It was a hot, sometimes loud summer at one of Surrey’s newest venues for live music.
The Hot Amp Room at Centric Culinary is a so-called “DIY” music venue located in Clayton, in the space next to Danielle Neilson’s coffee shop and headquarters for a food business.
Neilson, who also works as a musician, has welcomed a variety of artists and bands – punk, metal, hip-hop and more – since taking over the retail space and naming it the Hot Amp last June.
“It’s about the culture, a space for arts and entertainment to play,” Neilson explained.
The building, next to a gas station at the corner of Fraser Highway and 184th Street, is known in heritage circles as Calkins House and Store, built in 1925 as one of Surrey’s earliest stores and service stations and operated by Martha and Frank Calkins until 1942.
Today, Neilson and others involved in the Hot Amp are performing a service for the local music community in the artist-driven initiative.
“That was the name of the parties I was throwing to help pay for business ventures,” she said. “That was the summer plan, and the goal was to have an established venue. I was really just testing the waters in the summer and getting some events under my belt.”
When the Now-Leader visited on a relatively warm Sept. 22 evening, local metal-ers Truent and Obsidian turned the Hot Amp into a sweaty mosh pit for around 50 fans, prior to the bands’ tour of B.C. and Alberta.
On Facebook, “The Hot Amp Room Surrey” is a closed group for 520 members who’ve joined since the page was created back in May. It’s a forum for local musicians eager to join bands and play the venue as much as a place to advertise gigs happening there.
The all-ages nature of the space echoes the Java Joint, a long-gone Whalley venue that hosted bands in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
“People who come here say this is Java Joint 3.0 on steroids, which is pretty exciting,” Neilson said. “I never went to a Java Joint show, but we have the soundboard used there and we’re repurposing some of the equipment. We have Kyle Richardson, of Richardson Sound, involved, and he helped run all that, with Spawner Records, which had the band Gob back then and a bunch of others.”
Richardson, who still puts on punk- and indie-rock shows and also DJs now, welcomes what The Hot Amp brings to the Cloverdale area, where he lives.
“It’s an important place for kids to go to hear music and create something, which doesn’t happen that much anymore,” Richardson said in a phone interview. “There aren’t many places like it, and what Danielle is doing there is the real thing. It’s great.”
“I met a lot of friends in open jams,” she said. “Now we’re hearing the kids are wanting that kind of place, bands wanting to play the all-ages shows. That’s what this all about, that community.”
On the Hot Amp calendar this month is “A Mid-Autumn Night’s Dream” on Oct. 19. “After five years,” says a Facebook event post, “hometown hero/villain Tyrow James returns to perform in Cloverdale! This night will be filled with all kinds of local talent, with a few magical guests from the Metro-Van area! Rap, rock and piano punk!”
A calendar on Centric’s Facebook page is filled with a variety of events, including “Toddler Time” on Tuesday and Saturday mornings, “Waffles and Open Jam” events on Sunday and, on Oct. 27, a Halloween show featuring five punk bands.
“We had around 15 shows this summer, and there’s one pretty much every weekend through to November,” Neilson said. “It’s a good mixture and some high-calibre musicians. We’re pretty excited about it all.”