Vancouver’s ‘Big Joy’ is a hair salon and experimental music festival


Big Joy is a hair salon. It’s also an experimental music festival. While distinct in offerings, each Big Joy is underscored by an approachable atmosphere that favours inclusivity and quality above all else. From adventurous haircuts to rejuvenating reverberations, “Big Joys” are about fostering a sense of warmth inside a city that’s feeling increasingly inhospitable to young creatives. Big Joy Music Festival runs December 7 – 10.

We chatted with Shaunn Watt, (who owns Big Joy Salon and co-founded Big Joy Festival with J.P. Doucet), about creativity, community and being an entrepreneur.

VIA: What is Big Joy?

Shaun Watt: Big Joy Salon is a hair shop in East Vancouver that welcomes a variety of folks, in an open, inclusive space. We offer a gender-neutral approach to barbering along with all the amenities and services of hair salon.

Big Joy is a celebration of Vancouver’s experimental music community. We present a broad spectrum of music/sound art from drone and harsh noise, through to ambient, electro-acoustic and electronica. Often a show will run a gamut of genres and include extreme dynamics in volume, video accompaniment and very affordable tall cans of beer. Big Joy Festival is a culmination of our years of fandom, friendship and a love of left of centre sounds.

VIA: What does the name “Big Joy” mean to you?

SW: Big Joy means friendship and community and hard work. We’d like to think of it as the feeling one gets when bathed in a sea of sound for several nights in a row surrounded by good people. Or, a great haircut in an open and warm space where you can feel like yourself.

VIA: How did Big Joy the musical festival come to be?

SW: JP (the co-founder of Big Joy Fest), and I had been putting on weird shows seperatly around town for a couple years prior to any bigger plans. Shows in peoples houses, shows in peoples shops and galleries, shows in our own apartments… We do it because it’s fun, it’s a way to bring our community together and give both artists and attendees a unique experience.

VIA: What are the greatest challenges about owning a business in Vancouver?

Being honest with yourself is the hardest part about owning a business. Seeing the line in the sand that separates your values and politics while still trying to pay the bills is an obstacle that I imagine many folks who go out on their own face, and it is ever changing. Vancouver being what it is doesn’t make those decisions any easier or simpler, but I also don’t want to use that, or my privilege, as a crutch.

SW: We’ve been very lucky to have consistent and supportive venues throughout the history of the festival. The most challenging part is resisting the urge to “grow” the festival and to keep it a small, mostly local and grassroots operation. It’s always hard getting people out to shows. It’s especially hard when you realize your audience is growing up, adult-ing up, and moving away.

VIA: Is Vancouver awesome? If so, what do you like/love/tolerate about it?

…The music and sound community that we are a part of is really supportive and has lots of talent, it’s very active considering the size of the city and people are great at making things happen with what they have. Beyond the obvious issue of housing, something that we have noticed is a disproportionate amount of ‘culture makers’ vs ‘culture consumers’.

SW: Vancouver’s green. It’s wet behind the ears. It’s a city in flux and we are all along for the ride. That doesn’t mean we don’t feel the pangs of nostalgia for days of yore or that the rose coloured glasses don’t sting from time to time. I miss my friends that have/are moving away, and I don’t see that not continuing. I miss the places we used to go, the possibility of possibilities and some semblance of freedom, abandon or autonomy that this town used to offer. But I do feel that there is still room for invested folks that care about what makes a city whole, and what makes a community something to strive for. I’m romantic and realistic and pessimistic all at once.

Learn more about Big Joy (the salon) HERE. Learn more about Big Joy (the music festival) HERE

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Adam Nanji is the Content Manager at Vancouver Is Awesome. When he’s not scouring the city for awesome news, he performs as ¼ of local band, Belle Game. Adam grew up in Vancouver and earned a degree in Cultural Studies with a double minor in Communication and Gender Studies from McGill University. He’s passionate about Vancouver’s social issues and local art. You’ll typically find him standing on a corner, contemplating where to eat next. Tell him what you think is awesome: