Vernon’s live music scene is dying and the people trying to keep it alive - InfoNews

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Vernon’s live music scene is dying and the people trying to keep it alive

Kelvin Forgo sits on the stage of Record City, a venue and record store he opened four years ago. Putting on live music is difficult but he says a great show is very rewarding.
February 28, 2019 - 6:30 PM

VERNON - Musician Tim Reardon remembers the days when you'd have a hard time getting into a bar if there was a live band playing.

When the guitarist for the well known Okanagan band The Young'Uns starting playing music in the early 1990s, packed dance floors and line-ups outside were a regular thing.

“It was way busier back then,” Reardon said. “Nowadays we'll have nights like that, but back in those days it was normal.”

Fast forward almost 30 years and the live music scene is a changed world.

"The whole environment of live music is changing, it's an ageing demographic," he said. As well as playing in a band, Reardon also teaches guitar and said a lot of his young students don't have contemporary guitar heroes.

It's difficult to pinpoint why today's live music scene is a fraction of what it was just a couple of decades ago, but Reardon said even Vernon's well established live music venue The Green at the Village Green Hotel is cutting back on live bands.

Reardon said a recent policy change by the venue means bands will be paid from the take at the door, instead of a set amount. Although he's optimistic his long-standing band will still fill the place, the change of policy will definitely make it harder for up and coming bands who are not as well known. He doesn't blame the hotel for the change but says it shines a light on the current environment for live music.

The Young'Uns on stage during Funtastic 2018. Guitarist Tim Reardon says the live music scene is a fraction of what it used to be.
The Young'Uns on stage during Funtastic 2018. Guitarist Tim Reardon says the live music scene is a fraction of what it used to be.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK/The Young'Uns

The Village Green Hotel director of marketing, sales and promotions Peter Kaz says the venue is still putting on plenty of live music but demand is not what it used to be.

After 20 years managing and promoting musicians across the globe, Kaz said he's seen the most change in the last five to 10 years. Kaz wasn't in Vernon 20 years ago, but in his travels worldwide in the music business, the situation in Vernon is not unusual.

"I've seen less and less venues, this is everywhere not just in Canada," he said.

As the person in charge of promotions at the Village Green Hotel, he has to cater to an ever-changing scene.

"You have to listen to the clientele, and if your clientele isn't coming in for bands but something completely different then you have to follow suit."

Kaz said the venue will hold live wrestling this weekend and they have had a lot of success with themed trivia nights. He said people nowadays like change and want variety. He equates it to watching your favourite sports team. You may love watching them, but you wouldn't want to see them play the same team each week.

The number of venues putting on live music may be a fraction of what it once was, but Record City owner Kelvin Forgo is trying to buck that trend. Forgo opened his used record store and venue four years ago, and moved it to its current 30 Avenue location a year later. Forgo puts on weekly live music in the venue at the back of the record store, and admits it's no easy feat.

"It's very difficult," he said. "I'm definitely not getting rich."

Record City isn't licenced to sell alcohol which Forgo says has made it difficult. Government restrictions mean Forgo would have to get a licence as a bar or restaurant.

"I don't want to be a bar," he said. He wants to keep the live shows all ages but to be able to sell alcohol and be all ages he needs a special occasions licence, which coupled with insurance, is very expensive. He also said he doesn't really want alcohol at all his events.

So why does he do it?

"I really love music. I've always really loved live music," Forgo said. "There's been definitely many days when I'm thinking, why am I doing this again? Then I have a great show... and it's rewarding."

While they all agree the live music scene is a fraction of what it once was, why that is is much harder to answer. Kaz has a theory.

"With the internet, people have become 'I want it now.' If they want a certain type of entertainment they jump on the internet and they get it. People have become accustomed to that in the real world as well... you get what you want straight away and then you're onto the next thing."

The Young'Uns play the Village Green Hotel March 8 and 9. Tickets can be bought here.

Record City has weekly music and comedy. Check them out here.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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