Mecca Normal

"How Art and Music Can Change the World"

Art Exhibit

Inspiring audiences toward creative expression and cultural activism.

"Who cares if there's underground culture or not? Gap-Coke-Sony-Time-Warner satisfies our needs... don't they?"

Referring to their extraordinary 20 year history in music, art and publishing Jean Smith and David Lester illustrate the reality of being artists and cultural activists, by revealing the behind-the-scenes workings of their long-standing D-I-Y collaboration. Jean and David de-mystify the work methods and philosophies that define their collaborative partnership, touring, writing and publishing, making art and music.

University and College Classrooms • Youth Centres • Art Galleries • Literary Events • Book Stores • Libraries * Community Centres

Internationally, David Lester and Jean Smith are best known for their work as Mecca Normal -- the underground rock duo has released 11 CDs of dynamic music and powerful lyrics that deal with social issues. At home in Vancouver, David Lester is a well-respected visual artist with 25 years experience. Jean Smith, the author of two published novels, was named one of Vancouver's top 50 writers.

Jean says, "Mecca Normal has done thousands of interviews over the years to raise issues of cultural, political and social concern. Our presentation is structured to bring that content forward -- without the interviewer. We've broken out of performance-only mode to introduce our thoughts on motivation, inspiration, and longevity. Touring artists who promote systemic change are valuable to the basis of society. We refuse to be buried in the entertainment glut."

Mecca Normal has a long history of co-ordinating and promoting events for artists determined to create social change. Their original touring enterprise was the late 80s Black Wedge -- a group of poets and minimalist musicians who toured in Canada, the US and England.

Following a brief introduction Jean and David will perform two songs to give the audience an idea of their sound and lyric content.

Details of releasing their first LP in 1986 -- the album went to #1 at the University of Alberta radio station, while a review in the station's program guide called it the worst record ever made and suggested that David shoot Jean.

What is culture (let alone underground culture) and why is it important? Why does underground culture frequently end up becoming mainstream? A short history of Riot Grrrl and the D-I-Y (do-it-yourself) movements -- both of which originated in the Pacific Northwest. Mecca Normal has often been cited as an inspiration to the founding members of Riot Grrrl -- prior to which there were very few women in bands expressing feminist ideas.

It is frequently assumed that successful bands, writers and artists are simply lucky. The reality of a working artist's life includes self-promotion, research and booking. David and Jean consider the management of their enterprises to be part of their collaborative creative process.

Art Exhibit:
The inclusion of artwork creates a more complete vision of the multi-layered partnership. A selection of the art is referred to and discussed; including ideas on David's political art compared to Jean's expressionist tendency and the role reversal this reflects -- David, the non-verbal member of the duo, utilizes text in his work, while Jean, the singer, exhibits abstract-based art without a language framework.

Elements of Jean and David's two-person art exhibit Inspired Agitators & the Pantomime Horse will be on display where possible.

"Inspired Agitators" -- David Lester's series of posters is based on the philosophies of a selection of international activists whose vision and determination inspire David's music.

Lester says, "History is embedded with obstacles that must have seemed insurmountable. Yet, again and again, battles are waged in climates of indifference, hostility and brutality. This collection represents inspired moments in history when an Indian Nation wore down the U.S. government, an artist defied the Nazi party, women achieved the right to vote, a socialist government was elected in North America, universal healthcare was implemented, a union for all was organized, a woman was finally accepted legally as a person, a black man fought public lynchings." -- excerpt from Newtopia Magazine on David Lester.

Jean Smith's "Self-Portrait" series from 1973 (age 13) documents the self-image of an adolescent girl. Through the next thirty years, Smith continued to examine the roles of female subject/model and artist in this ongoing series.

Small Press Publishing:
Jean and David discuss their collaboration in the publishing of handmade art books, political graphics, poetry and fiction, including the award-winning poetry of Bud Osborn, a community activist from Canada's poorest neighbourhood -- Vancouver's downtown eastside. Handmade books published by Smarten UP! & Get To The Point will be on display, for discussion.

Work Methods:
- Longevity is a political issue: now in their mid-forties, the question has become -- why continue? How does a guitar and voice partnership succeed for 20 years in a climate where "new" and "youth" are often the only basis of value?

- Creativity is essential to well-being

- Deadlines, partnerships, inspiration and confidence

- Identifying goals and dealing with obstacles: procrastination, perfectionism, the internal and external critics

Q&A prior to final songs
After the performance David and Jean are available to speak to audience members individually.

Smith says, "Our fee is flexible depending on budgets and the specific event. Please don't hesitate to contact us for more information. We are very friendly!"


Jean Smith is the vocalist in the acclaimed duo Mecca Normal, and the author of two published novels. Her interviews, articles and reviews on music and culture have appeared in the Globe & Mail, Raygun, Your Flesh, Review of Contemporary Fiction (Illinois), The Rain (Vancouver)and Sound Collector (New York). Her artwork has been exhibited in galleries across North America. "Self-Portraits" was shown at Ladyfests in Olympia and LA. Jean’s third novel “Living On Eggshells” will be out in 2004. She received grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and the B.C. Arts Council to complete the book. Jean lives in Vancouver.


David Lester is the guitar player for the underground rock duo Mecca Normal. His art has appeared in The Literary Review of Canada, Geist, BC BookWorld and Broken Pencil. His cartoons, appear regularly in the San Diego Reader. David's book "Gruesome Acts of Capitalism and Other Scandals" will be published this fall by Arbeiter Ring. David lives in Vancouver.


Jean Smith and David Lester are also available to curate art exhibits and organize events

Art exhibits -- galleries, community centres, stores and performance spaces. Specializing in tailoring art exhibits to themes and concepts. Recent events include Word On the Street (2004, Vancouver).

20 years experience locally and across North America. Booking and promoting music, art and literary events.

Mecca Normal Website

Mecca Normal Newsletter

Mecca Normal Reviews

Performance footage from CBC Just Concerts

Smarten Up! & Get To The Point Publishing

David Lester and his artwork

David Lester drawings and design

David Lester Paintings

Jean Smith art

Jean Smith NEW art