The THUMP Guide to Clubbing: Vancouver
"No Fun City"? Not if you go to the right spot.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Welcome to "No Fun City." There are no clubs here. Go back to Toronto.
Kidding of course, but Vancouver can be tricky to navigate without some help, and the city's reputation as a playground for the ultra-rich sure as hell won't help your pocketbook come Sunday morning. If you're pre-drinking $17 Moscow Mules at a bar whose name you can't pronounce and you're the only person without a mustache, maybe you're in the wrong spot—then again maybe not, this is Vancouver.
Although the city can get a bad rap for weather and outrageous prices, the bass music culture and the inclusivity it represents is steadily attracting music lovers from all over the world. At the same time, talent showcases from influential labels like Monstercat and Nordic Traxx are increasing the music scene's cultural visibility all over the world. And on the house music front, labels like Mood Hut, whose artists Jack J and Pender Street Steppers both had spots on THUMP's 50 Best Tracks of 2015, are pushing a hazy house sound that's been rocking dancefloors globally.
So whether you took the Skytrain from Surrey and spent $300 on a hotel room to stay downtown; made the trek from the North Shore, absolutely terrified of missing the last SeaBus home; or flew in from Montreal, we've got you covered for your VanCity adventure.
Without further adieu—let's go stand in line while it's four degrees and raining!
Celebrities (Davie Village)
During the day, the iconic and touristy Davie Village is nothing short of charming. But if you haven't frequented its most famous nightclub, Celebrities, on more than a few late-night excursions, chances are you've still got a lot to learn about Vancouver's club scene.
Traditionally an LGBTQ establishment, the crowd has grown to encompass all walks of life and sexual preference. "Celebs Tuesdays" is their pride and joy, but you can turn up alongside drag queens and frat boys on almost any other night of the week.
Shows are consistently impressive, welcoming names like David Guetta, Tiësto, Deadmau5, and Diplo to rock the decks. With its multi-story layout, LED ceiling, and the massive Funktion One soundsystem, Celebrities could very well be your "go big or go home" moment.
Beware: Insanely steep covers on "sold-out" nights.
Food and Drink:
Do: Soak up your impending hangover next door at Donair King.
Don't: Sneak said donair into the club. A pocket full of warm tahini and hot sauce will ruin your evening.
Fashion: Anything goes that doesn't poke an eye out!
VENUE (Granville Street)
Situated in the heart of Granville Street, the entertainment district of downtown Vancouver, Venue boasts a spacious concert hall feel and a stellar booking history of A-listers including Steve Aoki, Nervo, and Disclosure.
If you and your posse want to take in the full experience of Granville Street, this is the place to do it. The crowd is young, upbeat and, not unlike many other clubs on the strip, served with a side order of "bro." Venue also recently upgraded their entire soundsystem to Meyer Sound, meaning your favourite DJ can come home with you in the form of temporary deafness.
Beware: The city blocks off almost the entirety of Granville Street for a heavily policed apocalypse known as every Friday and Saturday night. It's worth a flyby if you've never seen it.
Food and Drink:
Do: Happy hour drinks are available an hour after doors open on concert nights at Venue.
Don't: Set foot in the Micky D's next door. There's lots of decent pizza places on the strip that have far less puke on the floor.
Fashion: Anything from H&M and you're set.
Fortune Sound Club (Chinatown)
Nestled in the heart of iconic Chinatown, this club hosts solid talent year after year, including Baauer, Cyril Hahn, and What So Not. Vibing somewhere between a bar, a club, and a dim sum restaurant (which it actually used to be), the setting is modern and unpretentious.
Check out the hidden rooms and graffiti installations from celebrated street artists like Kaput and Shepard Fairey. Located outside the teeny bopper playground of the Granville strip also ensures the crowd is a bit more mature.
That's not to say we haven't seen a twerk-off go down here on more than one occasion though.
Beware: People that are cooler than you. They are just cooler than you, okay? Get over it.
Food and Drink:
Do: Decent pre-drink specials at The Pint in Gastown before cabbing to Chinatown.
Don't: Piss in the alley, goddamnit! Someone told you three times already!
Fashion: Imagine you just finished filming Tyga's new video.
The Imperial (Main Street)
Want to party in an abandoned Chinese movie theatre?
Although not a club specifically, the 6,000-square-foot space is now a state-of-the-art facility for live shows and corporate events thanks to a multimillion dollar overhaul by Canadian movie producer Bill Vince (for you folks who never had a childhood, he did Air Bud). Tucked away on the border of scenic Gastown and East Hastings, the old building's interior is nothing short of breathtaking.
A sunken dancefloor allows you to get up close and personal with your favourite artists while staring upward at 30-foot walls lined with life-size Qui Dynasty Terracotta warriors. As an ex-movie theatre, the acoustics are incredible and the lighting is always top notch. Management is selective in booking musical talent, but Maya Jane Coles, Snoop Dogg, and more have graced its stage.
Beware: East Hastings in Vancouver can turn into a bad experience if you drunkenly wander off in the wrong direction.
Food and Drinks:
Do: Arrive early (by cab) and enjoy the amazing lounge area. Drinks are cheap so come and check out the koi fish tank before your show.
Don't: Go for drinks at Number 5 Orange, the greasiest strip club in the city.
Fashion: "Club going up on a Tuesday" chic.
Red Room Ultra Bar (Waterfront)
There's only one spot you can find bone-rattling low end accompanied by a stand-in Shambhala family week after week in Vancouver. SUBculture Saturdays is the brainchild of Digital Motion Events and it shatters eardrums weekly by bringing in some of the best bass artists from around the globe.
Hosting Shambhala favourites such as Opiuo, Stickybuds, Figure, Stylust Beats, Dieselboy, and Andy C, Red Room also features Vancouver's first and largest PK soundsystem (a west coast original). If you want a taste of our bass culture, throw on your best purple panda costume, and head down to Red Room. There's a reason why bass heads and legendary Vancouver crews like LIGHTA! Sound and SHAHdjs have both done shows here.
Beware: Bass Coast culture. Don't come with an attitude or you suck. Make sure your PLUR game is on point.
Food and Smoke:
Do: Go for a smoke in the back alley. It's ANOTHER party room.
Don't: Get caught pre-drinking in the parking lot across the street with that spectacular view of the North Shore mountains.
Fashion: Come as you are. Onesies are always a dope choice though.
As the rebirth of the iconic Shine Nightclub, MIA is becoming nothing short of an electro haven. LED lighting strips, Function One Sound, and extraneous cave room make it worth an adventure on a weekend outing. The spot politely encourages cellphone and social media use outside the venue only in an attempt to connect partygoers by talking. Acts including Mija, Odesza, and Green Velvet all have played the intimate space, and there's even a sake bar in the cave room!
The Alexander Gastown (Gastown)
For feel good vibes, check out Life Musik Saturdays at The Alexander Gastown. This heritage space has new life as a multi-story club complete with three bars, massive stone pillars, and crystal chandeliers. The 35-foot ceilings also give it an amphitheatre feel with excellent sight lines to the DJ from any floor. The crowd is always down to party and the drinks are reasonably priced (maybe that helps). The staff also has a "hands-off" door policy which ensures you won't be thrown out onto your face like some other clubs (looking your way Granville strip).
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