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.
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