There exists a ridiculous place. It is located in Vancouver and it is called the Granville Entertainment Zone. All it is, is a bunch of overpriced night clubs crammed into a 5 block strip.
While this may seem innocuous enough, this has to experienced to understand the absolute hedonistic mayhem that occurs here on weekends.
The city planners, in their infinite wisdom, decided to create this containment zone a few years back, and are perplexed at the resulting brawling, puking and yelling that occurs when 3000 drunken louts from the 'burbs simultaneously disgorge from the clubs at 3:00 am
I think that every North American City has one these strips. Whyte Ave. in Edmonton comes to mind. The drunken redneck brawls that occur there on any given Saturday night pale by comparison.
Bleecker St. in New York is just one large cheesy tourist trap when put up against Granville.
Now you might ask what the hell I was doing down there in the first place. Valid question. I would rather piss turpentine on brush fire than hang out on that strip. The antithesis to rock 'n' roll that it represents is a strong deterrent, but herein lies the irony: the epitome of outlaw country was booked to play a gig at a dance club on that street. That notorious rebel and Nashville basher, Hank III was playing and I did not want to miss that.
As if that wasn't surreal enough, the show started at the weekend-killing time of 6:30 pm. I didn't want to miss the show, so I arrived promptly at 6:30. I guess they want all the pesky rock 'n' rollers outta there early, so all the club-folk can get an early start for the drugs to kick in and start acting like demented mutants.
I walked down the strip in the hot summer sun, and the skanks were already out. Bad makeup jobs and flaccid, pasty white legs displayed by way too skimpy dresses is not a pretty sight in bright sunlight. And the reflections from the dudes sporting form-fitting rhinestone-encrusted Affliction shirts made me regret having left my shades at home.
As I entered the sparsely decorated club, I wondered what all the fuss was about. The designers of this two-tiered space obviously put the minimum effort required and it seems that they used left over fixtures from an 80's club.
Behind the stage was a large LED panel displaying the club's logo, which bore a suspicious resemblance to the Van Halen logo.
There was no shortage of bars, however, but the abundance of said bars could only mean one thing; I was gonna get hosed.
After I downed my first 7 dollar beer, I looked around for some friends. It was darker than Satan's toilet in there, so I couldn't see a damned thing. I bumped into three hot rockabilly gals that I know and we staked out a spot on the mezzanine. A good choice as it turns out, because for some strange reason, the horrific sound was not as bad up there.
Hank III was in fine form. His marathon shows comprising of a mix of traditional country and hellbilly are always a blast. There was an odd cross-section of people that night, and judging by some people's reactions to the more traditional country numbers, some seemed to be there because of the concept of Hank III.
Yep, Like bourbon, fiddles and steel guitars is what separates the men from the boys. It was amusing to see the mosh pit come to dead stop when the country numbers came on.
The last part of the show is Hank's alter-ego, metal band Assjack. Not being a huge fan, I soon tired of it and left. I had gotten more than my fill of country and was satisfied with that. Dang, it was only 9:00 and o'clock and I was trying to pace myself. It was still daylight and the shock to my eyes was nothing in comparison to the juxtaposition of a country show on a dance club strip.
Only slightly buzzed, I decided walk down the strip and have a coffee to shake of the buzz and soothe my still ringing ears. The mayhem had already begun.
I had to run a gauntlet of tarted-up chicks, gangsta-ed up dudes all milling around aimlessly. Shouts of woo-hoo and endless streams of loud cel phone conversations permeated the air. Crackheads shiftlessly stood in doorways and bums were eying their marks in preparation for the night's mooching.
Some crusty punks had commandeered a street corner and one was yelling at a tourist at the top of his lungs that he owed him two bucks for the photo he just took of the group. He chased the hapless tourist down until got his two bucks, all the while yelling.
I arrived at the coffee shop and had a cup sitting on the sidewalk. I perused the endless stream of bimbi, fashion victims, wanna-be tough guys, louts wearing suits, crackheads, bums and every other strange permutation that made wonder exactly what planet I was on. There was a strange absence of hippies however, even they, in their pot-addled haze of confusion, had enough sense to stay away.
I decided to get a pint at the only good watering hole on the strip, the venerable Morrissey. It's at the tail end of the strip and successfully managed to elude the lunacy for all these years.
I had a few pints and a couple of bar-star bimbettes from California asked me to recommend some other pubs. After unsuccessfully trying to explain the meaning of the word "gentrification" to them, I figured it was time to get the hell outta there.
I hopped on the people's limousine and felt relieved as I made my way back east to the relative sanity of that rock 'n' roll enclave known as East Van.
When I got home, I definitely needed a shot of bourbon and and some country. I woke up feeling normal today and feel like I had a taste of what's it like to be inside an insane asylum; a skanky, loud asylum with a techno music soundtrack.