The Fabulous Commodore Ballroom

Comments 6 by Rebecca Bollwitt

Update 2011: Billboard has named The Commodore Ballroom one of the Top 10 Most Influential Clubs in North America.

tmbg stage - see: accordion Last night we went to see They Might be Giants at the Commodore to round out John‘s Birthday-week celebrations. It was a really great evening and the atmosphere was so relaxed, whimsical and pleasant with TMBG’s music keeping the people dancing in all kinds of silly ways.

I started to think about all the shows I’ve seen there before… a couple concerts and even an Oktoberfest came to mind. We were backstage once when we interviewed Keeley from Sparta and it just seems like everyone, no matter where you go, has heard of the legendary Commodore Ballroom.

In 1929 the Commodore Cabaret opened its doors, only to have them shut briefly month later during the Depression.

What was supposed to have lured customers away from the Hotel Vancouver and its booming ballroom business ended up sitting dark for half a year. In November 1930, local nightclub pioneers Nick Kogas and Johnny Dillias became convinced they could make a go of it, reopening the club and officially beginning its run as a live venue with dinner and dancing every Saturday. [The Georgia Straight]

My Opa, Granville Street in 1956

It reopened and soon became the place to be for fox trotting, waltzing, jazzing and rock n’ rolling nightlife in Vancouver until it closed down in 1996. Many feel this left Granville and Vancouver’s club scene without a heartbeat.

I remember that the dance floor was so famous for its ‘bounce’ that when they remodeled in ’96 they sold off the pieces that were being replaced. Apparently the secret ingredient for the old floor was tires stuffed with horse hair, you know for that extra hop. It reopened all shiny and ready for the new millennium in 1999. Since then its hosted countless monumentally important rock, punk, folk and musical acts. Also, in 2004 for the 75th anniversary Tom Waits played his first club show in almost 30 years (I believe Adam was even at that show…)

The bowling alley underneath it is pretty great as well, the only place downtown where you can get a drink and play some good ol’ 5-pin. It’s Canada’s oldest bowling alley and …”from opening day until [director] Frank Panvin’s death in 1962, the only time staffer Mitz Nozaki spent away from the alley was when the Canadian government interned him at Shuswap Lake with other Japanese Canadians during World War II” [Vancouver History]. That’s a whole other chunk of West Coast history there though.

Photo credit: Vancouver Infocenter

Sometimes it seems as though Vancouver is such a glistening, glossy, newly unwrapped city of glass. Uncovering pieces of history, especially those tidbits that still have something to show us today, really gets me excited about the city. Sure, it’s not like when I was in Cambridge and I could look down at route markers from the 1700s on the side of the road, but it’s something.

It may take a rousing rendition of Particle Man by John, John, Dan, Dan and Mike to get me thinking about some pretty cool cultural history of this metropolis, but it’s definitely something I’d like to experience more often.

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6 Comments  —  Comments Are Closed

  1. Duane StoreyWednesday, September 26th, 2007 — 9:27am PDT

    That’s some cool history, thanks for sharing..

  2. ChrisWednesday, September 26th, 2007 — 10:21am PDT

    Interesting and cool…other than the nasty internment business.

  3. gusgreeperWednesday, September 26th, 2007 — 11:25am PDT

    hey thanks for the link, adam will love this post i’ll tell him of it when he arrives home. i fixed the post you linked to.

    i’ve only been there two times and only once for a concert.

  4. ‘adam’ boroleabos cxintophaynWednesday, September 26th, 2007 — 9:16pm PDT

    now youre gonna think im crazy when i say this but its true you can reserve a table for free if you call ahead and promise to eat. if you dont eat i think its a 20 clams minimum charge. the floor always ends up stickier than anyone would like, but thats what the upper bar is for. thats where i saw jeff beck from because the gin was better upstairs.
    the waits show was surreal. they didnt even give you a ticket. and they did the space mountain psych-out line inside the venue, so you actually got to imagine what the show was going to be like with the lights on months in advance. his boy casey played turntables and cowbell and what have you. larry the mole was awesome. he looked like a tourist all the way. i was so p.o.ed about missing mule variations, but that wasnt at the commie.

  5. fotoeinsThursday, September 27th, 2007 — 8:02am PDT

    During a gig up in the Commodore, listening to the ceiling “move” while browsing in the Granville Book Company at street-level was always an interesting experience.

  6. The Black Keys Rock the Commodore » Miss604’s Vancouver Blog by Vancouver Blogger Rebecca BollwittSunday, April 6th, 2008 — 11:52pm PDT

    […] better than watching a completely rockin’ band at the Commodore for $20? Not much at all really. Despite the fact that I felt out of place with out a fedora, […]

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