This summer I reached my 7 year anniversary of living in Vancouver. I feel like after 5 years of living somewhere you can start calling yourself a local. You’ve made some roots at certain establishments. You’ve discovered some secrets about the city others don’t know. You can genuinely complain about tourists getting in the way of your morning routine. You have a couple of indie bands that you pray stay hidden in your small club forever so you can selfishly enjoy them. With the years you accumulate though, you sometimes don’t notice the change around you, until you pass by an old store front and realize it’s not there anymore. Even scarier, you realize a whole new generation of said city won’t have any memories of it. It now only exists through you. After only 7 years, Vancouver has changed quite a bit for me since I moved here at the age of 19. Here are a few things that exist in my memories, and that I will hold dearly on to. I’m sure some will ring a bell for Vancouverites.
The Buffalo Club
This bar was on Granville Street right after Davie Street. It was completely unassuming from the front, and constantly confused if it wanted to be a music venue or a club. During the week it would run a battle of the bands of local acts, on Fridays it would feature an actual popular local act (usually a cover band singing everything from Weezer to ABBA), and Saturdays they would crank top 40 hits. This meant it was popular with young students like myself. It was one of the first bars I frequented in my first few weeks in Vancouver, and our relationship grew from there. In fact, it was where I spent my first night with Drew and Sean on a Tuesday evening where we proceeded to get hammered and a friendship was born. It closed down when I was 22 I think, and remained closed for a few years, until it was turned into a sport bar named The Forum. The Buffalo Club hosted some of my best nights in Vancouver with some of my best friends. Godspeed. Things that may or may not have happened at The Buffalo Club (and by that I mean they 100% did):
– Me making out with the lead singer of THE OPENING BAND.
– My 20th birthday where every single person in attendance made out with each other, and I was left without a birthday kiss until my Vancouver Film School classmates felt sorry for me. I was granted the lips of Brittany AND Brian.
– Dancing in cages.
– Brittany getting a shot bought for her and then straight after making out with a guy on the dance floor in 10 MINUTES FLAT.
– Steamy make-out sessions done on the back stairs on dirty carpet (shudder).
– Having a drink thrown at me.
- Night of my 20th birthday with Caely-ann and Sean.
4th Ave Graffiti
Before starting school in October 2005, I worked for a small television show who’s offices were located at 2nd and Fir. Not a bad spot to spend the first few months living in Vancouver. I discovered Granville Island and Kits Beach. Most mornings I passed by the intersection at 4th and Fir, which at the time had a huge music store with a giant mural on it that had been there since the early 90’s by an artist named Archer. It featured a slew of celebs like Jimi Hendrix and Marilyn Monroe. Since I rarely pass by there these days, I was floored when I heard the music store had shut down and had been replaced by an animal hospital, and they had painted over it! Very sad.
Oh my lord the Bourbon. The Bourbon still exists. But it is not The Bourbon. In my film school days of 2005-2006, this was still a shit hole. Since my schedule in school was out of whack, and we were conveniently located at Homer and Hastings, we had time to get acquainted with all the dive bars down there before Gastown was revamped. The Bourbon was always a choice when we were done a film lesson (sometimes building a whole set for one camera test) because it was a 3 minute walk and it was CHEAP. Old geezers sitting at the bar would watch us youngsters play pool and pound back pitchers. A few years after I graduated I ventured down there and was surprised to see that the pool tables were gone, a stage had been built for music acts, and an actual dance floor was present. They also charged 10$ cover and a DJ would be playing on Fridays and Saturdays. It’s evolved beyond that to a full blown country bar for UBC students. It features a mechanical bull to make the ridiculous cover worth it. Oh Bourbon… may you rest in peace.
*** Special mention to The Lamplighter. Before it got bought out by the Donnelly Group and turned into another club, this was hands down one of the grossest places in Vancouver. I know this first hand cause I spent a week shooting a short film in it. You do NOT want to know what the carpets looked like in day light. The bathrooms were a warzone. They never cleaned. Ever. One part of me is glad to see it has been sanitized, but I feel like a true history of Vancouver was taken away. It still had an old stage with the red velvet curtains. The historic wood covering the walls. It was an institution.
- Shooting at the Lamp before renos.
Granville Street looks beautiful now. No doubt. It was the bane of every Vancouverite’s existence from 2008 till the Olympics since it was under CONSTANT construction to get the new Sky Train line, and revamp the street for bigger sidewalks to accommodate the amount of people that would be downtown for the 2012 Winter Olympics. So many new stores and restaurants have opened since then. Everything looks cleaner, safer. But sometimes I honestly miss the Granville Street I first met. The fucking dirty smelly tight ass street that housed sex shops and clubs. I remember walking from school all the way up there (about 20 minutes) and just loving it. Even the bums and crazy people, loved them all. I remember stumbling out of bars on a school night on those tiny sidewalks, traffic going everywhere, buses honking, people yelling. Even though that any given Friday you will still find drunk people yelling on Granville Street, the cops are smart now and close down traffic and try to control everything. Back then, there was no control and everything was out of whack. And it was soooo dirty. But there was nothing like getting out of The Morrissey at 1 am and having the number 17 bus standing right there for me. I used to love the part where you had The Commodore, The Plaza (RIP before it became another standard club) and the Orpheum with that huge central bus stop in between them. The lights. The people. The street artists. I miss it.
