe expressing themselves how ever they want.
I also want to connect the youth and young adults of Vancouver to our ever growing and thriving music scene. So that once out of high school they know some great musicians to go and enjoy the shows and support our music scene. There are so many kick ass bands around Vancouver that would appeal of the new generation of music lovers.
I NOTICED THAT THERE ARE BANDS ON THE HEAVIER MUSIC SIDE. DID YOU INTEND FOR THIS TO BE A HEAVIER/PUNK MUSIC FESTIVAL? IF SO, WHY?
I’ve noticed more of the all ages LGBTQ+ shows feature more... glitter and sparkles.. or... softer bands. We have a great metal and punk scene here in Vancouver and I want it known and appreciated that you can be gay/lesbian/trans etc and also be edgy and hard and alternative. Just because your a gay male, doesn't mean you have to like drag queens and clubbing 24/7. You can enjoy some death metal and punk music. I want to bridge that gap so that more members of the community and all ages scene get invested in the great metal/punk scenes we have around Vancouver.
WHAT IS YOUR PERCEPTION OF LGBTQ+ IN THE VANCOUVER MUSIC SCENE? ESPECIALLY WHEN IT COMES TO PUNK AND METAL? WOULD YOU CALL IT WELCOMING/ACCEPTING OR OTHERWISE? IS YOUR EXPERIENCE THE SAME NOW AS IT WAS MAYBE EARLIER ON IN LIFE?
I’ve had the most amazing experience in the heavier scenes. Sure theres some shows where I know its not "normal" to go wearing flashy glittery clothes. But who cares? Be you. I’ve never witnessed discrimination of someones outward expression of themselves. And at the odd time that conflict does arise, the promoters are quick to step in and help the situation. I know that it is quite welcoming, but from an outward glance, especially if you’re not familiar with the scene in Vancouver, then it can seem a bit overwhelming. I want to bridge that gap and have epic metal tutu party shows, goth nights, etc.
I'M INTRIGUED BY THE POSTER ARTWORK. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT IT A LITTLE BIT. WHAT AM I LOOKING AT AND WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
For this poster we went with an outside designer. We wanted it to gender neutral so hence the colours. But we went with a feminine figure to help express that we are open to everyone. If you know the bands and see the poster we want you to think "Oh this isn't like a real garagy, grungy rock show". It’s an event. It’s something different.
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR MUSIC CHANNEL, SUPPORT THE SCENE? WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BEGIN THIS GROWING CHANNEL?
So after leaving Hammer Records and its dissolve. I noticed no one stepped up and covered the local scene like we had. The Georgia Straight would cover the odd local band, but only if they had a certain level of success at certain venues. No one was coming to Pub 340 or Funky Winkerbeans (when it had bands) to see some of the killer acts. But instead of wanting to start a new blog and deal with countless hours of writing, I wanted to take a more visual approach. Focus more on interviews and since I'm already attending lots of shows, post live videos so that promoters/fans/people can see a preview of a bands experience and their live show before attending a show, or booking the band.
WHAT IS YOUR ULTIMATE GOAL WHEN IT COMES TO IDENTITY FESTIVAL, SUPPORT THE SCENE, AND ANY OTHER INVOLVEMENTS YOU HAVE IN THE VANCOUVER SCENE?
I want to create a bridge between all scenes. I have a music festival around my birthday in February called FallenFest which was basically started because my band was too heavy to book at rock festivals, but too soft to book at metal festivals. So we created our own. It was hugely successful and we had a drag queen host the event and it was free to attend. I want all my events to be safe spaces for people to come and enjoy themselves. I want to cross genres and have punk bands play with pop bands. But the only continuity is that... they all put on AMAZING SHOWS. No one will be bored. No yawns will be had. I expect bands to give it their all and to leave it all on the dance floor for the audience. I want to create EVENTS, not just shows, but memories that people will remember.
ANY OTHER THOUGHTS? FEEL FREE TO SAY WHATEVER YOU'D LIKE!
I want to thank everyone who has shared, interviewed me, or helped me grow this festival, this page, this project. It only works if we work together as a scene. Far too long have we divided ourselves by genre and it has killed our scene. There is NO MORE ROCK on the Granville strip. Literally, no one is playing bands anymore (except for the Roxy, but we all know how that goes). Venues are closing left and right, we have to ban together and let it be known that we have stellar world class musicians. That people WANT live music. That we have a variety of music that’s open to anyone and everything. On this channel, I want to interview people from all sorts of scenes. Theatre, film, modelling, just being a music lover is enough to come on and talk about your craft. Working with our great sponsors and business that help support us and that also are inclusive and help build a scene in Vancouver.