In our series about bars and clubs that feature live music, we’ve presented you with articles about Rock and Latin music clubs. It’s time to introduce another article from this series and reveal the most interesting live music venues where blues, bluegrass, and country music are favoured. When it comes to music, Vancouver has so much to offer.
It is only fair to say that there are more amazing blues and country musicians in Vancouver than there are good venues for blues and jazz in Vancouver. However, those you can find give as much space for artists to perform as they can. Vancouver blues and country is very specific, but it will get your attention fast once you’ve tried visiting one of the venues mentioned below.
Which one’s which?
Blues music is the Alpha and Omega of the African American musical development. Blues basically gave birth to Rock and R&B and many other music genres. The typical chord progression and half-tones make blues easily distinguishable from any other genre. Despite a common basis, blues has some specific differences when compared to country and bluegrass music. Lyrics are usually lamentation, longing, or ballads. An easy way to spot blues music in club/bar is through the tear in your beer, mainly thanks to the very emotional vocals and lyrics.
Bluegrass is quite hard to spot since it has a lot in common with both country and blues music. You will easily find influences formed in the genre throughout the centuries, making it even harder for you to recognize it. What you can’t mistake for any other genre is its musical phrasing and emphasis on banjo-heavy instrumental passages and string instruments used as percussion.
Country and blues practically developed together, occupying one era of the American South. In spite of segregation between communities, the two genres came into contact quite often. What differentiates country is influence from Irish, Scottish, and English ballads originally played by immigrants to America. There is an emphasis on vocal performance and typical rhythm and feeling.
Phone: (604) 681-9253
Adress: 1300 Granville St, Vancouver, BC V6Z 1M7
Vancouver’s Yale Hotel was built in the 1880s as one of Vancouver’s hotels used for railway workers. It was located apart from the downtown area of the day, in the area now known as Yaletown. The Yale survived a fire that destroyed most of the city in June of 1886. The hotel was restored and named the Colonial Hotel. However, it was named the Yale again in 1911.
The Yale Hotel is the best known blues bar in Vancouver, and the cradle of rhythm and blues music in Western Canada. The Yale features live blues music seven nights week. A great thing about The Yale is,that it not only tries to maintain all blues icons on stage, but it also gives countless opportunities to young artists, bands, and solo performers equally. Of course, what would rhythm and blues music be without a dance floor?
The Yale also has its own studio where it records live blues performances, usually promoting local talents, or charity fundraisers. Usually, there are two bands performing a night with crystal clear sound quality. The biggest disadvantage of The Yale is its quite expensive drink list. On the other hand, unlike many clubs in Vancouver, parking can be found easily within two-three minutes’ walking distance.
Phone: (604) 681-1625
Adress: 579 Dunsmuir St, Vancouver, BC V6B 1Y4
Located above a convenience store, this hidden gem has all the prerequisites a great bar should have. Reasonably priced drinks, friendly and extremely outgoing staff that are always willing to answer any question you have, great live performances, and even a room in which to play darts! If you’re waiting for your friends and the band is gone for a break, you can amuse yourself by the little train that circles the club on a track above your head.
A small disadvantage of this club is its not very well marked restrooms, and also that it is usually quite full. It’s hard to get a spot close to the stage to see the band, but there is a TV in the back from which to watch the stage, if you like. Railway Club supports local musicians, and despite the size of the sound system, the overall sound and vibe is very good.
Phone: (604) 684-4214
Adress: 50 Cordova St W, Vancouver, BC V6B 1C9
The first thing that is great about the Bourbon is that the staff doesn’t have any problem with outside food, which is fair, taking into consideration that they don’t serve food in the bar. Unfortunately, this bar is the exception in their approach. The staff is really nice, and there is always enough of them to serve all the customers. (Sometimes even more than needed.)
This pub’s size is perfect. It’s big enough to avoid someone whom you hadn’t planned on running into, but also small enough so you don’t lose your friends. The music is usually very swift, and both live bands and DJs are very skilled and have a wide range, depending on the overall mood of guests.
Fairview Vancouver Pub
Phone: (604) 872-1262
Adress: 898 Broadway W, Vancouver, BC V5Z 1J8
The Fairview doesn’t look like much from outside. It also doesn’t look like much inside. It’s the clientele and music that draws people back. Instead of playing the usual Top 10 charts, the Fairview specializes in live blues, jazz, and rock bands. Fairview has a decently sized dance floor and its musicians are usually quite something. Fairview offers a wide range of live performances, all on smaller, but very cozy stage.
Although Fairview is not one of the most polished places in town, the crowd that usually goes here really knows how to dance and party. The long bar in Fairview is easy to access, and there are multiple bartenders during weekends when the bar is crowded. The seating arrangements seem to be formed in some sort of maze, with plenty of nooks and crannies for isolated groups to relax in relative privacy.
All photos courtesy of the clubs