The Fraser Valley and Its’ Inexcusable Inability to Rock.

Woo. KISS played the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre. NOT what I'm talking about here.

***********THIS POST IS IMPORTANT. I REALLY WOULD APPRECIATE FEEDBACK FROM BANDS & FANS***********

Ok, so what’s so important?

It’s the simple fact that I live in the Fraser Valley.  And it sucks to live here if you love live music.  For those who are unsure what municipalities consist of the “Fraser Valley” of British Columbia, here’s the general list: Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Mission.  Forgive me if I’ve left out any major municipalities, but those are the 3 most heavily populated areas in the Fraser Valley, outside of the Metro Vancouver area.

The reason that I live in the Fraser Valley is of any importance to anyone or anything is because I’m a pretty big music fan. Shocker, right?  The reason this creates a problem is due to the fact that I have to commute an hour, to an hour-and-a-half for a decent show/concert held in the downtown Vancouver core.

By now you’re likely thinking I should quit whining and complaining, suck it up and commute.  Well, I do.  A lot.  But I want to finish my thought/bitch/rant/question.

Why is it that:

A) there are minimal venues in the Fraser Valley, particularly in the heaviest populated area, Abbotsford, for a good gig? (and I’m not talking AESC, think smaller)

B) very few out-of-province bands—popular or not—ever venture through Abbotsford to play a gig on their way to Vancouver and very few Vancouver-based bands ever venture out the 1 hour to do the same?

C) more music-loving Fraser Valley residents aren’t speaking out about this ridiculously lame issue?  And if they are, why haven’t I heard about it?

Would Hannah Georgas play an Abbotsford show if there was an appropriate venue?

If you think I’m just joking around, I’m not. I am sincerely looking for honest feedback from both music fans and bands.

As a band, do you know of any venues in Abbotsford that would be worth booking?  Do you feel that the “Bible Belt” of the lower mainland would be either too cheap or too uninterested in listening to you play a “venue” for $10-$20?

As a concert-goer and music fan who resides anywhere between Chilliwack and Langley, would you go to a show at a venue in the Fraser Valley for $10-$20?  [If you’re thinking, “What venue?!”, you’re absolutely right; there are few, if any]

For a region that has a population of over 120,000 alone in Abbotsford (2006 census) and over 200,000 in total (according to Wikipedia), why isn’t there a good venue to see a show?  Sure, we have the Abbey Arts Centre and the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre and a few lousy bars, but there is basically nothing for a band of decent popularity to play.  The AESC is too big, the Abbey Arts Centre is either too small or just too lame, and coffee shops only cater to the acoustic acts.  So you’re stuck with the Abbotsford Airfare Lounge and maybe the University of the Fraser Valley campus bar.

Yay.

I know that the Fraser Valley isn’t going to be a “cash cow” for most bands to play in, so I can see why there’s no financial incentive, but from a few Vancouver bands I’ve talked to, they’d be willing to come out and play a show in the valley if the venue was right.  Plus, if you are in the process of spreading the good word of your band’s name, why not hire a good promo team—ahem—play a few shows outside of Metro Vancouver, and at the very least, sell some merch?  There’s nothing to lose but gas money.

The Band of Horses would never play Abbotsford. Or would they?

As far as the residents of the Fraser Valley are concerned, I know MANY people who are venturing out to the big city to go to shows regularly, myself obviously being one of them.  So it only makes sense that we’d even pay a little more money to see these same shows closer to home.  Considering this is the case, it’s not so much the demographic of the Fraser Valley that anyone should really be concerned with, but more-so the lack of venue.

I suppose I can’t put the cart before the horse, but who wants to open a venue when there’s no supply (ie. bands/artists interested in coming to play) and no demand (ie. interested residents willing to come and watch).  But we can’t say that there’s a lack of supply and demand if we have no venue to test this hypothesis?

Feeling confused and frustrated? Me too.

So there you have it.  That’s all I’m asking.  Bands and artists: if there were a few venues in the Fraser Valley—ideally, centrally in Abbotsford—would you come out and play once in a while?  If the venue was there, would you still have reservations in booking a gig (ie. lack of interest and/or promotion)?

