Surrey’s revamped Flamingo hotel property is ready to rock again.
A concert featuring the bands Slevyn, Sly Detrick, Caustic Sodapop and Landmark 20 will unofficially reopen the Byrd venue, a former strip bar, on the night of Friday, Jan. 12. Tickets are $10 in advance and $13 at the door, at 10768 King George Blvd.
The show date is among several recently announced for the Flamingo, which operated in the heart of Whalley for many years before going dormant last spring.
Under new management, ambitious plans have been drawn to feature live music and other forms of entertainment in the three bars, or “rooms,” on the Flamingo property.
“We’re excited to get it going and present these shows, for sure,” David Geertz, who operates the venue with the help of Dione Costanzo.
“The biggest challenge we faced, until now, is not opening the doors, it was just transferring some legal documentation,” Geertz added. “And now we’re just letting people know it’s open for business.”
The Flamingo property is owned by Charan Sethi, president of Richmond-based development company Tien Sher Group. He has partnered with Geertz and his Penmar Community Arts Society to create an arts and culture hub at the Flamingo, which first opened in 1955.
“We develop tools and programs that address the needs of touring musicians and music industry support workers in order to build sustainable living wages within the music sector,” reads a post on the Flamingo’s website (theflamingo.ca).
So far, the venue’s entertainment calendar for the month of January includes five show dates featuring a variety of live music.
On the night of Jan. 19, HEAD is among bands playing the Flamingo’s Byrd bar, along with Utility Provider, The Stereo Anthems and Out of the Nowhere.
“Venues are either closing or using DJs for music as of late,” HEAD’s singer, known as Lyric, told the Now-Leader. “My (favourite) venue was Studio Records in Vancouver which sadly stopped having live music, so I, like many other artists starving for performance venues, (am) elated a new venue has emerged. Now we just have to get people out of their houses to support the band and venue.”
A “Rockin’ the Flamingo” show on Saturday, Jan. 13 will feature tribute bands Modern Day Warriors (playing the music of Rush), Bonnie Scott (a female-fronted AC/DC tribute) and Alive & Kissin (KISS).
Connie Meyer is the lead singer of Bonnie Scott, which promises to play “gender-bending variations of your favorite AC/DC songs delivered with as much dirty riffs and vocal grit as the original” – and “all in the name of liberty,” of course. The lead guitar player’s name is Agnes Young.
“We are really looking forward to this show as it is our (rhythm) guitar player (Steve Machine)’s birthday,” Meyer told the Now-Leader.
“We think it is amazing that Surrey will have a new live-music venue that will cater to all styles and genres of music,” Meyer added. “(The) Flamingo is going to be a musical hub, and Greater Vancouver needs that (to) make live music great again. They are going to have three live rooms going on at the same time. This is great because it is going to offer the listener a variety of musical acts to choose from under the same roof. No other venue offers this, so it is really quite innovative.”
Combined, the three bars on the Flamingo property – the former Byrd strip club, the lounge and Panchos rock club – are licensed to hold more than 600 people.
“These first shows in January are all happening at the Byrd,” which has been renovated to include a new stage along the bar’s back wall, Geertz noted.
“The Flamingo is the name of the whole project, the property, which includes the four buildings, including the liquor store. So, for marketing purposes, we tell people it’s happening at the Flamingo, but once people are on the site they need to know which room they’re going to, so we have the lounge, the Byrd and what is currently known as Panchos, which will be renamed soon.”
Kevin Schallié, who runs a production company called Live Acts Canada, has been hired as the Flamingo’s entertainment director.
In Vancouver, Schallié works to bring bands into venues such as the Blarney Stone, Portside Pub and the revamped Railway club, and he sees great potential in the Flamingo.
“The thing I see is that because there’s been a few closures of live-music venues downtown (Vancouver), this will be kind of the future – out in the valley, in Surrey, just with rising rents and things like that,” Schallié said.
“And I can tell you bands are quite excited about this,” he added. “And a lot of the bands I book are actually from the valley, so a lot of the Vancouver shows you see are people from the valley. I find there aren’t a lot of people who grew up in Vancouver that are in bands – a lot of people move to Vancouver and start bands, but a lot of their friends and parents, their supporters, are from the valley and still live there, probably. So it’s quite exciting that way.”
Eventually, residential towers will be built on the Flamingo site, but plans are to make the current licensed establishments go-to destinations for live music and more over the next five or six years, until the buildings are demolished, Geertz and Sethi told the Now-Leader in November.
“There are a lot of bands interested in playing shows with us, especially at what is now known as Panchos, which is a 300-seat room,” Geertz said last week. “You can get some really decent talent in there.
“A lot of the bands being booked by us right now are bands that are fairly well known in the city (Vancouver) and typically play showcase dates at places like the Portside Pub, the Roxy and the Red Room,” he added. “In addition to that, there are additional shows being announced by punk and metal show promoters.… We have brought in Cecil English, the sound engineer and producer who has done a lot of punk and indie bands (including Nomeansno, D.O.A. and others), and he’ll be outfitting the Byrd entirely with his rig, an entire PA system he’ll manage. He’s also working to put out the word in the Vancouver market and bring bands to us.”
Other shows on the Flamingo calendar this month include Crnkshft with Sleepcircle, Eleanor Rising and Attack the Fire (on Jan. 20) and The Escapes with Rollin’ Trainwreck, Bobby’s Cane and Travis James (Jan. 26). Also, the Flamingo will present a performance by Petunia and the Vipers at Ocean Park Hall, in South Surrey, on Saturday, Jan. 27, as part of a concert series Geertz has hosted there over the past year.
“We’re super stoked about partnering with Surrey Pride Society to have the Flamingo host a series of events leading up to their festival (on June 30, 2018),” Geertz said. “I believe it’s eight events, in all three of our venues, leading up to the day of the festival, plus our parking lot. There are a whole series of dances, parties and events leading up to the festival itself, geared toward raising money to put on their big festival.”
In the big picture, Geertz added, “The Flamingo is really interested in speaking to private-events people who want to have their own private space to do their own events. That’s a key here, and we’re already working with 11 different people, different groups, and the key is to fill up those rooms and allow other non-profits and private events people to have their space, especially during the week.”
Daniel Cook, who runs Donegal’s Irish House on 96th Avenue in Surrey, says lovers of live music should be getting out to support places that host live bands, including Donegal’s, “before we lose any more rooms.”
Just last week, the 420-seat Summit Theatre, a popular place for original and cover bands at Langley’s Cascades Casino, was closed to make way for a bingo hall, as part a 23,000-square-foot expansion project.
Donegal’s is one of Surrey’s busiest bars for live music.
“My personal fear here is that while fewer rooms playing may mean better business for us, due to lack of competition, I think that overall, it’s dangerous for live music here entirely,” Cook told the Now-Leader. “Fewer rooms booking, means less opportunity for bands to earn, and it’s going to get to the point where bands will just give up trying. Why bother doing it, if you can’t even get regular work anymore?”
Also, Cook wondered, “what’s the motivation for the teens to pick up a guitar or the sticks, and want to learn, when there’s no place for them to come play later? This is a big reason I love the jams (at Donegal’s). I want a place for musicians to get together, network and jam; I’ve seen a number of great bands come together out of our jams here. But I also see this as a bit of a mentorship program for young artists; a chance to get up on a stage, to play alongside some great musicians, and get a chance to develop their music even more. We can’t afford to lose venues, or the younger generation loses their passion, and we all lose out then.”