2017 was a rather rough year for the music scene in Victoria, Vancouver Island and especially music festivals worldwide. It was a year of full of hiatuses, cancellations and closures. As always, we tried to keep up with what was going on. Some news we broke and others we found out late. If there’s anything missing, it’s probably because no one told us about it. Here are some of the major music headlines in Victoria and the region that happened in 2017.
January 27: HMV Goes Into Receivership, Victoria Store Closes in April
It was announced January 27 that music retailer HMV Canada would go into receivership. All 102 of its stores were closed as of April 14th, including the last remaining Victoria location at Mayfair Shopping Centre. HMV had been in business in Canada since 1986. In February, Ontario music retailer Sunrise Records took over 70 HMV locations including the one at Mayfair.
January 30: Tally-Ho Sports bar And Hideaway Cafe Announces Closure
After 56 years in business the Tally-Ho Sports Bar and the Hideaway Cafe announced that both places would close at the end of February. The Tally-Ho would host a number of live music events in its final month including performances from Aaron Wood Band, Blue Sky, Auntie Kate and The Uncles of Funk, a Heart tribute band and a blues jam.
In April it was announced the BC government had purchased bar and hotel property and would convert it into low-barrier housing for the city’s homeless.
February 1: Otalith Music Festival Freezes 2017 Capacity at 1500
After seeing attendance double every year of its existence, Tofino/Ucluelet’s Otalith Music Festival decided to freeze the capacity at 1500 in 2017. organizers came to the conclusion “that in order to preserve its intimate feeling, Otalith has reached its attendance limit.”
The 2017 festival lineup featured Talib Kweli, Twin Peaks, Kevin Morby, Curtis Harding, Carmanah and more.
February 6: Rock of The Woods Announces Hiatus
In a statement made on their Facebook page, organizers of the Cowichan Valley’s Rock of The Woods Music Festival announced that the festival would be taking a “hiatus to reflect on its founding goals and evaluate support for music and cultural festivals in the Cowichan Valley.”
The festival had been held for the last 6 years. in 2016, the festival received a three year permit to allow the festival to remain in the Cowichan Valley until 2018. It is not known at this time if the festival will return in 2018.
February 7: The Province Announces $1.5 Million for ‘Careers of BC Artists Program’
Shirley Bond, then BC Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Minister Responsible for Labour, and Creative BC announced $1.5-million in funding for a Careers of BC Artists Program that would serve as a marketing arm for the creation of music videos, electronic press kits, photography, websites and promotional campaigns for BC artists. It was the fifth program to launch as part of a $15-million BC Music Fund announce last year.
Artists with Victoria ties who were granted money from the fund in 2017 included Aidan Knight, Alex Cuba, Astrocolor, Carmanah, Current Swell, Jesse Roper, Jon and Roy, Lovecoast, Band of Rascals, Mike Edel, No Liars, Rococode, Steve Bays, and Victoria Guitar Trio
February 9: Victoria Entrepreneur and Guitarist Team Up to Release ‘BedBeats’ App
Victoria entrepreneur Al Smith (formerly of Vic42 Studios) and Towers and Trees guitarist Dave Zellinsky released ‘BedBeats’ a phone app that they describe as “the world’s first musically responsive bedroom app.”
It’s a music app that plays music riffs in the genre of your choice and speeds up or slows down based on the vibration of your mattress while you’re… well you know…
The app was originally available for free for iOS and Android, but currently the app is listed on Google Play for $2.69. We’ll let you be the judge on whether or not the last two digits of that price is intentional.
February 14: Hermann’s Jazz Club is For Sale
In February, it was revealed that Hermann’s Jazz Club and the building it calls home was for sale. The estate of the late Hermann Nieweler found it had to sell the building. In response, the Jazz on View Society was formed and launched and a campaign to raise $3-million to purchase the property and run the jazz club.
The campaign would ultimately fall short. As of the end of 2017, Hermann’s is still open for business and no other buyers have publicly come forward.
February 15: This Day Burns Announce Breakup
In a statement made on their Facebook page on February 15th, Victoria band This Day Burns announced the band was officially breaking up.
The news came eight months after drummer Skye McLean stepped down from the band to concentrate his efforts with another Victoria band, Vaultry.
What are the band members doing now? Lead singer Jasmine Wietzke is in an acoustic band Craving Rain, Jon Sinclair is in a band called VOICES and Chris Heretic is in a new band called Xylophone Dustoff.
March 3: John Larsen Retiring and Larsen Music to Close
In a statement made on March 3rd, John Larsen announced that he would be retiring and that his music store and music school would close as of July 30.
In his statement, Larsen said, “My desire is to see the business carry on, and I hope that someone with energy, passion and vision takes it over to continue to Bring Music to Life in Victoria and throughout Vancouver Island.”
