Free live music at New Orleans-style FanClub on Granville Street

Photo credit: Vancouver FanClub

There aren’t many places in Vancouver where you can here a really good live version of Marvin Gaye’s I Heard it through the Grapevine on a random afternoon – and even fewer where you can hear it for free.

Without much fanfare, what may be Vancouver’s best new venue for live music opened on Granville Street recently.  FanClub – operated by the owners of the city’s beloved (and currently closed) Yale blues bar – occupies a New Orleans-style music hall space on the corner of Granville and Nelson Streets.  French doors lead into a bar room with soaring, 30-foot ceilings, a second-floor wrought-iron balcony and – front and center – a huge stage for showcasing local and out-of-town talent.

Most nights of the week, FanClub features ticketed performances by blues, roots, rock and jazz musicians, as well as DJs spinning house music until the late hours.  But – for live music lovers on a budget – FanClub also offers free shows: often in the early evenings on weekdays and all day on Saturday.

I stopped by over the weekend for the Saturday jam session, a sort of open mic that attracts dozens of bands from throughout the Lower Mainland for their 15 minutes of fame.  By 3 p.m., the room was packed and buzzing with more energy than lots of late-night venues on Granville Street.Part of the appeal is that FanClub is supremely non-threatening.  It’s not a dive bar or a biker bar or a dingy blues joint.  It’s a classy setting with hardwood floors, wooden paneling and a warm, welcoming atmosphere.

And unlike some other Granville Street bars, there’s little attitude or pretense among the patrons or the staff.  It’s a come-as-you-are vibe, with a mixed clientele of old timers hoping to hear some familiar tunes and younger couples eager to rock out on a Saturday afternoon.  Throw in a nice drink list with a dozen or so craft beers and a barbecue-based menu, and it’s not a bad way to spend a day.

So how was the music?  Well, the afternoon may have started a bit slow with a shaky version of Margaritaville, Jimmy Buffet’s boozy ballad, performed by a salty dog who may have already had a few margaritas.  But things picked up swiftly as a succession of blues bands took the stage, each playing a brisk, 20-minute set.  There was a bit of rockabilly and a solid version of Folsom Prison Blues; an epic, extended version of the classic Angeline; and some nice swing led by a dapper grey-haired guitarist with Eric Clapton pipes.  What impressed me most was the calibre of the talent – Who knew Vancouver had so many closet blues gods just waiting for the chance to get up on stage and play for free.

Best of all was the finale: a very fine version of I Heard it through the Grapevine by a local diva who had been waiting around all day for the chance to sing her heart out on one tune.  The song could have used a bit of polish, but it showed the kind of soul and passion Vancouver’s music scene could use a bit more of.   And hey – It was free.

Any other fans of FanClub out there?  Let us know below.  

Want more updates on Vancouver and beyond? Follow me on Twitter @RemyScalza.

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4 Responses to Free live music at New Orleans-style FanClub on Granville Street

  1. Borgie

    Cool place with great music!

  2. A L

    I would be open to visiting this place, however my fave is Libra Room for free (by donation), live music and drinks.

  3. I think that the Vancouver FanClub has it all; music/menu and people that come to have a good time without bringing an attitude..the staff is great and there is an effort to make customers feel welcome..well done…..dalannah


    I hope you delete this ASAP but was there on Sat night, music good but what about the coakroaches at the foot level around the bar main level.
    Heads up for you!