If you haven’t already heard, Vancouver rock quintet Black Mountain played a free outdoor show on December 6, 2008. But it wasn’t just any free show. This particular concert was in support of Vancouver’s controversial safe injection site, located near the corner of Hastings and Main Street.
The political message was simple: “f*** Stephen Harper.”
(I’m not kidding—this phrase was shouted into the microphone repeatedly).
But during more tactful moments, these local musicians sought to warn the federal government that Insite saves lives on the streets of Vancouver. The slogan “play music not politics” adorned dozens of surrounding placards and banners. Organized by the Portland Hotel Society (PHS), the afternoon event also featured free burgers, stilt walkers, and sheets upon sheets of cold December rain.
And, with the help of musical guest Jay Malinowski of Bedouin Soundclash, along with truncated speeches from several local politicians, Black Mountain played to a crowd of a couple thousand avid fans. (If you want to read a more detailed recap, I wrote a full story for Megaphone Magazine a few weeks ago).
At first I thought being involved with such an event was perhaps a controversial move—especially for a band that is beginning to receive some serious mainstream attention. After touring North America with the likes of Coldplay way back in 2005, the indie media darlings recently received a CBC Radio 3 Bucky Award for the infectious hooks featured on the track “Stormy High.”
On such a divisive issue, it seems the band has a lot to lose.
But after chatting with bassist Matt Camirand, I learned Black Mountain isn’t shy about it’s political affiliations. As it turns out, many members of the band have actually worked with PHS and Insite for as long as a decade.
Camirand and his bandmates have witnessed the Downtown Eastside’s urgent need for a safe injection facility first-hand. Instead of merely offering superficial support for the program, Black Mountain have chosen to roll up their sleeves and get involved.