VANCOUVER — Another live music venue closes its doors. The Railway Club was a long-time supporter of live music but it’s a tough business. Any given night is a crapshoot, regardless of the talent on your stage. These property owners are really out of touch with the exorbitant rents they want for bar spaces. Seventeen thousand a month just isn’t possible. No one in Vancouver has that type of disposable income to spend on boozing anymore. We’ve already lost The Electric Owl because of this. Now The Railway packed it in and The Columbia sits vacant because anyone with business sense isn’t jumping into that pricey rent pit of serpents and fire.
I know they tried to sell The Railway but who can afford another 5K a month on top of rent for their “sweat equity” known as the business. The smart yuppsters just lurk or rub their greasy palms together with the greedy slumlords. Some deep pockets will now gentrify up that space. Free sweat equity up for grabs.
I’ve driven by The Hindenburg on a Friday night to see it shuttered. Unless you have an event with enough people in finicky Vancouver showing up, it’s cheaper to remain closed, or in my case host a karaoke night. It whittles down the expenditures, and a possible toilet paper party cleanup is saved for the next day. Venue expenses never stop.
Vancouver is a cultural hub, even if the supportive public is vanishing. I see all these “Dear John” style blogs and letters to the editor popping up everywhere now. How could anyone possibly be bored here? Local shows are a measly 10 bucks. That’s two cups of coffee. Those same people griping about cover at your door are pulling hundreds out of their ass for trendy arena shows and merch.
Millennials are the new live music participants. Mailing it in is not limited to Radim Vrbata. The days of gigs with no gear to hump and 20-minute sets are here. It’s mind blowing how many times I’m asked if I’m supplying the stage gear lately. One band recently told me they don’t own any gear. These 20-somethings are the people with disposable income. We all know how scenes run in cliques. People grow up and out of things like live, local punk and metal with the arrival of children, marriage, or career opportunities. Sobriety is also a factor. Most live gigs happen in an alcohol immersed environment. I know it’s hard for me to be around the booze, especially late into the night when the triple told stories thrive or the rails roll out.
The Railway closing isn’t a big deal for me as it wasn’t a place I frequented often, but it meant a lot to others. Every time I’m out of my cave I run into someone reminiscing about The Cobes. It’s kind of a blessing for all the other live venues hanging by a thread, as it’s one less local show per night. That won’t last long though because something else always springs up. Possibly another fly-by-night place that doesn’t have the legal demands of being a legitimate business. I’m envious of people that that have no qualms about raking in the dough without having to pay the piper.
I guess the Wiccan tenet of “Do what you will but harm none” is weighing heavily on me these days. The ruthless attitude to be a cutthroat or semi-conscious promoter evades me. I recently folded a big show I had booked into a festival because it’s what was best for the band. I worry about a show I’ve had booked for months with two touring bands that a new promoter just postered over with a slew of local bands of the same ilk. It’s exasperating. Life never allows the luxury of heeding your plan, you just have to adapt and, as always, hope for the best.BC, British Columbia, local music, The Hindenburg, The Railway Club, venue rental prices