I’ve experienced that at the hands of the City, coming to work and having a closure notice plastered on the front door of the Cobes. Apparently, when you share a bar with the ‘strippers’ of the day shift in Y2K, you get to serve a Liquor License suspension for ‘Fellatio’ in front of a Liquor Inspector.
I’ve experienced that at the hands of the slumlords who saw Olympic sized dollar signs in their eyes and evicted me, and now with the lipstick on a pig Developers who fantasize about well heeled yuppsters gracing their soon to be Italian chic DTES pub.
Take any rundown, hole in the wall, dive bar on the verge of getting shut down by the City and cops. Run thousands of punks and metalheads through the doors, double their liquor sales, gain the attention of journalists, students and a social media presence. Hold it together with duct tape, a coat of black paint, and the wonderful capabilities of a volunteer army and presto. All of a sudden in the overlords eyes, this is a desirable, functioning venue worthy of way more money and a supposedly better clientele than us heathens who got it to that point. All the grunt work is done. All the drug dealers and users are chased out courtesy of loud, heavy music and a cover charge.
Just call me the Accidental Venue Gentrifier. Occupy a bar mainstreamers won’t touch. Turn it around. Get thrown out. Sometimes I feel like I’m on a venue hamster wheel.
This is where you learn how to relocate shows quickly. I had asked to keep my fully booked calendar of shows honored through mid December at Funkys, but was told that would only happen if I worked for free. So I decided, FUCK THAT. Why should I continue to make money for people that obviously don’t appreciate the work I put in for years. Thankfully, I have good friends working at other venues and Pats Pub and SBC stepped up for me big time. I even managed to get future booking dates at Lana Lous and Pats Pub. Being of no fixed address means I have less dates to work with, but for the time being that’ll be enough.
When I was looking for venues after the Cobes debacle, I kept getting NO from the powers that be. The reasoning was that there was a moratorium on liquor licenses in the Downtown Eastside. I took the Funkys job for peanuts with the former slumlords, just to keep the shows rolling, and all of a sudden every Tom, Dick and Harry had a fucking craft beer ‘tasting room’, store or eatery in the DTES. I guess my timing was off by a year.
I ended up just staying vision shackled, because about year 2, they actually made the great decision of hiring Rockerchic Sheri as the manager. We meshed really well, were rolling along, and the place got painted black except for the yucky pink bathroom. After the new corporate overlords fucked with her a year ago and she left, it was never the same. They also culled all the staff and regulars from the bar too. It sucked walking into work with tumbleweeds blowing through the place due to poor management decisions. Their prerogative. How to run a bar into the ground 101 going on there. Pickles win.
There’s a certain rebelliousness that overtakes our scene after being disregarded and tossed into the gutter. When Funky’s bar pickles were absconded at a gig after I was terminated, it turned into a giant episode of Picklegate. The overlords of Funkys messaged, threatening to call the cops. The drunk, hungry punks ate the pickles, drank the brine and made a prank pickle terrorist video and ransom note Facebook cover photo. I laughed and replaced the pickle jar and pickles. Total cost of the missing pickles was less than the price to get into a gig. I suggested they remove the new pickles from their spot on the bar for the final punk show. They did. I remember people taking grimy wall tiles out of the men’s can at the Cobes during the final week. Souvenir options for venue memories are weird.
Being sober for 3 years now, I’m not sure I’d want to fire up another bar. Courtesy of the Provincial Government entering the modern age, I may not have to. I could open a ‘Shit for Sale’ store slash Art Gallery and throw shows legally while dispensing the liquor life blood. I’m really stuck on our subculture having a legal space. I couldn’t do the fly by night, illegal venue action. My psyche likes having a home base you can count on. We’ll see how long I can throw shows in different places, but throw them I will. Gig whack-a-mole. I’m sticking around. I appreciate everyone that reached out. My next chapter is upon us.
To fill my extra free time, I’ve undertaken the mammoth task of sifting through 17 years of gig posters I have stored away. I’ve also recovered as much as I can digitally from old computer hard drives and uploading sites. I seem to be stuck post 2004 for digital archives. Everything before that I will unearth in physical copies of old show posters. I might have to get my hands on a giant scanner or photo taking system. See you around Vancity!