As 2015 begins, I realize I’m turning thirty and currently reflecting on the past few years of what I’ve accomplished. My biggest achievement has always been working + playing in the industry that I’ve been most passionate about since I was an teenager — the arts.
Ten years ago I started my career in the arts as a d.i.y all-ages promoter in Edmonton. After a few months of promoting shows while in school, I was featured in the Edmonton Journal. After this article was published, I finished post-secondary, moved to Vancouver to complete an internship at a music agency, worked for literary magazines, a regional theatre and now an art gallery. I sit on boards of a few small arts organizations and freelance as a grantwriter. I’m pretty stoked to write grants because I really want to ensure we receive more funding to do more creative projects, so we can pay artists (and ourselves) to do awesome work.
This Edmonton Journal article is awesome because community support from media, industry peers and friends overall really drive our creative practice — as artists and administrators. The entire ecosystem works together to build something special.
My favourite quote in this Edmonton Journal article:
I honestly feel surprised that people come,” she says. “For me, my shows aren’t concerts — it’s one big party, just ‘cuz all your friends are there and you’re watching bands.
I’ve been throwing parties for the past ten-years, and currently looking towards the next ten-years for bigger parties — you’re obviously invited.
BY THE EDMONTON JOURNAL
The 20-year-old is one of the most humble people you’ll ever meet in the ego-driven world of music. She doesn’t think she’s doing anything special, but local musicians, promoters and young fans know otherwise.
Over the past nine months, Cheung has become one of the city’s top promoters of all-ages gigs. Her company, which she calls Vanity, has produced 15 shows geared to fans who aren’t old enough to see their favourite local punk and indie-rock bands in bars and clubs.
“I’m not a big drinker, so it just makes sense that I do all-ages,” she says.
“A lot of my friends are underage and it’s fun to hang out with them. They’re the coolest kids you’ll ever meet — they’re not the popular high-school jocks, they’re just your average Joes and you know they’re there to listen to music. They’re not there to get rowdy or get drunk. It’s an all-around good atmosphere.”
Tonight, Cheung is about to pull off her biggest gig — The Wolfnote, Fake Cops and Sub Atomics at the Arts Barn — with two other promoters, paperbird and Eli Klein’s esq.,jr.
“She rules,” says Klein. “She’s so eager and earnest and has so many good ideas about lineups, and what people will think is fun. She has the same kind of creative spirit that I see as necessary for work in this field, one that drives you past a loss or a bad show — there is always the next one to improve, promote more, etc. She’s good people.”
With the early retirement of Liv Lunde, Cheung also happens to be the only female gig promoter in the city. It’s a fact she doesn’t dwell on — one of her friends had to point it out to her.
“I don’t think it matters, really,” she says. “It’s all the same. Music is all the same. Kids are all the same.”
Her approach, though, isn’t the same as those stereotypical Machiavellian promoters portrayed in Hollywood films — making fistfuls of greenbacks is not one of her main concerns. While Cheung has only lost money on two of her shows — a great percentage in such an unpredictable industry — she cares more about the music and the friendly atmosphere of her events. Her last gig was a Mixtape Exchange, whereby fans swapped homemade cassettes and CDs of their favourite songs.
“It went really well,” she says. “It was fun and Orange Hall is the sweetest place. It’s really small and intimate. There was this lady who came with a big grocery bag of mixed tapes. She didn’t stay, she just dropped them off. I thought that was really cute — a lot of people were looking through them and handpicking what they wanted. It was exciting. There were quite a few kids who came. I paid the bands all fairly well and then I had a little bit of money in the end. It was like, ‘That’s cool, all I wanted was a mixed CD.’ ”
Cheung fell into her current gig by accident — she just wanted to help her friends. It’s a story shared by many of the scene’s newest movers and shakers, such as Mike Scorgie, who runs Rectangle Records; and Evan Carleton, who owns Reluctant Recordings.
“It kind of just snowballed,” she shrugs. “I wasn’t planning on doing it for this long. I always say I’m not going to do another one, but I know I will. I’m still young.”
Cheung always books artists she really likes — Five O’Clock Charlie, Fields To Flood, 7 and 7 is, rising rapper Cadence Weapon. (“If you don’t like the music, don’t do it,” she says.) Then, she finds comfortable venues such as Orange Hall, Red Strap Art Market and City Arts Centre. Her friend, Zac Walker, designs the snazzy gig posters while her other friends often hand out flyers or work the door at her shows.
“I honestly feel surprised that people come,” she says. “For me, my shows aren’t concerts — it’s one big party, just ‘cuz all your friends are there and you’re watching bands.”
With such a humble attitude, why did Cheung settle on Vanity as a name for her endeavours? Initially, she says, it was Kill Vanity, but she thought the first word was too harsh.
“It seemed really bad and negative, so I thought I’d keep it safe for the families and cut it out,” she says. “Vanity is a cute word. I don’t know. I’m a girl, so why not?”
Read Sandra’s blog at www.edmontonjournal.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org