While big international names like Peaches and Isis Salam are obvious draws to the W2's first annual women's digital culture festival, many top Vancouver artists also decorate the bill
Saturday’s big Utopia Festival blowout at the W2 Storyeum is shaping up to be one of the most important musical events of the year in Vancouver, but women aren’t the only one’s invited. After a day-long, women-only conference of how-to-be-a-DJ/VJ workshops, panel discussions and mentorship, the festival opens up to dudes as well, with the biggest lineup of female electronic artists ever to hit a Canadian stage.
The all-women lineup includes some of the top female digital artists the world has spun out in the last 10 years—including Peaches, Isis Salam (formerly of Thunderheist) and DJ Betti Forde—while new media specialists like VJs Electrabelle and Krista Lomax light up the space like a summer acid trip.
With more than 30 international and local artists performing on three stages, plus an additional room devoted entirely to live cinema art and video installation, this party is going to be one crazy cocktail of great dance music and mind-blowing visual stimulation.
Spotlight: 5 Vancouver DJs at Utopia Festival
As women have crept their way up in Vancouver’s male-dominated DJ world, one mash-up at a time, they’ve had to be, spin and do better than their male counterparts.
Here, we spotlight some of Vancouver’s top, most tenacious talent who will be adding their special suh'n-suh'n to Utopia’s packed lineup: DJ SHE is a laundry list of accomplishments in herself; Blondtron will have you dancing until your feet fall off; The Square Root of Evil is the electronic answer to math rock; The Librarian brings the best of bass coast; B-Traits will melt your face with high-energy drum and bass; and DJ Tank Girl is everything but a little 'ting.
DJ SHE, a.k.a. Tara Reeves
DJ She competed as the only female DJ at the Red Bull 3Style 2010. (Image: courtesy DJ She and Red Bull 3Style)
Now residing in Vancouver, this East Coast native is a heavy hitter on the DJ scene. Her credentials read like a laundry list of formal accomplishments. The former manager of Canada’s number-one record store, Beatstreet Records, is the current host and creative director of Vancouver-based Grounded TV; the promoter and founder of Jane Blaze Productions; and Canada’s first and only female DJ to compete in the worldwide Red Bull 3Style competition.
She has been chalked up alongside some of the world’s most credible DJs, including Betti Forde, Cut Chemist, DJ Ayers, Queen Latifah, Kool DJ Red Alert and Flip-Out, while her corporate client list is a mile long with brands like H&M, Artizia, Nike and Red Bull.
Hitting all the crucial erogenous zones from funk to disco and soul to hip-hop, DJ She crosses the genres of West Coast and Chicago House to create her own brand of mid-tempo madness. She spins driving, dense mixes that capture your attention from the first beat. Whether she’s flowing “Art of Beatz” into your bones or soothing you with “Immersion,” DJ She proves she has nothing to prove.
Listen to Club Bangaz by DJ SHE:
Blondtron, a.k.a. Samantha Matthews
For her all-in commitment at music school, Samantha Matthews gained the moniker Blondtron 3000, a robot from the future (Image: via MySpace)
Throw in two parts Lady Gaga and one part She-Ra, Blondtron is a walking parody of herself with her rebellious fashion sense, lusty personality and signature bleached-out hair. In fact, her DJ name was appointed to her comedically from fellow musician Curtis Santiago, who said she was such a try-hard at music school that she was dubbed Blondtron 3000, a robot from the future.
These days, Blondtron performs everywhere from Los Angeles to San Diego to Tokyo but will tour her Canadian homeland this March with recent-collaborator Jamaican DJ Prince Zimboo.
When she isn’t spinning records, Matthews is music director and co-founder of the Hotmess Radio Show and a full-time blogger for Schitz Popinov. Catchy, simplistic yet totally unpredictable, Blondtron is known for throwing occasional crowd-pleasing teeny bopper tunes like S Club 7 or Ace of Base in and amongst her usual palette of sexually charged electro-booty. She merges disco, rave and rap into an incestuous marriage of danceable doom you won’t want to miss. Welcome to Blondtron’s House of Booty—good luck getting out alive.
