It’s harder than you might think working an assignment with three Jägerbombs to the dome in just under 20 minutes. But this is what happens at the club, better known as “da club”. You get mangled.
I was given the assignment to journey to the dark heart of Vancouver’s club culture to answer two very simple questions: 1) Are weekend nights on Granville Street really dominated by the so-called “bridge and tunnel” crowd? 2) Is it really as insufferable as everyone my age seems to remember it being?
Decked out in my most breathable cotton button-up, my only pair of khakis and dress shoes one size too big – and armed with guest list to, like, eight venues I’d never think of visiting on a normal night – I discovered the truth.
But first, a little background. For a subset of Vancouverites, Granville Street is a horror show – rooted, I think, in the dark years between 2004 and 2008, when the Strip’s club scene devolved in to Top 40 mindlessness and suburban gangster intimidation.
As a result, the great majority of people I know haven’t stepped foot on Granville Street on a Friday or Saturday night in years, except maybe for the odd gig at the Commodore or the Vogue. Hasty exits abound afterward, of course.
I, like my generational counterparts, have avoided the Strip as well, but not for cultural reasons – I’ve actually enjoy the insanity at times. I just can’t stay up that late anymore. I’m 31 and married. I’m in bed by 11pm most nights, 9:30pm if I have a headache.
Still, I persevered. Here’s what happened.
9pm: Arrive at my friend Brian’s Yaletown apartment. He’s one of few friends who actively hits the Strip, even though he’s 35and has already suffered one heart attack. We start the night by watching the kitten channel on Optik TV while drinking snifters of Aberlour 12. The days of pre-gaming with cans of cheap swill are long behind us.
10pm: We head for the Strip. The street is blocked off as usual, but the crowd is surprisingly thin. I recall Friday summer nights here that were jammed building-to-building with high levels of loutish behaviour and the frequent call of police whistles. The thrum and jazz of an intoxicated crowd. Puke and garbage on the sidewalk. Regular appearances by Chad Kroeger. But not tonight. We took a seat on the patio of the Granville Room, beside two elderly Italian men, who were gawking at all the young ladies stuffed in miniskirts.
“That’ll be us in a few years,” Brian says. I believe him.
10:21pm: It occurs to us that FVDED in the Park – the electronic music festival in Surrey, headlined by The Weeknd – is happening right now, which would explain the thinned-out crowd. That festival was aimed at the very same demographic that would hit up clubs like Republic or the Caprice: Y’know, 20-somethings with a penchant for EDM or whatever. So that (sort of) answers my first question.
10:45pm: I indulge in three very large and enjoyable yawns and head to The Belmont, formerly The Cellar, the name of which says it all. It is indeed a cellar. I notice immediately a long row of craft beer taps, from which I order two pints and two Jägerbombs. I’m struck immediately by the lack of any of the meat-headedness or faux-class that one might expect of the Strip. There’s nothing put-on about this place. It’s just people dancing to enjoyable hits from across the generations, provided by a live band that plays three flawless Daft Punk covers. I think, “This ain’t bad at all.” It’s like any cultural experience – if you’re open to it, have patience for loutish behaviour, can deal with some subpar music, you’ll be OK.
12am: Or maybe I’m wrong. We go to Republic, the main room, which is playing a jarring brand of EDM that sounds exactly like robots fornicating, at volumes I’m sure Jimmy Page would be offended by. The manager greets us and promptly slams two Jägerbombs with us which is very nice of him, but results in some very sloppy note taking and a dissolving of any memories made thereafter. In the upstairs hip-hop room, people grind on each other in great numbers and lustrous intensity. I remember seeing this as a 20-year-old, envious I couldn’t find a willing participant to take part. Now, it just makes me tired. We stew in this for another 20 minutes or so, nursing Coronas.
1am: We give up on the clubs and shuffle over to the Granville Strip, Vancouver’s newest strip club. While it lacks the sleeze one (namely, I) might hope for a in peeler bar, it makes up for it with a some impressively vaudevillian dance routines, complete with naked fire-breathing. We order two more Coronas.
1:45am: I take a cab home, crawl in to bed and think, “That wasn’t so bad” before stumbling into oblivion.
Good night everyone.
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