Inside the Electric Owl

September 1, 2011

The bureaucracy associated with opening a live venue in Vancouver—due in large part to City Hall’s archaic “cabaret” licensing laws—is almost as enduring and infamous as our No Fun City epithet. So the emergence a few months ago of Electric Owl (928 Main St., 604-558-0928. Electricowl.ca) felt as remarkable as an appearance by Halley’s Comet. Housed in the newly gentrified American Hotel, the Owl operates as a 193-capacity club as well as an izakaya-themed eatery and an off-licence beer and wine store.

The venue’s director of marketing and entertainment, Dani Vachon, 33, is a veteran of Vancouver’s nightlife: she co-founded concert promoter Sealed With a Kiss, fronted the post-punk band Cadeaux, and managed Gastown bar/nightclub Guilt & Co. She knew all too well that Vancouver needed not just another room to watch local and touring bands, but a unique place attractive enough that patrons would want to linger. (Vachon’s extensive connections undoubtedly play a role in attracting relatively large bands—including Dum Dum Girls and Trail of Dead—to the stylish, diminutive space.) “I think most business people with a liquor-primary licence know the easiest way to make money is to play club music and pump out nothing but booze,” says Vachon. “This is not about the money; it’s about culture.”

This passion extends to her role as director of three-year-old Olio Festival (Oliofestival.com), running this year from September 21 to 25; 50-plus local bands will share stages with international talent (including Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis), a skateboarding competition, and a comedy roast of Mayor Robertson. No fun? No more!

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