Best Rock and Roll Bars in Vancouver? You make the call!

Rich Hope

When it comes to nightlife, Vancouver is definitely no longer a “no fun” zone.  There are zillions of gastropubs, where you can sip away the night with gourmet grub.  There are plenty of chic lounges, where the girls in little black dresses and guys in muscle Ts flaunt their stuff.  And after midnight, there’s no shortage of clubs and Euro-inspired DJs.

A bit harder to find are good, old-fashioned rock and roll bars.  I’m talking about casual bars that play live music: places with a laid-back feel, cheap beer, good sound system and good bands. If the bar room is a little grungy around the edges, so be it.  And I’ve got no problem paying a cover charge, as long as it hovers around the $10 mark.

Now, I know there must be at least a few honest-to-goodness rock and roll bars in Vancouver – but they’re not easy to find.  So I’m turning this one over to you:

Do you have a favourite bar for live music?  A place you can grab a casual drink and hear some good tunes?  Please share your knowledge below.

I’ll start things off with a place I stumbled on recently.  It’s hardly a new find or a hidden gem, but it definitely fits the bill.  I’m talking about the old Fairview Pub, out on Broadway and Laurel Street.

Now, if you like your bars stylish and modern, full of well-dressed twenty-somethings sipping expensive cocktails. read no further.  This is not the Fairview.   Instead, you get what comes pretty close, in the best possible way, to a homely, neighborhood dive bar.   The interior is dimly lit and full of old, knicked-up wood tables and chairs.  In one corner are a few pool tables, a pinball machine and an ancient video game where you hunt deer with an orange, plastic rifle.

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On the night that I went, the bar was comfortably busy with an incredibly diverse crowd who had come to see the night’s bands.  There were bearded hipsters in every pattern of flannel imaginable.  There were girls in retro sundresses.  There were groups of buds out for a night at the bar and older couples hoping to hear some good music.  In other words, it was the kind of cross-section you rarely get in Vancouver nightlife.

Now, onto the important part – the music.  The Fairview has a nice big stage, front and center, with good lighting and an excellent sound system.  A line-up of rootsy-folksy rockers were playing, including the groups Indian Affairs and Spoon River.  And they fit the part perfectly:  cranking out loud, soulful, Neil Young-inspired music, with a nod to greats like Dylan and The Band.

Last but not least: Fairview also satisfied the cheap beer requirement (at least by local standards).  Pints of Labatt were on draft for $4.50.

Do have a favourite bar for live music in Vancouver?  Please comment below.

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5 Responses to Best Rock and Roll Bars in Vancouver? You make the call!

  1. Sunny G

    My favorite? Gotta be The Railway on Dunsmuir. Always good music, old school punk vibe and cheap beer!

  2. Carol S

    The River Rock Casino has live music on the weekends in the bar area. It’s mostly oldies and there’s a dance floor, so it’s fun, especially for those of us who are over 40.

  3. Julianna

    The Cottage Bistro on Main street is a cool haunt, with mixed crowds and decent food. Music is fun to !

  4. Kate

    I agree with you on Fairview pub, it didn’t look like much from the outside when I first went there, but it surprised me a lot. However, most of the music played there is blues, not rock. This is also a case of Railway club, I would definitely say it is a blues music club. My favourite one of these is the old Yale Hotel, the thing I really like about it is that they play seven days a week.

    • Thanks Kate – I agree about the Yale. That’s why it’s so sad that it closed down yesterday! (It’s supposed to open again in a year or so after renos).

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