Jasper Place has always featured live entertainment and music. The late shopping hours and local hotels created an atmosphere conducive to attracting touring bands after the rules around bars and live music eased in the ‘60s.
In the booming early ‘60s, the Jasper Place Sports Centre became THE gathering spot for youth and the favourite place for dances with live bands. The Muk-Luk Mardi Gras Festival hosted large teen dances there. In 1963, it hosted a live-televised Beatles concert to screaming teens.
In the 1960s through the early 1980s The Klondiker established its primacy for band performances. In the ‘70s its main floor was known for Country and Western, while the basement “Gold Room” catered to rock, attracting bikers as regulars. Touring bands could play multiple nights in a row, earning a week’s worth of pay and staying at the hotel. When the ‘70s began, The Klondiker had eight bouncers on each floor during busy nights. Local bands like The Mustangs got their start there. The Klondiker switched hands and was last known as the Jasper Place Hotel. The Saxony Motor Inn, which is now the Howard Johnson, also hosted regular and touring acts.
In the ‘90s, Ritz Diner rocked with live alt-rock music. It closed in 1997 after a Halloween gig: Skalloween with the Mad City Bombers. Maria Dunn played her first gig at Ritz Diner: “It was a cool vintage diner that welcomed local musicians to try their hand at performing in a live venue: my first live gig playing folk music for fun.”
Then, in 2009, The Haven Social Club appeared to host emerging bands and touring acts. It closed in 2013, leaving a gap in the Jasper Place neighbourhood and music scene. Their former building is slated for demolition for the LRT.
New West Hotel has always been part of the country music circuit. It has hosted acts for over 50 years, 6 nights a week, with open stages Saturday. Jasper Place residents and local country legends Joyce Smith and George Myren played regularly from the get-go. “Thing about the New West, [it] always had good country music,” says George. “It was the greatest social gathering place for musicians to visit and listen to the music and catch up to the latest gossip. Everyone went there to BS and just visit with each other. It’s really being missed.”
While we know the venues, we want your stories. In early December, we are hosting an experimental Zoom event to gather your stories. For more info, connect with us on FB or at jasperplacehistory.org
Brooke Leifso is a community-based artist working on the Jasper Place Community History Project.