Music folk: what’s wrong with our town(s)?  Is it us? Is it the largely elusive Abbotsford liquor license?  Is it that all of us who care are too broke to do anything about it (ie. build a venue; lease a location; invest in an existing location)?  Will it ever be plausible?

Behind Sapphire played the GoGo Bean in Abbotsford last April. It was great! The GoGo Bean has since gone out of business.

All feedback is welcome!  I don’t claim to know everything about venues in the Fraser Valley, but I very rarely hear about decent acts coming out here from the Big Apple of BC… Please let me know if I’m being completely ignorant and have been missing out on great shows at some secret location, too.  I’ll eat my words.  Seriously.  And I’ll wonder why everyone’s been holding out on me…

Thanks in advance!

-Dylan

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~ by whet_hopped on September 14, 2011.

21 Responses to “The Fraser Valley and Its’ Inexcusable Inability to Rock.”

  1. Hi Dylan,

    I grew up in Langley, attended UFV for my undergraduate degree. During my studies I worked at CIVL radio as well. I found that all bands I spoke or played with were excited to come out to the Valley for concerts. It just didn’t happen that often.

    A couple thoughts of perhaps why:

    Friends help friends. And many times, a band in Abbotsford would help another band from Abbotsford get on the bill. “Let’s have a good time / Let’s listen to the best music.”

    Guaranteed draw. Unless the artist that you bring from out of town has a large enough draw, it might be a more financially profitable choice to play with another local act which can bring out many of their pals.

    Networking. I found that many people who worked in the radio station were well connected and had a good one or two fingers on the pulse of the Vancouver music scene, or abroad. Unfortunately they were not the ones booking the shows. The bands were…because there are no legitimate promoters or venues. Also, sometimes it’s a bit unnerving to ask a band who is growing in popularity to play without a guarantee, or if you do provide one, the possibility of losing some funds.

    I was always a bit worried when I brought out a band to play. Would we provide enough draw to support them? I am curious to see how well attended a P3 showcase would be if they also held them in Abbotsford.

    Nathan

    • Nathan!
      Thank you so much for your wicked response. That gives me some good insight from someone who, more or less, grew up in the Fraser Valley AND who plays in a band.
      So it sounds like, from what you’re saying, the issue for Vancouver-based & out-of-province bands is not so much a venue but lack of interest. You did mention that “there are no legitimate promoters or venues”, but it seems like that’s a secondary issue. To me, it’s all tied together: get the legit venue, get a good promoter and the bands, AS WELL AS the crowds will come.

      Who wants to spend thousands upon thousands of putting together a great venue with no guarantee of success, though. It’s a just one big circular dilemna, it seems.

      What’s the simplest solution?

      Thanks again, Nathan 🙂

  2. beekeeper has been wanting to do a Lower-Mainland-focused tour for ages, but have definitely had some trouble finding venues that didn’t want Top 40 covers or Maritime/Irish/Country music-specific sets. That said, it is still a high priority for us — all of us in the band are from what the industry would describe as “not priority markets” that are about an hour away from “priority markets” (Brantford, Ontario… Swift Current, Saskatchewan… Victoria, BC) and we know how much we loved when bands would come through.

    We’re hoping to add an Abbotsford date to the end of our upcoming Western Canada tour! The Airfare Lounge apparently usually has DJs that night (but we’re trying), and we’ve emailed the campus pub, so hopefully we’ll get to do our thing for y’abbotsfordians!

    • Awesome, thanks for the feedback, Devon! I would love to see you guys live as I can feel the great energy in your music.
      Abbotsford does tend to cater to those Top 40 covers and “niche” markets (ie. Irish, Country). It’s really quite depressing for me, as a music lover of most genres but those ones… I’d love to see more acts like The Beekeeper make an effort to come and book shows out here. If we get enough bands and artists making their way to lousy venues in the valley, that may open enough eyes to the fact that we need a decent venue. AND that fact that there is money to be made – both by the bands AND the venue.