March 29: Rock The Shores Postponed to 2018
On March 29th, organizers of Rock The Shores announced that the festival would take 2017 off with the intention to return in 2018. Their statement sighted the limited availablility of suitable headline talent and increased market saturation and competition which in part was due to the large number of Canada 150 events being held across the country in 2017.
In December festival organizers Atomique Productions announced their annual “3-for-all” pass sale offering passes to Rock The Shores, The Phillips Backyard Weekender and Rifflandia for a combined promotional price which is a sign that they are planning to bring Rock The Shores back in July 2018.
March 27: Victoria Will not Host 2018 Junos, Vancouver Will
On CTV News on March 27 it was revealed that despite confirmation in September 2015 that Victoria would make a bid to host the 2018 Juno Awards, the bid never happened because the Capital Region Music Awards Society “was fairly confident the Junos will be going to another city in 2018.” That city ended up being Vancouver.
Victoria last made a bid for the Junos in 2012, but lost to Winnipeg. Vancouver last hosted in 2009.
April 1: Songwriter/Guitarist and TV Director Paul Michael Worth Dies
on April 1st Paul Michael Worth died in his sleep. A short time before his death, Worth had been accepted to the IATSE Union in Vancouver and had been working on the final tracks of his solo album. The album ‘The Event Horizon’ was a project he had been working on for three years and included collaborations with a number of Victoria musicians.
During his years in Victoria Worth directed music videos for Tal Bachman, Machina, Mindil Beach Markets and his band Col Grifter. He also directed a TV pilot called Bass Line and gave Tal Bachman the idea for Bachman’s British rock star alter-ego, Ian Starglow.
May 7: Sofar Sounds Launches Victoria Branch
In May, Nicole Gagnon of Woodley Music launched a Victoria branch of Sofar Sounds, a concert startup funded by Virgin’s Richard Branson. Sofar Sounds is a network that hosts secret intimate concerts. Attendees don’t know where the concert will be held until the day before the show and don’t know who is performing until they arrive.
The first show was held at Victoria record store Vinyl Envy on June 1st and featured performances by Andi Stewart, Fish in The Birdcage and Flawed Hearts and The Waiting Room. Two more shows were held in September and November.
May 21: Tall tree and Legends Valley Music Festivals Offer Free/Discounted Tickets to Pemberton Pass Holders
After the sudden bankruptcy and cancellation of the Pemberton Music Festival, two Vancouver Island festivals joined a number of festivals across the country offering a free ticket exchange to attend their event. Lake Cowichan’s Legends Valley Music Festival and Port Renfrew’s Tall Tree Music Festival free passes for up to 250 Pemberton pass holders. It was not announced how many people ended up accepting the offer.
August 5: Eric Church to Headline Sunfest 2018
In a video posted to their Facebook page and shown on the big screens at the festival, it was announced country music superstar Eric Church will headline the 2018 Sunfest Country Music Festival at Laketown Ranch in Lake Cowichan.
Other artists already announced for 2018 include Dallas Smith, George Canyon, Aaron Pritchett, Jojo Mason, Meghan Patrick, Brett Young, Midland and the James Barker Band.
The 2017 edition of the festival featured headlining sets by Toby Keith and Little Big Town.
August 10: Body Count Cancel Legends Valley Music Festival Headlining Appearance
In a statement on their Facebook Page on August 10th, Body Count announced that due to an injury sustained by bassist Vincent Price, Body Count would not be performing at the 2017 Legends Valley Music Festival. The band fronted by Ice-T was set to perform at Laketown Ranch on August 26.
One week later a number of announcements would make the festival one of the most intriguing stories of the island’s festival season.
August 11: Rolling Stone Magazine Releases Video Feature on Music in Victoria
In July a camera crew from Rolling Stone Magazine were in Victoria shooting footage at the Phillips Backyard Weekender and also checking out Ditch Records, The Victoria Conservatory of Music, local pubs and coffee shops.
A seven minute mini-documentary video and article were released on rollingstone.com on August 11th featuring interviews with Atomique Productions’ Nick Blasko, Dylan Willows of The Zone@91.3, Do250’s Jimmy Leitch, Matt Phillips of Phillips Brewing Company and Victoria band Fortune Killers.
August 12: Tapestry Music Announces Victoria Store
On August 12, Vancouver’s Tapestry Music announced that they would open a store in Victoria in September “after hearing that Larsen Music was closing. John Larsen and Dave Sabourin of Tapestry Music worked together at Ward Music over 20 years ago, and both opened their respective stores within months of each other.”
The new music store would take over a space on Fort Street that had been occupied by Guitars on Fort.
