By: Alison Wick, Arts Editor
This Friday, July 19, for the second time ever, Red Gate Arts Society is putting on their Xanadu-themed birthday party turned local music festival — and it’ll be the first time it’s held at their new location on 1965 Main St. This year, Partyfest is being co-headlined by Devours and shitlord fuckerman, and organizers have also announced a barbecue and multiple DJ sets by Okibi. Other confirmed performers for the Friday evening show include Freak Dream, Spencer Owen Timeshare, Joey Chaos and the Ghosts, Operator 2 and Seth Eggler. In anticipation of the event, I interviewed Joey Chaos over email, Partyfest’s founder, organizer, and SFU Masters of Fine Arts student about how Partyfest began and the sets you won’t want to miss.
Editor’s note: Responses have been edited for style and clarity.
Alison Wick: So how did Partyfest get started?
Joey Chaos: Partyfest originally started as a Xanadu-themed birthday party when I lived in Victoria in 2009. My friend’s house above the Cook Street Food Court doubled as a venue, and we had one band and a DJ play. Since then it grew to a series of annual house shows until 2014. A through line for the whole series of events is that it started off as a joke. The initial few years were fairly meme-heavy, though we’ve since cooled off on that front and focused more on the music and community aspect of the event.
After moving to Vancouver, I took a one-year hiatus, then held the first one at the Red Gate Arts Society at their old location on Hastings Street in 2016. I’ve organized many shows on the island but this was my first time throwing a mini-festival in Vancouver. I’ve always had a passion for local music scenes and have gravitated towards synth and rock acts.
Can you tell me a bit about last year’s festival and how this year is going to be the same or different?
The last year we held Partyfest was in 2017 and that was also at the old Red Gate location on Hastings. I’m stoked to be hosting it in their new space on 1965 Main Street in the old VIVO building; I find the space is a bit less cavernous and the main room is a better layout.
We do indeed have a BBQ happening again this year. We’re doggin’ it up again this year and, the same as last year, we will have vegan and gluten-free options available as well. I also bought two bottles of Daddy’s Ketchup in Kuala Lumpur and have smuggled them back to Canada just for the event. Hot dogs are going for $2 and all profit from that goes directly to the artists as well. The BBQ is run by Anna, one of our long-term Party Pals, who volunteers to help out with the festival.
Also, this year we’re going to have a photo booth with baby Butter Bear, the festival’s official mascot. I got him from a toy-fair in Victoria for $2 and the festival wouldn’t be here without him.
What do you seek to bring to your audience/to the Vancouver music scene and is the event intended to continue to happen annually?
Genre doesn’t really define the artists curated for Partyfest — really, I’m just looking for fresh acts that will get people moving. This year’s co-headliners are Devours and shitlord fuckerman, two artists pushing boundaries in music as well as gender and identity. As far as a platform goes, I try and push diversity as much as possible with the shows I curate, though I realize there’s always room for improvement.
This year we received a grant from Creative BC which will help fund the advertising and rentals for Partyfest — lights, backline, etc. Aside from covering the base costs for the festival, this allows more money to go directly to the artists. The money collected at the door and bar are split evenly between performers and the Red Gate Arts Society and I’m proud to be able to help raise funds for one of the few artist-run spaces left in the city.
What are you most excited about for this year’s festival? What are some highlights you are looking forward to?
I’m stoked for this year’s line-up. Devours [Editor’s note: stage name of Jeff Cancade] is one of my favourite artists in town and Jeff’s set is going to bring down the house. Shitlord has promised some cowboy-tinged vibes and this year we also have the last-minute addition of Operator 2, a bass heavy chill-wave project by Seth Eggler. Freak Dream always shreds heavy and Elliot Fanglord’s a killer vocalist. Spencer Owen Timeshare are making the journey from Oakland, California to make the festival and my own band, Joey Chaos and The Ghosts, have a lot of new material we’ll be unveiling for the show. Lastly, Okibi is the secret sauce of Partyfest. He’ll be spinning jams all night in between each set and at the end of the night.
For people who did not attend last year or may not have heard of Partyfest, what can they expect from the show?
SOLID TIMES. This is going to be the sickest party of the summer. Not too big, not too small, just right. We are going to transform the space again with a giant orange-and-white parachute hung from the ceiling and we’re going over the top with lights this year — it’s going to be good.
The festival is on July 19 at the Red Gate Arts Society. Tickets can be purchased online at partyfresh.ca or at the door. They cost $10 but no one will be turned away for lack of funds.