Every year, for one week in the spring, The Cultch is taken over and transformed by young people as hundreds of young artists from across the Lower Mainland get involved with Ignite!, Vancouver’s largest youth-driven arts festival.
Showcases during the six day festival, which runs this year from May 14 to 19, include everything from music and dance, theatre, film, visual arts and variety shows that include improv, drag, circus arts and more.
One of the variety shows is Fruit Basket on Friday, May 18, the annual gender performance that combines sexuality and the arts. Featured at this year’s Fruit Basket is Leroy and The Lovebots, fronted by dynamo Leroy Wan and fellow band members Kalen and Deva.
Now in their sixth year as a group, Wan says by taking pop culture references like a Lady Gaga song, the group is able to speak to their peers through their music and sometimes outrageous performances.
“We started this because we all come from different backgrounds and felt disenfranchised. I grew up in this Chinese immigrant family where it is hard to be who you are.”
With a philosophy well beyond his years, Wan says that they have taken their feelings of being disenfranchised and is turning it into a positive.
“It’s hard to play the victim as there are always others that are having worse time,” said Wan. “If we’re having fun on stage I think that helps other kids look at things the same way.”
Using East Vancouver, being an immigrant, Davie Street and even Grace Jones as inspiration for their music, Wan says he writes about what he knows and what he hopes appeals to him and his demographic.
“Pop music is so dry and I am so tired of some random guy talking about girls. I want some substance and I mix that pop music with someone like Grace Jones. I want to glam things up.”
More than a man in a bra or simply giving the kids what they hope they want though, Wan also infuses their music with a more political message.
“Beyond the glam I hope that by the end of the show the audience becomes inspired to wear what they want, fuck who they want and to meet new friends who will love them for who they are.”
That message seems to be working for Leroy and The Lovebots. At a recent performance, Wan talked of one girl who was so caught up in what she saw on stage she was crying by the time she approached him at the end of the show.
“It was amazing,” said Wan. “I couldn’t believe that we could actually do that. If we can inspire people with this gift and help someone not be the victim it is all worth it. I want to be able to make a difference in a world where gay people aren’t considered weird and we can hold hands in the street.”
Ignite! Youth Arts Festival
14 – 19 May 2012
The Cultch, 1895 Venables Street, Vancouver
Visit http://www.igniteyouthfest.ca for more information.