Today is Richard’s on Richards last day. I shan’t be attending – it’s actually been over a year since I was last there. But I have many, many fond memories of that place, and did want to commemorate it.
I went to my first Richard’s on Richards show within a week or two of arriving in Vancouver, back in August 1995. My girlfriend and I was staying at Chantal’s, a friend from Toronto, above a pawn shop on Granville, near Helmecken. I was nowhere near old enough to get in to the show, and looked young to boot. I don’t recall if I came in via the “smoking doors”, the double-doors at the front, or via the back door, but I remember sweating bullets nearly the entire show that some bouncer would know that I hadn’t come in the front door. I don’t even recall the show. In my memory, it was Maceo Parker or Bootsy Collins, but with another thought I now doubt that.
Since that first show, I believe I’ve seen another 70-odd shows at Richards – until Liam was born, I was there nearly every other month, if not more often. Many of my favourite bands I saw for the first time at Richard’s – sometimes, I knew nothing at all of the band, and only came to be a fan of them later. Such was the case for when I first saw the Walkmen, whom I believe were opening for someone else at the time. Others, I was a fan of, only to be disappointed in their live show – like Phoenix, whom I still quite enjoy their studio work, but won’t see live again.
Like many others, the washrooms at Richard’s were something of an eye-opener. While I’ve been in much worse bathrooms, they were probably the most disgusting washrooms in Vancouver. And yet, inevitably, you’d find some joker snorting coke of counters I wouldn’t wipe my worst enemy’s face across, you’d find condoms floating in the toilets, and most bizarre, always a couple of people that seemed to just be hanging out in there.
The lounge upstairs, I’d inevitably trip over someone I knew half-passed out from something, or become momentary friends with whomever I was standing in line with waiting for world’s slowest bartender at the upstairs bar. After a few visits, I started to show up at shows really early, so I could pull a prime stool on the balcony across from the stage, and would sit there stalwart for the entire show lest someone steal it. It didn’t seem to matter if you were with someone who could hold the stool for you – if you were gone for too long, you’d return to find someone else sitting in it.
It is my belief that there were 2 different sound crews that worked Richards. Crew A was fantastic – the mix was right, the levels were perfect, and made every act sound better. Crew B was clearly manned by a bunch of deaf monkeys who’d only ever seen pictures of a sound-bboard in a magazine. There was never anything in between there – only great sound, or shitty sound. Some bands, like the Walkmen and Bloc Party were able to rise above the shitty sound and still deliver stellar shows (actually, thinking back, the shitty sound for the Walkmen may have been on purpose – they seem to thrive with a muddy mix). Some bands, like …and You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead just sounded like shit. I don’t believe that I would love the Decemberists or Franz Ferdinand as much now if it weren’t for those 2 perfect shows at Richard’s where the sound was great, they were tight and the crowd love it.
The closing of Richard’s on Richards really marks the end of a chapter in my life – it is the last of the live venues in Vancouver that formed a sort of circuit in my teens & twenties, having outlasted all the others by several years. So long, Richard’s, and thanks for all the memories.