Listen to the Utopia DJ Compilation by Blondtron:
The Square Root of Evil, a.k.a. Jen Pearson
SROE opening for Venetian Snares, June 2008. (Image: Matt Trent)
The Square Root of Evil’s right hand gal is her computer. Since the late ‘90s, Pearson has been evolving her musical skills in a weirdly undefinable mix of breakcore, bass, techno and glitch, but if one thing is for sure: The Square Root of Evil will leave you breathless in an electronic k-hole grasping for some sanity.
She has released two EPs—Chirping Data (Belladonna) and Killerbytes (Xynthetic)—and contributed her signature style to half a dozen compilation records from US, UK and Canadian labels, including Toast and Jam’s We Bore 2 and Uncharted Audio’s Idea Hoard Uncut. She has represented Vancouver on the front lines in laptop battles, such as the North American Laptop Battle Championship in Seattle, as well as manned the deck with artists like FFF, Cursor Miner, Captain Ahab and Books on Tape. Above all these battles won, Pearson embodies the technical defiance of a math-rock guitarist in the world of electronic music.
Do not miss her frantic, lo-fi dance tracks that carry enough power and chaos to fracture your brain for days.
The Librarian, a.k.a. Andrea Graham
Andrea Graham, a.k.a. The Librarian, has been the queen of Vancouver's drum and bass scene for years. (Image: HOLLIS)
Best known as the godmother of the internationally renowned festival Bass Coast Project in Squamish, Amanda Graham has been queen of the drum scene for years. This year, in addition to performing, she’s serving as an event promoter and co-curator for the Utopia Festival.
The Librarian pleases ears and eyes with her minimalist approach, peppering in sweet electronic glitches to her chilled-out tracks. A master of atmosphere, she builds mood wherever she sets up her decks. Do. Not. Miss. Her. Performance. (Though if you do, you can catch up at Bass Coast this summer between the stars and the pines.)
Listen to 43 Cms-February 2011 Mix by The Librarian:
B-Traits, a.k.a. Brianna Price
B-Traits at the World of Drum & Bass Stage in Russia, November 2010. (Image: via MySpace)
If you haven’t heard smalltown girl-turned-big time DJ star B-Traits spin, Saturday is your chance to see what the big deal is. Growing up in Nelson, BC, B-Traits was first introduced to the world of electronic music at the tender age of 14. By the time she was 16, she has fiddled with enough turntables to start deejaying out on her own.
Migrating to Vancouver to pursue her career, B-Traits quickly made a name for herself with her high-energy drum and bass beats that melt dubstep, funk and hip-hop into the mix. She soon signed on to Shy FX’s Digital Soundboy Label as the first-ever Digital Soundgirl and began touring all over North America, Europe and Asia.
B-Traits pushes all the limits as she climbs her way further and further up the ladder of fame in this male-dominated genre. Young, fresh and passionate, B-Traits is one of the most impressive DJ acts of this year's festival.
Listen to B-Traits' remix of Raver by Shy FX:
Tank Girl, a.k.a. Tina K
Ting resident DJ Tank Girl spins a dizzying mix of mostly dubstep, reggae and hip-hop. (Image: Notes from the Underground)
Tank Girl is a favourite among our Vancouver favourites. Spinning mostly dancehall and reggae, you won’t want to miss what this woman has to offer. The host of the longest running dancehall weekly in Vancouver, Thursday Ting at the infamous Astoria bar, brings the heat with the hottest dancehall, reggae, basement, ragga and hip-hop remixes from the past present and future. Always crowd-pleasing and always inventive, Tank Girl spins a dizzying mix of unpredictable heart-thumbing tracks.
When she isn’t behind the decks, you can find Tank Girl bartending at the Astoria. However it might be a few months before she returns to work there, because she's busy looking after mini tank—her newborn son, Nico! Don't miss this opportunity to see her play at Utopia!
Listen to Tank Girl from Ting Thursday at the Astoria:
Granville Online is a proud event sponsor and is leading a music journalism mentorship program at the Utopia Festival.