By Maegan Thomas and Debby Reis

Guilt & Company celebrated their first anniversary this past month and invited their entire stable of musicians out to jam and entertain at a big birthday bash. If you’re not familiar with the spot, it’s buried underneath Chill Winston in Gastown. This cave, however, isn’t dark and dank but candle lit and stylish. If a bear ever lived here, it’d be a hipster bear with a trust fund, a well developed sense of whimsy, and a love for Jenga and cheese. What could have been merely another Gastown cocktail bar is differentiated by their many unique nights of burlesque, comedy, theatre, jazz improv, fashion and more.

The stage was open and inviting to a number of Guilt & Co. favourites, including Colleen Rennison, who showed off her sultry pipes, and a jam band which included Cary Pratt (Pineapple, Prairie Cat) and Hamish Thomson (Ten Suns).

Following the event, Jody Bowen, manager/professional mischief maker at Guilt & Co., had a few things to say about the day to day activities of the Vancouver hot spot.

Discorder: What’s the typical week at Guilt & Co. look like?
Jody Bowen: There is nothing typical about a week at G&Co! Our mantra is: Play Different. … We want our guests to play different. … And we want our talent to play different (burlesque with a live band, folk musicians playing hip-hop covers, three improv nights a week wherein the musicians don’t even know each other when they step up). The end result is, well, not at all typical.

D: Who’s at Guilt & Co. any night of the week?
JB: Gastown and the downtown eastside is the creative hub of the city. Animators, actors and producers, software designers, architects, graphic designers, musicians etc. seem to have found a home at Guilt & Company. It’s a sophisticated joint with high quality food and drink; a lounge for people tired of TVs and drop-shots.

D: Guilt & Co. is one of the regular supporters of the amazing burlesque scene in Vancouver. Why burlesque?
JB: Gastown has a long history of burlesque and it was so exciting to have the opportunity not only to create something that was an homage to that history, but in a venue that is reminiscent of the era. We didn’t want to create a show, we wanted to create our own little world—a classic burlesque lounge with a modern twist. One of my favourite routines is a number by Nicky Ninedoors where she does an exquisite striptease to a live cover of Radiohead.

D: What’s your most memorable moment of the past year?
JB: Guilt & Co. was built entirely with the idea of being an incubator for talent; a place where performers could connect with the roots of their art. For musicians, that’s usually fooling around with friends and improvising. Our most memorable night (and we’ve had many!) was the first night wherein musicians began to take the stage one after the other, trading off, in one long meandering jam. It touched on a dozen musical styles, the musicians were high five-ing, the audience was standing. Excellent night!

D: What’s your favourite game at Guilt & Co. and why?
JB: Call me old fashioned but my favourite game at Guilt is chess. I love nothing more then walking past a table on a busy Saturday night when the place is rocking and seeing two people curled around a chess board. That is my idea of a perfect night—live music, a good beer and a game of chess—bliss!

—Maegan Thomas


Electric Owl

The slow boil that’s changing Main Street between the Skytrain station and Hastings continues with the opening of the Electric Owl. Located in the old American Hotel, which has been closed since 2004, the Owl is a multi-roomed venture themed on a Japanese Izakaya. The restaurant and patio side will serve fancy Japanese-style tapas, while the venue will serve up acts that range from traditional Japanese fan dancing to B-boys break dancing to bands you’d read about in Discorder.

“These bands aren’t confirmed, but Twin Shadow, Alexander, Handsome Furs and Digits are just some on my wish list,” says Dani Vachon, the Owl’s Director of Marketing and Entertainment (not to mention the co-founder of the Olio Festival).

Although Vachon will be focused on branding for the spot’s first three months, she’ll be in charge of booking events after that period. In the meantime Hoax Productions’ Eli Wener will be at the helm.

In addition to the 200-plus person venue, restaurant and lounge, the Owl will have off-sales available and, in the distant future, the basement will open an additional room that Vachon suggests may be a karaoke bar.

The Electric Owl kicks off with a grand opening on May 26 and with Brooklyn funksters !!! gracing the venue on May 28.

—Debby Reis