August 17 – 24: Legends Valley Music Festival Changes Name to High Times Cannabis Cup Canada, Add Wyclef Jean, Lil Kim & Arrested Development to Lineup
Original articles- Wyclef added | Lil Kim added | Arrested Development added
In a string of announcements just days before the festival, the Legends Valley Music Festival announced that High Times Magazine had purchased the festival from Wideglide Entertainment and had changed the festival’s name to the High Times Cannabis Cup Canada and that they were adding Wyclef Jean to the lineup. It was thought Wyclef was to be the replacement for Body Count, but the day before the festival was to begin Lil Kim was added. The following night (August 24), it was announced Arrested Development would headline on August 27th with Wyclef performing before them.
The festival would also feature performances by House of Pain, Magic!, Sloan and Delhi 2 Dublin among others.
The last minute announcements did not result in a significant rise in attendance, but considering the names that High Times were able to bring on such short notice, it will be intriguing to see what they will bring to the island with an entire year to plan.
September 6: Sugar Nightclub Changes Name to Capital Ballroom
In early September, owners of Sugar Nightclub quietly changed the awning at the entrance of the venue and also revealed the name ‘Capital Ballroom‘ in Rifflandia Magazine.
The club had been called Sugar since 1999. After a group let by Atomique Productions bought the club in June of 2016, Sugar transitioned from a traditional nightclub to a dedicated live music venue.
September 16: Towers and Trees Return From One Year Hiatus
At Rifflandia 2017, Do250 hosted a series of Secret Sets in the locker room of Royal Athletic Park. One of the surprises was the return of Towers and Trees. The band had last performed together at Butchart Gardens in August 2016 before taking a hiatus where Adrian Chalifour welcomed his first child, Jesse Boland moved to Toronto and Dave Zellinsky launched his solo project MIND.
The secret acoustic set at Rifflandia wasn’t just a one-off either. It was also revealed they would perform the festival’s afterparty, headline a comeback concert in November and they are in the process of recording new music.
October 22: The Cambie Esquimalt Closes
Long time Esquimalt watering hold and former live music venue The Cambie Esquimalt closed for good on October 22nd. The property that the bar is on has a history dating back to 1860. Originally called ‘The Halfway House,’ it was a public house and Esquimalt’s first brewery.
Reportedly, the owners plan to expand the adjoined liquor store and open a sit-down restaurant.
November 8: JP Maurice to Compete in CTV’s ‘The Launch’
In November, CTV announced that Victoria’s JP Maurice will be a contestant in their new music competition show ‘The Launch’. The six episode series will show a group of unsigned musicians being mentored by a panel of internationally renowned hit makers to create a new original song. Saltspring Island’s Nicky Mackenzie and North Vancouver’s Sons of Daughters are also contestants.
Shania Twain, Alessia Cara, Boy George, and Fergie are among some of the mentors.
The Launch airs on CTV beginning January 10, 2018.
November 15: Tall Tree Music Festival Taking Hiatus in 2018
In a statement made on Facebook and their website on November 15, organizers of the Tall Tree Music Festival announced that the 2018 edition would not happen.
Organizers said the event has never made a profit and that the low Canadian dollar and festival market over-saturation have made a tough financial climate even tougher. They hope to bring Tall Tree back in 2019.
November 22: Rocktographers Showcase Announces Hiatus
On November 22, Rocktographers announced that the YYJ Rocktographers Showcase, Victoria’s celebration of music photography in Victoria, would take a hiatus in 2018.
In their statement the Rocktographers team said, “At present, without adequate prep time and resources available to our team, we felt that it would be a disservice to not properly celebrate the local photographers that helped built the Rocktographers showcase over the past five years.”
November 23: Ghosty Boy Announces He is No Longer with Current Swell
On November 23rd, Current Swell bassist Ghosty Boy formally revealed on his Ghosty TV Facebook page that he was “officially DONE with Current Swell.” He went on to state that “RADIO FRIENDLY SURF ROCK GHOSTY™ was getting on my fuckin nerves so I held his head underwater until he died.”
He also released a lyric video for a new single of his new band Strike 13.
Original Current Swell bassist Louis Sadava has rejoined the band and had been on tour with Current Swell since their European tour in September.
December 29: Vinyl Envy Awarded Creative BC Grant
On Decembre 29, Victoria record store and concert venue Vinyl Envy officially announced on their Facebook page they have been awarded a grant from Creative BC’s BC Music Fund for improvements to the venue which will include an expanded stage. In a document at the Creative BC website listing who was awarded grants for the BC Music Fund’s Live Music Program, Vinyl Envy was awarded $30,000 towards the project.
Other venues and events granted funding for 2017/2018 include Capital Ballroom, The Phillips Backyard Weekender, Spirit of 150 Victoria, Rifflandia, Felicita’s Campus Pub, Wood Hall, Pretty Good Not Bad Festival, Laketown Ranch