      Thanks again, Devon!

  3. We have often found that with “smaller” or less-travelled cities, things break down like this:

    Calgary – 4 CDs sold
    Edmonton – 3 CDs sold
    Lethbridge – 26 CDs sold

  4. Hi Dylan,

    My years as a show-going teenager in Langley were quite good. We had two legitimate, and all ages, venues. The Ethical Addictions in the downtown core regularly put on shows, and Endoplasmic Entertainment, (next to the Vanilla Room) also put on regular weekend shows. Often my cousin and I would be lazing around on a Friday or Saturday night, and simply decide to drop in on either of these to see if anything was happening.

    Both the venues that were easy go to’s in Abbotsford, The Airfare and Casey’s are +19. Only coffee shops are all ages. That’s a frustrating bit.

    Raise the drinking age to 21, US style, for more all ages scene like they have? I really do think that is why you get more small, all ages venues in the states, ie. Bellingham, Anacortes… University students can’t go to shows. That’s two more years of no-show going that prompts some dedicated music lovers to foster an all-ages community.

    Also, Anacortes is a great example. The Department of Safety ran there for about 10 years. Phenomenal venue, gallery, zine library, community space in a no longer in use coast guard station. Population: 15,000. Teenagers from the high schools would play with fellows like Karl Blau, Mt. Erie, The Lonely Forest.

    Abbotsford’s a strange size. To small for that type of integrated community, but seemingly not big enough to support even the most modest arts scene. Involving high school communities seems crucial to the success, and future prospering of a lively live music community.

    Nathan

  5. Interestingly I’m not convinced that the situation is considerably better in Vancouver, but that said – if you can point me at a couple of venues that are interested (and willing to contribute to paying the band) I know I’d be out there in a heartbeat rockin’ the joint for you.

    I will also add that I grew up in Edmonton which had one of the most vibrant independent music scenes in Canada through the 80s, mostly through the hard work and efforts of a few highly motivated individuals.

  6. not sure what constitutes a good venue,but the Clarke theatre in Mission seems to be great acoustically, but mostly a seated non-alc venue.
    What is the ideal venue?

  7. I was actually thinking about this over the summer. I just moved to Mission from Calgary and was surprised by how active the arts community is here. Especially with the Envision Twilight concert and Folk Festival in Heritage Park.

    My thoughts were that Heritage Park would be a great summertime outdoor venue for a concert or even indie-festival. I am sure the District Would love this sort of initiative and I am sure that people would travel from Vancouver for the right band in a cool outdoor venue.

    • A fellow Missionite!? Cool! I fully agree with you: Heritage Park would be ideal for a small, one or two-day festival. The biggest problem would be getting sponsors and public attraction. You’d have to have some pretty well-known acts coming out for people from Metro Vancouver to make the trek out here. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE this idea, but it would be competing with LiveAtSquamish, Canada Day free concerts, Rockin’ River Music Fest, Khatsalano Festival, Vancouver Folk Fest, among many others. I’d be all about helping organize this kind of event if it were plausible, however. Need the District of Mission on board as well as an organizer with this kind of experience.

      Thanks for commenting, Ian 🙂

  8. Hey Dylan,

    Sorry for chiming in late. I’ve never really considered playing in Abbotsford. Not because I am opposed to the idea, but because I wouldn’t know where to play. I’ve never spent much time there. It’s in that zone where if I’m heading out of Vancouver, I wouldn’t stop to play there because I’ve barely left the city and it’s not worth spending a night, or, conversely, if I’m coming home I might as well just keep going. That said, if there was a great venue with a following, or that was willing to pay a guarantee, I would stop and play it. But what must come first, the bands or the venue? If we build it, will they come? I’m not sure. If I was a serious Abby band I would move to Vancouver, right? Even if there was one, or two, or three great spots to play, they can’t compete.

    Thinking about this more, if you want out of town bands to stop, it really comes down to incentive. You need a venue willing to shell out a good guarantee, food and drinks. If a venue gets a good reputation among indie bands, it will get good bands. In theory, the rest should follow.I hope my two cents help!

