Fringe Bar ramps up its musical showcase

The pop-up drinking establishment on Granville Island offers a gathering spot for artists and die-hard theatre fans of all ages

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      For theatre lovers, the Vancouver Fringe Festival is a hotly anticipated 11-day party. The Big Rock Brewery Fringe Bar popped up at Ocean Art Works on Granville Island two years ago, bringing free live music to the festivities. This year, the doors are opening to early birds and underage nondrinkers, with afternoon shows added on Saturday and Sunday, and wristbands for all-ages admissions.

      “The motto for many years has been ‘Theatre for everyone’, and it’s great that that is now extending to the music programming as well,” Corbin Murdoch, the festival’s entertainment coordinator, tells the Straight. “It’s great that we can just welcome absolutely anyone, whether they’re 16 or 65.”

      This year, the Vancouver Fringe received $30,000 from Creative B.C.’s new B.C. Music Fund. The provincial government introduced the fund in February 2016 to stimulate the music industry by distributing $15 million in grants.

      The Fringe Bar is making use of these extra dollars by expanding the lineup of diverse musical acts. This year includes performances from local funk favourites Queer as Funk, indie songstress Savvie, bluegrass string players Viper Central, Afrobeat funk group Camaro 67, six-piece Latin ensemble Mazacote, and singer-songwriter Rae Spoon—as well as local DJs playing every night.

      “The Fringe Bar has always been a place to kind of reflect back the eccentricity and diversity of the Fringe Festival, and kind of respond to that spirit with the music that we program,” Murdoch says. “This year, because of the funding we received through the B.C. Music Fund, we were able to really double down on that.”

      The Fringe Bar is also pairing up with local music organizations to get the community more involved in the action. The staff of Red Cat Records will be DJing on Wednesday (September 13), and Light Organ Records is sponsoring a night of performances.

      The programming prioritizes local talent, but the Fringe Bar also has a unique appeal as an event that attracts artists from across Canada and around the world. Many visitors make the Vancouver Fringe their last stop in a long summer of Fringe Festivals—lending it an infectious, celebratory vibe.

      “What’s so great about that bar is that it sort of pops up once a year and you get a mix of people down there that, really, you won’t find anywhere else,” says Murdoch.

      The space is a hub for artists and die-hard Fringe fans, but Granville Island wanderers and curious music lovers of all stripes are welcome to come out and participate in the good times.

      “It’s kind of unusual in Vancouver to have an outdoor music venue that’s running 11 consecutive nights of free live music,” says Murdoch.
      “I think it’s just a remarkable thing on the arts calendar in our city that we think everyone should come down and take a part in.

      “Being able to take a model that’s been working and really sort of amp it up, and make some of the changes we’ve been dreaming about—we’re really excited to open the doors and see what happens.”

      The Big Rock Brewery Fringe Bar will be at Ocean Art Works from Thursday (September 7) to September 17.