Music venues don’t get much more bohemian than the Avant-Garden (just get a load of that name). Much more than a place for bands to play a set, this little spot on Gore Avenue is a hub for Vancouver’s hipsters - I mean artists - to display and sell their zines, clothes, and other visual media artwork. The brainchild of Sam Herle, a student of the Emily Carr University of Art and Design, this cafe/venue/art & crafts market is a favourite amongst Vancouver’s most youthful and idealistic community. Despite being a new-comer to the music/arts scene (the Avant-Garden opened at the very end of 2017), this spot has already garnered a substantial amount of praise: in 2019, it was featured in Maclean’s 2019 list of top 10 small music venues in Canada - as judged by university students. Facebook user Chakra Rani describes the place as “metamorphosis haven for the arts of Vancouver” (2019) - again, the name, the diction (“metamorphosis haven”?), and the vine-turned-profile-pic of her doing Yoga say it all.
The Avant-Garden’s logistical convenience helps add to the place’s “woke” vibes: the environmentally-conscious demographic of youths that go here would never own a car, of course; but as Melissa Dukeshire writes on Facebook, this venue - which she calls the “best place to see live music and art shows from local artists” - is “close to all transit services and street parking” (2019).
The actual venue space is on the building’s second floor, which is really more like a loft. With a capacity that tops out at around 40 people, it’s basically the size of a small living room. It’s got hardwood floors on which bands and audiences stand (or sit in a hippy-circle): there’s no raised stage. The walls aren’t even painted a uniform colour - that would be too “institutional,” no doubt. Their bills are tremendous fun, and really sum up the vibe of the place: their kooky designs are hand-made by the artists they advertise, and they casually call for doors at “8ish” and music at a“9ish.” They usually call for $10 cover, or alternatively, in the true communal spirit, they stipulate that a “pay what you can” system is acceptable
As the epitome of “indie,” the acts that play here of course very local: Kylie V, Sad Ally, David Ivan Neil, Kuiper, Patient Hands, Too Much of Anything, Goats and Lasers, Schwey, The Naked Gypsies, The Sprouts, and Robbie G.
With a focus on cultivating the artistic community, the Avant-Garden puts on its own “bazaar,” a bi-weekly flea market; it runs and hosts The Beat Shop, a semi-regular event for people who make instrumentals to share their work or meet/collaborate with local MC’s; and it constantly exhibits the art shows and installations of individual, local artists. During outdoor events, such as the Bazaar, they often have a band play in their backlot, in full view of passers-by.