A Truly Urban Initiative, a Truly Special Summer. VUSI
Two years ago a new chapter was written for Vancouver’s burgeoning underground music scene. A new organization arrived that immediately characterized itself with a mandate that set it apart on its own terms, in plein air terms: being outside.
Thus was born Vancouver Urban Spaces Initiative (VUSI). Registered in BC this non-profit society is committed to utilizing public spaces for the exhibition of music and visual art. The organization was founded by three friends with varied backgrounds in music, graphic design, art and film. Inspired by outdoor events such as Picnik Électronique in Montréal, Communikey in Boulder, the WMC rooftop parties in Miami, Decibel in Seattle, and numerous other events in San Francisco, Toronto, and New York, the organization believes that music events in Vancouver must be memorable and original. And with such a moderate climate for half the year in this unique West Coast setting (replete with reminders of its veritable rain forest status all around) the open-air agenda cemented this objective. Invariably, promoting electronic music in outdoor environs introduces a new platform aside from the club/bar scene.
The strategy of blending a love of music with an appreciation for a city so blessed with such a potent mix of natural and manmade aesthetic works. Choosing underused local spaces one of VUSI’s objectives is to create events that encourage people to gather and celebrate while at the same time being reacquainted with the city itself. Outdoor settings allow participants to observe the surrounding natural landscape and its defining components, whether from the vantage point of a downtown rooftop or public park - mountains, water, cityscape, the gargantuan shipping ‘giraffes,’ old east side heritage buildings, sculptures and memorials in the park, etc.
The events themselves are a chance to socialize and experience music in a natural, friendly atmosphere. Whereas the late-night four walls + roof music scene with its blistering volumes/echoes numbs vibrant discussion an outdoor setting seems to bolster a more genuine sense of highly-personable fraternizing and meeting new people. It doesn’t hurt that cool music lays the soundtrack for these magical moments.
Yes, VUSI loves its electronic music.
Extraordinary local DJs and electronic bands have found new followings. More recent offerings have witnessed invitations for DJs from Victoria to Edmonton. Already plans exist to extend that invitation to talent from Montréal and Toronto.
Since 2009 VUSI launched the “Special” series of outdoor music events ranging in location and backdrop but serving its familiar outdoor flavour. A sampling includes: “Rooftop Special,” held on the rooftop of the iconic Scotiabank Dance Centre in downtown Vancouver that was designed by architect of considerable local lore, Arthur Erickson; the unexpected manifestation of a leafy courtyard oasis in an industrial neighbourhood, “Courtyard Special;” and a collaboration with the municipality’s Parks Board to create “New Brighton Special,” a larger public event started in 2010 that represented VUSI’s foray into its own electronic music-in-public-park-territory. Having witnessed the arrival of almost 500 people its first year New Brighton Special (held the park with the same name) became an annual event with its second successful installment on August 13th.
Soulful dance music, picnics, BBQs, idyllic outdoor settings. This new organization has staying power.
As one of VUSI’s directors I’m proud to say that next season will see the organization gain new territory (literally!) and with it new experiences. New Brighton Special is now an annual event and we have plans for a new rooftop event in addition to ideas for utilizing a new municipal park space. Added to this will a commitment to artistic installations to help foster an already lively scene.
Follow VUSI on vusi.org (new site being launched soon) and consider spending a sunny weekend with us in Vancouver!