Minor conflict: For bands, few all-ages venues in Surrey

FLEETWOOD – Surrey may be B.C.’s second-largest city geographically, but there’s hardly anywhere for Patrick McWilliams and his band to play.


The 18-year-old frontman of The Cut Losses, a local teenage indie-rock trio, has performed in the area for nearly two years, but when it comes to finding all-ages venues in Surrey, there’s "almost nothing."


"If we want to play a show, it’s pretty much, we get our drum set and some amps and go set up on a field," he said. "There’s nothing permanent."


Aside from the odd teen-focused event like Youth Fest or Surrey Shines, the Cut Losses are unable to find all-ages venues for them and their underage fans – and he’s seeing it happen more and more with bigger-name touring groups.


"All the bands that I was brought up on, they aren’t really getting booked at Rogers Arena or bigger venues where anyone can go," he said.


In B.C., he said, his favourite bands are getting booked at smaller clubs and bars, and there’s no designated areas for minors in those licensed establishments.


"If I want to go see a band, I have to hope that they have a Portland or a Seattle tour date and drive down to the States."


American venues are allowed to host all-ages concerts where liquor is served; ID is checked at the bar instead of at the door, and the drinking areas are separated from the all-ages areas.


McWilliams said he thinks some Canadian cities are afraid that making an all-ages venue will become a go-to spot for teens to sneak in drugs and alcohol, but he feels giving youth somewhere to go will have the opposite effect.


"Not only do we not have a venue, but there’s nothing for teenagers to do," he said, noting that underage house parties with drugs are on the rise. "It makes me kind of depressed."


In an effort to establish a venue for minors, the Cut Losses are performing a show at Astorino’s Ballroom in Vancouver on Feb. 5 to raise funds for Safe Amp, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating all-ages venues.


"They’re doing it all for free out of volunteer work, which is crazy for people like me," said McWilliams, adding that Safe Amp has its own P.A. system and a few microphones. "You can basically put on your own show and work with this company and they’ll help market you for free."


The show – featuring alt-rock bands Rayneman, Northern Rain and The Vidos – has a beach theme to go along with The Cut Losses’s sound. "We try to be surf punk, because that’s how the west coast used to be, especially in California, and all of our favourite bands are of that genre," he said. "It’s kind of ironic because it’s winter."


Tickets are $5 at the door, and the show starts at 7 p.m. For more information, visit facebook.com/thecutlosses.

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