Where We Live: The Commodore Ballroom – Vancouver, BC

Where We Live

Vancouver, BC isn’t exactly known for its thriving music scene (unless you count Nickleback – and please, don’t) yet it is home to one of the best live venues in the country, if not North America. Time and time again, locals and visitors alike have flocked to The Commodore Ballroom to catch some of the best and biggest artists in a historic and intimate setting.

The Art Deco-styled building, which was originally called The Commodore Cabaret, was built in 1929 with a very unique horsehair-lined sprung dance floor that enabled decades of Lindy Hopping and Swing Dancing before it was marketed as a rock and roll venue in the late 1960’s. The last changes came in the late 90’s when it underwent a multi-million dollar renovation and emerged a few years later under the House of Blues banner.

Today, The Commodore continues to attract the same world-class talent as it has since its inception. Personally, I love the fact I can see most of my favorite bands in such a relatively cozy venue (it has a 900-person capacity including seating). It’s also the perfect place to catch a few up-and-comers, such as Muse when played there for their Absolution tour back in 2004.

However, it’s not just the great acts that are the main attraction; The Commodore boasts four fully-stocked bars throughout its red-hued, exposed brick walls. Yes, the drink prices are a bit of a bitch, but it’s reasonable considering the company it keeps on the happening 800 block of Granville Street, and the venue serves up some pretty tasty grub to go along with your on-tap Okanogan Springs Ale. Besides, you can’t beat the precise lighting, the crystal clear sound or the forgiving sightlines. Whether you’re up on the balcony or sitting at one of the booths and tables that line the incredibly spacious hardwood dance floor, you always have that perfect concert experience.

“The Commodore is the best live music venue in the city for four simple reasons: The look, the sound, the bands, the history,” says musician Joshua Erickson, bassist for the band Rags to Radio. “I have never looked at a Commodore schedule and didn’t see at least one show I wanted to go to. Usually, there are more shows I want to see there than I have fingers.”

Erickson went even so far as to propose to his girlfriend at The Commodore – on stage with Gogol Bordello, no less.

It’s not perfect though; one of the few problems with The Commodore tends to come from their strict no “in-and-out” policy, which means once you’ve gone through the door and up the winding staircase, you can’t leave and get back inside again without paying for another ticket. But with Vancouver’s declining smoking population (and by that, I mean tobacco cigarettes, of course) that doesn’t seem to be as much of a problem these days.

No, the problem most people are likely to face is the fact that tickets sell out quite quickly. But considering The Commodore has attracted such acts as Duke Ellington, Sammy Davis Jr., The Clash, Nirvana, U2, Tom Waits and Lady GaGa, that should come as no surprise.

The Commodore Ballroom
868 Granville Street
Vancouver, BC V6Z1K3, Canada
(604) 683-9413

To view a complete schedule of upcoming events, click here.


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