Marc’s/Tomato Fresh Cafe
Back when I lived at 8th and McDonald in a big ol’ Heritage house, there was a bar within 100 m walking distance called Marc’s. There was nothing special about it, the only reason I went in there was for happy hour. As long as you were buying drinks, you got free wings. Best deal ever. It closed down and was replaced by a great restaurant called Tomato Fresh Cafe that till this day had my favourite breakfast. It was my father and I’s go to place when he would visit. I even took my sister when she came for a visit as well. Memories of Franz slurping on chocolate banana milkshakes and Caely-ann and I having Sunday breakfast are still strong. At the beginning of summer I biked by and was shocked to see it was gone. It was my place next door. Everyone should have one of those in their life.
- Proof Marc’s existed – drunk Jordan and Drew enjoying happy hour and befriending a German man in 2006.
Richard’s on Richards
This one will tear at anyone’s heart from Vancouver. One of the best music venues the city has ever had. I’ve enjoyed bands here before they got to their next level of fame (which meant graduating to The Commodore). From Band of Horses on a memorable Canada Day, to introducing my friends to Cold War Kids. I also had a 5 hour dance party to Hey Ocean on a week day once. Fun fact, Courtney Love bared her boobs there, but she wasn’t playing, it was a Lemonheads show.
The Marine Club
To be honest, I only went here once. But it was one of those old dirty haunts that downtown Vancouver did so well I had to include it. I also keep it close to my heart because the night I went was one of the funniest/worst/random nights of my life. I was at school till 10 pm supervising my classmate Natalie editing my short film I had directed. The first screening for teachers was tomorrow so everyone was freaking out. I decided we deserved a drink so we met up with other people up the block at Malones. I got a text from a friend who’s first gig with his band was at the Marine Club. I had promised to come out for support so I took my half drunk daiquiri (it was the drink special. I was a broke film student. We made due) and made my way up there. Oh The Marine Club. It’s basically a rec room that smells like an ashtray. I watched the gig which ended up being hilarious only because my poor friend was so nervous and it showed. His other friend and I ended up heckling him with things like “PLAY PANAMA”. By the time I went back to school to put my film on tape for the screening it was 2 am and I was tipsy. And of course the fucking tape deck wasn’t working. I passed out on one of the couches till 6 am. I went outside to get a muffin, only to discover my bike had been stolen. I ended up losing my shit on my producer who was late for the screening in the lobby phone.
“CODY YOU BETTER GET YOUR ASS DOWN HERE RIGHT NOW. I SPENT 3 HOURS THIS MORNING GETTING THIS THING ON THE FUCKING TAPE AND MY BIKE GOT FUCKING STOLEN AND I’M HING OVER. THE ONE TIME I FUCKING NEED YOU, YOU DECIDE TO NOT BE HERE.”
All this was done in front of students who were getting their first day tour. Film school is fun kids!
A & B Sound
This two floor music shop is now occupied by super club 560. But back in the day I would spend time in between classes looking through albums to kill time. When it closed I wasn’t surprised, just nostalgic to my teen years when visiting a record store was a normal occurence. When HMV finally closed on Burrard and Robson as well, it was the final nail in the coffin. Digital music has taken over. First time in my life I felt old.
This express bus used to run through downtown and all the way to Richmond. It was the only line that went to Richmond. It was the one bus you could take to get your ass to the airport if you had no friends with cars, or enough money for a taxi cab. Considering I fly all the time, the 98 and I got real cozy. Having to drag my giant suitcase on it was always a good time. Also not a good idea? You and your hung over roommate dragging a new Ikea dining table on it. Worst idea Franz and I ever had. The 98 was taken out of commission once the new Canada Line Sky Train was completed.
The Hollywood Theatre
Just like Tomato cafe, this theatre was located right by my house in my Kitsilano days. I loved that it still had the old time ticket box in the front, and smelled like thousands of memories when you entered. There was something so cozy about sitting in this theatre, it made me nostalgic for all the movies in the 40s and 50s. You could see a double bill there for 7$. It was wondrous, and a great place for movie buffs. After 75 years, it was closed in 2011, and it was really, really sad.
Weird Random Building
To complete this list, is something only I probably noticed. From the time I could remember, any time I crossed the Granville Street Bridge from downtown, there is a building (probably somewhere on 5th and Fir) facing downtown that ALWAYS has it’s light on in the two upper rooms on the last floor. Since the wall is all window, you can completely and clearly see the inside of both offices. One was painted all bright blue, the other yellow. It was my light home. Ah yes, there is the office. It was like a greeting. “On your way home Julia?” Even lying on the bridge after my bike accident, there they were, looking down at me, offering light and clarity. I always wondered what happened in those offices during the day. Who worked there? Why did they never turn off the lights? This summer on a bike ride home, I almost braked in the middle of the bridge. THE WALLS HAD BEEN PAINTED. The colourful rooms had been replaced by stark white walls and new furniture. Why this affected me so much, I have no idea. But the lights were still on. The day those lights turn off I feel like I will have to move. My time in Vancouver will be officially done.