Free live music on Granville Street in Vancouver every Saturday

Music fans know that it can sometimes be a challenge to find places to catch live bands in Vancouver.  The bars and restaurants in the city that do specialize in live music often either charge a hefty cover or wait until the wee hours of the morning to bring bands on stage.

All of which is why a new music series in the heart of downtown Vancouver on Granville Street is such a find.  Every Saturday afternoon, from 2 p.m.-7 p.m., New-Orleans’-style supper club Vancouver FanClub hosts Saturday Jams.  I checked out the free event on a recent weekend and it was, well, music to my ears.

The FanClub opened about a year ago as a new project from the owners of the Yale, Vancouver’s venerable and now defunct blues music club.  They’ve tried to recreate the look and feel of New Orleans music hall – and spared little expense doing it.  French colonial doors lead to an large open bar and performance space.  Wood floors and paneling and antique light fixtures give the room a warm feel, and a second floor balcony looks down on all the action below.

The best part: FanClub has a proper stage.  A large elevated platform in the corner is outfitted with the latest sound and lighting equipment.  When I sat down at the bar over the weekend, that stage was being put to good use as part of the Saturday Jams.

The Jams are hosted by the FanClub’s house band, a cast of veteran blues musicians on guitar, drums and organ.  They provide the backing for a series of short performances by local blues and rock enthusiasts.  In open-mic-style, anyone can sign up for a slot and play three-four songs with the band.

While in other venues this might be a recipe for mediocre, aimless jamming, the level of talent on display at the FanClub seemed pretty exemplary.  I watched as one act after another – from soulful female vocalists to old-time blues guitar players – took the stage and rocked the house.

The bar menu also deserves mentioning.  Not only does FanClub have a fair selection of local craft beer, it also offers an exceptionally cheap happy hour food menu on Saturdays. For $3.99, you get decently-sized portions of the club’s New-Orleans-influenced cuisine, from pulled pork sliders to shrimp fritters, mac-and-cheese and jambalaya chicken flatbread.  The quality of the food is pretty outstanding, especially considering the price is less than you’d pay for a beer at many bars in the city.

Each session of the Saturday Jams culminates at 6 p.m. with a headlining act, a showcase band brought in to cap off the afternoon and bring down the house.  By the time they took the stage on Saturday, the club was packed, with an energy you don’t often find on Granville Street until much later in the night.

Photo courtesy of Vancouver FanClub

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