The Vancouver nightlife scene gets a bad rap. With a multitude of eclectic bars and experiences just a taxi or SkyTrain away, and with one of Canada’s best downtown entertainment districts, sometimes it’s just knowing where to go, and when.
We’ll be posting articles here on Vancity Buzz highlighting some of the best nights to be had in Vancouver, travelling through different neighbourhoods, different scenes and different styles to showcase the best and brightest the city has to offer. Have a suggestion on a place we should feature? Leave it in the comments below.
We won’t be reviewing or critiquing any of the venues we discuss, or speaking negatively about any places in town. This space is going to be used to celebrate Vancouver nightlife and hopefully be able to be used as a reference for where to go, and when, to have the best time in the city. We look forward to sharing our adventures with you.
For our first post, we’re travelling to one of Vancouver and Granville Street’s best kept secrets. The Vancouver FanClub bills itself as a place where New Orleans meets the West Coast, and it more than lives up to that claim. We’ve previously written about the FanClub here and here, and they’ve also been a part of Tangoo nights, but now that this new venue has cemented itself as a great addition to “the strip,” we wanted to give it a revisit.
Vancouver Nightlife: Wednesday night at the FanClub
Usually, if you find yourself in a bar on Wednesday night, it’s either to celebrate the fact that it’s hump day or to celebrate the fact that the word “Wings” starts with a “W” and marketing people love alliteration. The FanClub is ready to change all that by providing what is quite possibly the best Wednesday night experience in the city.
What makes a great weeknight in a bar? What entices you to leave the comfort of your couch and venture out on a cold and wet Vancouver night? It has to be more than just drinks, service and a lack of lineups. There needs to be entertainment. Now, Granville Street has some fantastic live entertainment venues. Whether it’s karaoke, cover bands, comedy or music trivia you’re after, you can find something to do every night. What sets this night and this bar apart? Shaun Verreault and Friends, that’s what.
Shaun Verreault is the lead singer of the well known Canadian group Wide Mouth Mason. With three Juno nominations and two certified Gold albums in Canada, this guy knows what he’s doing when it comes to music. On Wednesday nights he rounds up local musician friends to join him at the FanClub, where they just jam. And it’s amazing.
Vancity Buzz caught up with Shaun after a recent performance and he graciously agreed to answer a few questions for this post.
Tell us a little bit about the process you use in “jamming with your friends” and how that differs from playing with Wide Mouth Mason.
Both are very free musical situations with a lot of room for spontaneous composition. The biggest difference between the Masons and the FanClub band is that in WMM we’re improvising over songs we know; at the Wednesday gigs we’re completely making it up on the spot. The closest we come to advance knowledge of what’s going to happen is that I can call an audible from what we’ve dubbed a jam map (or jam app), which is a piece of paper on the stage with some random commands on it, like: 1. do what you’re doing a semi-tone higher, 2. do a 1/6/2/5 chord change, etc. We use it about twice a night. I freestyle lyrics or repurpose songs I wrote, or I quote from a mental tickle-trunk full of Hendrix, Prince or old R&B tunes.
Editors Note: One of the coolest parts of the show is trying to figure out which song each “jam” is going to turn into. It’s almost always something recognizable that will have you shaking your head in amazement and smiling.
Can you describe some of the technology used in the creation of the FanClub’s sound from an artist’s perspective?
From an artist’s perspective it’s exciting that they’ve installed a multi-camera system and pro-tools equipped soundboard for recording and streaming what’s happening on-stage. Improvised music has an urgency in that it’s created and then evaporates, never to be duplicated, so being able to capture it well the one time it happens is a great resource to have.
Who are some of the “friends” that you have had play at the room so far, and who might we expect to see in the future?
The core group has been myself on guitar and vocals, Doug Elliott of Odds on bass and Darryl Havers from Brickhouse on keys and theremin. The drum seat, (or throne, as drummers like to loftily refer to it) has been filled by Pat Steward of Odds, Tim Proznick from Daniel Wesley/Kyprios and Geoff Hicks (Colin James, Steve Dawson). We’ve had our pals Cobra Ramone, Colleen Rennison of No Sinner and Dave Oladjide of Blind God sing and play with us and there are many other excellent musicians who’ve expressed interest in coming to play, some of whom I think will surprise people with their fearless improv skills that maybe they don’t get to showcase in their regular groups.
In your own words, how would you describe the FanClub to someone who has never been there before?
It’s a little reminiscent of two of my favourite former Vancouver venues, Richards on Richards and the Yale, except with a wider selection of craft beers on tap, a high-end bourbon room and that new club shininess. It’s pretty ballsy and remarkable for the Luciak family to commit to live music every night in today’s climate. It’s a labour of love and you can feel it in the room when the music is right. We turn Wednesdays into Saturdays.
What can we expect to see from you and all of your other endeavors in the future?
Whether in WMM, these improv-collective types of situations, or in my solo shows, I’ve been finding working fast and building momentum more compelling and productive than labouring over things. I’m drawn to music that is like a documentary rather than a big post-production. I’ve spent almost 30 years of my life chipping away at the guitar and learning to sing and write songs, and the best stuff now happens when I endeavour to outrun my brain. That and lots of slide guitar. I’ve become primarily a slide guitarist.
*End of interview*
The vibe in this place on a Wednesday night is hard to describe. It’s sexy, sultry, and smooth, with just enough bite to entice you back for more, much like any of the multitude of bourbons in the semi-private tasting room. It’s definitely got something that has been missing in the Vancouver nightlife scene.
And of course, the question always comes down to price. What does it cost to be a part of the best Wednesday night in the city? This is yet another thing the management of the FanClub got right: No Cover. Nada. Zero.
The FanClub has quickly become the go to Wednesday night establishment for many,and you would have a tough time finding anyone with a negative review of the music, the drinks, the food, or the room. It may sound like a bold statement, but if you check it out once, you’ll quickly become a (pardon the pun) fan as well. Vancouver nightlife is a little bit better thanks to this establishment.
See you on Wednesday.