Couv getting in groove with local music

Venues welcome chance to help musicians find a place to preform

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter



The big three

The Brickhouse, Cascade and Irishtown are the largest Vancouver bars that regularly host live local music. For other venues, check out the nightlife listings on Page F13 in the Weekend & Beyond section of the Jan. 3 Columbian newspaper. Here are details for the big three:

Brickhouse Bar and Grill

Schedule: Thursdays, Brickhouse Unplugged, local acoustic musicians starting at 8 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, live bands starting at 9 p.m.

Cost: No cover. Shows are for adults 21 and older.

Where: 109 W. 15th St., Vancouver.

Information: 360-695-3686 or online.

Cascade Bar & Grill

Schedule: Thursdays, live open jam session for musicians from around town starting at 9 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, live bands starting at 9 p.m.

Cost: $5 cover on Fridays and Saturdays. Shows are for 21 and older.

Where: 15000 S.E. Mill Plain Blvd., Vancouver.

Information: 360-254-0749 or online.

Irishtown Bar and Grill

Schedule: Wednesdays, Irish night with Peter Yeates starting at 8 p.m.; Saturdays, live bands starting at 9 p.m.; Sundays, live bands starting at 10 p.m.

Cost: No cover for most acts.

Where: 11600 S.E. Mill Plain, Vancouver.

Information: 360-253-1479 or online.

Local musicians

Here’s a few Clark County music recommendations from local aficionados:

Brother Elf.


Eldar Crow.

Element 57.

Foreign Talks.

In Public View.

Jeremiah Leahman.

Lincoln’s Beard.

One From Many.

Outer Space Heaters.

Sell the Farm.


The Loop Ninja.

The Strange.

The Student Loan.

The Sindicate.

When it comes to a local music scene, Vancouver certainly has a long way to go compared with that city on the other side of the Columbia River.

But that said, it does have a small cluster of venues that are encouraging up-and-coming local groups and artists.

Vancouver bands such as The Syndicate, Lincoln’s Beard, Brother Elf, Outer Space Heaters and Sell the Farm, among several others, tend to cluster around three main venues: The Brickhouse Bar and Grill, Cascade Bar & Grill and Irishtown Bar and Grill.

And with small or no cover charges for visitors and a distinct Couv flavor, there’s still a lot to see here without the stress of finding parking in downtown Portland.

“We’ve got a handful of really talented young bands here downtown,” said Stephen Deans, manager of The Brickhouse. “And I really try to encourage them.”

There also seem to be more bands springing up across the county than there used to be, which is a good sign, said Gary Hostetler, owner of the Cascade.

“I’m a musician at heart,” said Hostetler, who used to play in a band. “Is it profitable (for us to have live music here)? It doesn’t really matter. I just want to support it.”

Open jam sessions at some venues around town have led to new bands forming. But the small market makes it hard for bars to charge an entry fee or to scrape much together to pay them, Deans said.

“Our market’s tough for musicians,” Deans said. “The venues, the bars that are down here, we’re just not a cover charge environment. So it’s hard to get bands to play. I have a small budget for it, but I wish I could do more.”

Still, for newly formed groups, low pay isn’t necessarily a horrible thing.

Beth Harrington, who with Al Paschke and Sylvia Hackathorn make up the Vancouver punk band Spiricles, said that since the group all have day jobs the money isn’t quite as important -- although it still helps.

“We declare victory if we get anything, so at least we can say we’re not playing for free,” Harrington said. “Some places will let you set a little bit of a cover, but it’s certainly not anything you could live off.”

The group formed in early 2013, but the members also did three albums with a Portland punk band, Unknown Soldiers, in the 1980s.

This year, they’ve only played in Portland. They’d like to do some gigs closer to home in 2014, though, and they’ve been scoping out the big three bars a little over the holidays, Harrington said.

“Those are the places that look best to us,” Harrington said. “I think we’ll end up calling The Brickhouse when we get rolling again in the new year.”

To grow the local scene Heidi Hahn-Troxler and her husband, Michael Troxler, founded a new music festival in town in 2012 called Couvapalooza, which drew Everclear as a headline act in August.

The nonprofit festival supports music programs in local schools, and it also provides another place for local bands such as One From Many and Foreign Talks to get some exposure.

They couple has paid for the event, and the bands out of their own pockets, just because they love music, they said.

But they’d like to see bars and festivals pay local musicians enough to live off of eventually.

“We need to pay for the hard work and efforts by these bands,” Troxler said. “But I know it’s hard here. There are probably a few more places for

younger people to play in Portland, just because it’s a larger city, and the venues can pay a lot more for sound systems and other things.”

That said, the three venues do a good job with what they can afford, he said.

“Those three spots would be my picks for the better music in town, certainly,” Troxler said.

What would help the scene, they all agree, is for more people to go out and check out the rising talent. All three bars, along with many smaller venues around town, feature live music on the weekends -- so there’s plenty to see, they said.

“There’s definitely a lot of talent in Vancouver,” Deans said. “And since we’ve opened I’ve seen the availability of music grow in town. It’s an expanding market, with business owners being more open and accepting of original music. I hope that continues.”