    • Jasper!

      Thanks so much for chiming in – better late than never!
      Great question about what comes first: the bands or the venue? It’s hard to have bands come out this way without the venue; however, nobody would want to build or renovate a venue and go through all the legal and licensing ramifications to have it not make a dime… It’s gotta be a two-way street. Believe me when I say that if I had the coin, I’d be in the process of creating a wicked venue in the Fraser Valley, and I’d be hassling all you badass Vancouver bands to come out and play.
      Regarding ‘incentive’, what kind of guarantee do most venues in Vancouver offer to a band such as yourself and other up-and-coming bands? Just curious about numbers and where supply and demand would meet.

      Thanks again, Jasper!

  9. Hi Dylan!

    I have read everyone else’s comments, and I concur with what has been said. I would be totally into playing Abbotsford, knowing that I was going to a venue that supported live indie music!

    I think that your thoughts are completely accurate–with the geographical surroundings of Vancouver taken into consideration, there is the potential for artists to enjoy a healthy-mini tour around Vancouver and surrounding areas, similar to what we have the ability of doing in Toronto and surroundings…We just need the venues in the communities, so that we all have a place to play!

    Sid

    P.S. Vodka slurpees soon?

    • Hey Sidney,

      Thank you so much for your feedback! I am overwhelmed and grateful for the amount of responses this post has received. I am hoping that something can be done about this rather pathetic situation sooner than later. Unfortunately, I don’t have the funds to back it. That’s why every comment helps, particularly those from the artists, as nobody will build a venue if the artists aren’t going to show up. I’m hoping that there will be something nearby soon! And if there is, all you fantastic artists will be hearing from me.

      Thanks again!

      Dylan

      P.S. – Vodka slurpees definitely! Are you coming to anymore PPP showcases?

  10. Ah, thanks so much for the shout-out to the Behind Sapphire show. I helped book the show, and was a bit frustrated that I could only pay the band a small sum, the main (and inexcusable reason being there was a canucks game that night. siiiigh). Great shows are happing in the valley, its a shame more people are coming out to witness it happen.

    • Hey Adam, thanks for the comment! I was actually watching the Canucks game that night but they were getting smoked by Chicago, so I decided to go check out Behind Sapphire in Abbotsford. I had never heard them before but knew they had cred due to the fact they were in the PPP the prior year. Their set really impressed me and I have been a fan ever since. The real story here, though, is that I didn’t even know the Go Go Bean existed, let alone had live music from time to time (turns out they even had open mic nights and I’m sad to say I never attended before they closed down). Why wasn’t this coffee shop better known as a venue? Why didn’t more acts play there? If they did, why wasn’t it better advertised/promoted? …*sigh*

  11. As someone who has never really listened to a lot of Indie music, I don’t ever travel into Vancouver to listen to a band play simply cause of the drive. If there were bands playing at venues in Abbotsford I would definitly give it a try! In Kelowna there are tons of smaller venues and they are always packed with people! Some of them are bars, one is an outdoor/covered stage, and I am sure there are tons more I don’t know about!
    Not sure if that helps at all!

  12. It seems to me that the biggest thing needed is a promoter who is in it for the music, not the $$. I come from a city where shows happen at some of the most random community centers etc..because of dedicated promoters who love music and will do anything to find a venue for the underground or small time touring bands. No one cares that you can’t buy beer, or that there are 14 year olds showing up, because we all understand that it’s about the music.

  13. AMEN to this article; I’m not a young guy but I love live music and the problem extends right through to Vancouver but much worse in the Fraser Valley; I live in Langley and there isn’t anything, or anything worth hearing; the only decent music I’ve heard in the Valley is promoted by the White Rock Blues Society who hold regular events at the Pacific inn on King George Highway..

    Cheers….Alberto

  14. This is a very late comment, but we are currently looking to fill dates on our August tour and were hoping to play in the Fraser Valley. Totally bummed that our searches for venues has not turned out so well. Seems like a couple of rad towns/cities to play!

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