In Vancouver, things come and things go. Mostly, they go. You get used to it. But when the Waldorf creative team announced yesterday that it was vacating the premises they revived starting in October 2010, a shitstorm descended.
Here’s the reason: led by Tom Anselmi, Ernesto Gomez, and Danny Fazio, the Waldorf proved itself to be the kind of visionary creative enterprise Vancouver has always lacked and has needed for even longer.
Notwithstanding the great work being done at the Rio, Biltmore, and Electric Owl among other places—ditto Vancouver’s permanent bank of hit’n’run underground stalwarts—it was the spectacularly turned-on programming of the Waldorf that caught everybody’s imagination over the last two-and-a-bit years.
Indeed, what the reborn complex came to symbolize—besides the oft-quoted “Cultural Oasis in the middle of nowhere" —was the possibility that this no-dick city could actually compete with all those other places that Vancouver’s best-and-brightest habitually split for, like New York, London, or even Toronto.
Anslemi in fact did his time as an exiled Vancouver artist in Berlin a few years ago, and he brought some of that city’s vibe back with him.
Under this team, the Waldorf became so fuckin’ hot that it got people whizzing themselves over breakfast cereal. Behind the classy dining and exquisitely refurbished Tiki Room was a sense of fearless lunacy, and it rubbed off on people.
For more evidence, cast your minds back to the legendary parties; the electro-shock machine; the 16 storey drop of doom; the parking lot music festivals; or the fact that last summer they tried, out of nothing more than a native sense of whimsy, to build an outdoor swimming pool (it was shut down).
And then there was the music programming, which was often unreal, and which again—Japandroids; Faust; the Wyrd Festival; the New Forms Festival; Ty Segall; Grimes; Black Mountain; Skrillex; and various and sundry oddball happenings like a DJ set from a Sex Pistol—carried with it the sense that this couldn’t happen anywhere else, or with so much automatic style.
Maybe that’s what leaves the Waldorf on January 20—automatic style. Whatever comes next will need to capture that same unique and ineffable quality.
In a call to the Straight yesterday, Waldorf Hotel lawyer Gavin Crickmore said that we should expect business as usual at the East Side venue once Anselmi and his partners have left the building. Assuming this is true, and in the unlikely event that we’d see a smooth transition between the current operator and the next, the fact remains that the heart of the establishment has been cut out.
If, however, Anselmi’s information in yesterday’s media release is correct, and the Solterra Group of Companies has bought the complex and is planning to build condos—well, Vancouver has already made its position clear on that, with Geoff Berner employing his customary pith in one of the holy blizzard of tweets that followed.
“… It’s undeniable,” he wrote. “Vancouver: I hate you.”