UBC alumnus Ben Lai’s first night hosting CiTR’s Shindig is not one he’ll easily forget. It was September 11, 2001 and the band that won that night had the alarmingly apt name 3 Inches of Blood.
It was an ominous introduction, but Lai has been the coordinator and emcee of the event ever since.
Shindig is a thirteen-week battle of the bands, beginning September 14. The 27 finalists were narrowed from 100 applicants and every Tuesday night, three groups take the stage in the hopes of winning over the judges: fellow musicians, members of the radio station and music journalists. The top three bands are rewarded with studio time and the winning band gets an informal “date” with Mint Records. Last year’s winners, The Hidden Towers, went curling.
Shindig is going into its 26th year and has produced some success for contestants. In June, the Hidden Towers played the North by North East festival in Toronto. Other winners have included the aforementioned 3 Inches of Blood, VanCougar, and the Salteens, who appeared on the hipster-friendly children’s show Yo Gabba Gabba this summer.
The event also has some notable losers. Japandroids, You Say Party, the Pack A.D. and the Mohawk Lodge all played Shindig at some point. The contest is secondary to the experience. For Ben, it’s a way to discover new music, to “get people to come out, to play and have a good time.”
It’s important for the audience to understand that this is not a genre night. The shows are diverse, to say the least. On a single Tuesday night, the line up can include anything from acoustic and folk to metal, punk, or ska. It makes it difficult for the judges to compare the bands against each other, but they always manage to achieve a consensus, even if the audience doesn’t. It’s a competition that rewards artistic merit rather than preference.
Ben says that Shindig is kept running because of the opportunities it offers for bands who want to break into the Vancouver music scene. “I think it’s important. In the beginning, it was very important to get bands out, a lot of them can’t just play the Railway Club. We try to help them get a foot in the door.”
Shows are held at the Railway Club and start at 9 PM. CiTR’s Shindig runs every Tuesday until December 7th.