Last night we went to our first club in Vancouver. This town has a ton of them, but we were out at the Lamplighter because my cousin B.J. has a band, Parts and Labor that was on tour throughout the US and Canada, and last night was his stop in Vancouver.
We got there right at 8PM, which was when the evening’s bands (there were to have been 3 of them — we found out that ‘The Fatal Flying Guilloteens’ had to cancel) were to have started. Not even close. After a little while, B.J. walked in from the rear entrance. His band had just gotten over the border an hour or so earlier. While the three of us attempted to do the nearly impossible in Gastown, which is find a restaurant open after 9:30 PM, we got caught up.
By the way, it’s a funny thing, but restaurants do close pretty early here, leading many residents to say that this town should be nicknamed ‘No Fun Vancouver’. I have to admit that we’ve been caught out too late without having gotten dinner on a couple of occasions, and have had to settle on Denny’s or Subway, two chains that tend to be open late. Fortunately, the Denny’s near us is actually not bad at all, unlike the ones I’d been to in the States.
B.J. filled us in on the tour. It had gone well, despite the fact that this morning they’d had their first or second flat tire of the trip, which is always a hassle. It’s a grueling life, being in an indie band on tour, and it’s not at all glamorous, despite what anyone may think. It consists of driving for hours (sometimes ten to twelve at a stretch), arriving at the gig, eating, unpacking the gear and instruments, performing, sleeping (usually at friend’s houses), and then doing the whole thing all over again, day in and day out for a month or so. I imagine that it is a real challenge to fight back the boredom. B.J. was very impressed with the support network around indie bands. Band members from different groups frequently know each other and help each other get bookings. They see one other and socialize on tour stops as part of the circuit and some close friendships get formed. Like anything, a community has emerged.
It’s been a while since we’ve been in the States, and Pam and I rarely ventured into Red State land, so we asked B.J. what he’s been seeing, since he’s been driving through the country for several weeks. “Three things, mainly.” he reported. “Billboards for Jesus, billboards against Abortion, and billboards for strip clubs. Everywhere we went on the road, we’d see signs for those three.” A curious combination, we agreed. Thinking back to that, it strikes me now that all of them happen to be anti-woman (if one assumes that the Jesus ones involved the Baptists’ directive that women be submissive to the man of the household, anti-abortion in our opinion is highly anti-woman, and as for strip clubs, well that’s self explanatory).
After B. J. found a falafel stand that was open, we returned to the dim interior of the Lamplighter. The Lamplighter is in the Dominion Hotel “Vancouver’s Only Budget Art Hotel”, as their web site puts it. They also quote the Toronto Globe and Mail: ‘This probably isn’t a hotel you’d recommend to your mom, but if you’re on a tight budget…a night at the Dominion is quite the experience.” Hmm.
The hotel (and club) is on the corner of Water and Abbott Streets in Gastown. Very funky, it’s one of the oldest buildings I’ve seen in Vancouver (built in 1889). the bar/club has a high tin ceiling that’s been painted dark brown. The stage was at the back, and the bar was toward the front and to the left. Actually, it was pretty cozy and not at all dirty or dangerous looking. There were candles at the booths and tables. A very friendly girl at the front took the cover charges. The bartender and bouncer were also quite personable.
As for Parts and Labor (or as we were amused to see the local paper list it: Parts and Labour), the best description I can provide is the one given by Narnack Records, their current label:
Parts & Labor combines primitive, minimal electronics with an anthemic, rhythmic barrage. The Brooklyn trio formed in early 2002 with BJ Warshaw and Jim Sykes adding bass and drums to Dan Friel’s solo keyboard/electronics experiments (described by Time Out New York as “Strange and wonderful, and best of all, unlike anything we can think of.”
We wore earplugs because the band is very loud, even by indie band standards. (The drummer confided in us that at one venue, he had been doing some preliminary sound checks when the venue’s sound engineer said that his drums alone were louder than any of the other bands). I have to say that the protection of the earplugs kept me from making out any real details to the songs, but their raw energy was engaging, I was not bored, and the crowd (who kept far closer to the band) clearly enjoyed them.
At the end of the evening, we headed out quickly, keeping to the well-lit parts of the streets. At that end of Gastown, you probably wouldn’t want to walk around alone too much at night. We had no trouble getting a bus home, so now I know that a late night out does not mean that there’s no bus, even at near (or even past) midnight.