I have fond memories of lining up outside the Vogue eight hours before we were allowed to claim seats. My friends and I would sit on cardboard boxes, read the Georgia Straight, and take turns running to a local coffee shop to buy hot chocolate and snacks. When a burly security guard finally opened the glass doors, we would eagerly jump up and press our cold bodies into strangers to make sure we didn’t miss out on a chance to get spots in the front row. Years of attending concerts and sitting on cold concrete for hours has inspired me to follow a relaxed pre-show routine.
This past Thursday, my friend and I made our way to Cafe Crepe around 7:00 p.m., ordered a pitcher of beer, and sat on the patio across the street from Venue. We watched people begin to line up a few minutes after we sat down. Most were in their early twenties and had looks of anticipation on their faces. The doors opened just after 8:00, letting around 40 people inside. Half an hour later, after many more had trickled inside, we paid our bill and walked across the street.
Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to line up for hours to get front row spots at a concert. It took me years to realize this, but I think I’ve finally mastered the sideward-slide-hole-filling-route to the front of any crowd. At Venue, it’s extra easy. All you need to do is walk up one set of stairs and down another set that magically end right in front of the stage. The space has a balcony reminiscent of Richard on Richard’s and many people prefer to comfortably lean against the ledges and watch the bands from above.
Avi Buffalo, a band from California, was a few songs in to their set when we settled into spots in front of the stage. To say the band looked young would be an understatement. I guessed they were all between the ages of 15-16, but chalked up their youthful appearance to year-round California sun exposure. A quick google search informed me they are, in fact, quite young. The four-piece band members are all around 19 and they have the energy to prove it. All four young men seemed to vibrate with excitement, and it was contagious. I looked around several times to see people eagerly bobbing their heads and smiling. Their songs were upbeat and very well rehearsed. Avi Buffalo seemed incredibly motivated and experimented with many different sounds. The lead singer’s distinct, clear voice tied the varying songs together but some were better received than others. They played for around 45 minutes and introduced the headliners to an enthusiastic crowd.
The Antlers took the stage just after 10:00. Their opening song was loud and dramatic, made even more so by the blinking “Antlers” sign behind them. When the crowd quieted in between songs, my friend turned to me, pointed to the stage, and asked, “Is that a price tag on his bass?” It was. A quick glance over the stage revealed all of their equipment was marked with a price tag or a stencilled “Vancouver Rentals” sign. The band was hazy about the details but dropped hints about what had happened to their equipment with exasperated announcements about how happy they were to have finally made it to Vancouver. The day of the show, The Antlers tweeted, “our gear is lost in space! #pray4antlers.” I can only imagine how frustrating it would be to lose your band’s equipment when you’re on your way from Brooklyn, New York to Vancouver, BC to play a show with not a lot of spare time factored in. Through no fault of their own, their past 48 hours seemed to affect their performance for the first four or five songs. Then, something happened. The band clicked. They moved more, played more aggressively, and seemed to get lost in the music they so obviously love playing. Very few people abandoned their places close to the stage. While moving around the venue taking pictures, I looked at the bar and merchandise lineups to find them almost empty. The Antlers thanked Vancouver for its support and responded to a request for “Putting the Dog to Sleep” before leaving the stage for a few minutes. When they were called back on stage for an encore, they came back excited but their fatigue was setting in. It took them three attempts to play the next song, unsuccessfully matching beat to melody. The crowd laughed with them until the song clicked into place and were all the more excited when it did.
The show was not without its foibles, which I think made it all the more memorable for a lucky Vancouver audience. Mistakes, inexperience, accidents and the triumph over all three are what make concerts worth attending. Hopefully, you’re given the music you love in a way you have not heard it before. It may not always be perfect, but its imperfections are what make it special.