Local musicians are banding together to create their own live music venue

“When you're in a club setting the sound systems are way better. All-ages concerts often have shitty accommodations for the audience, and the venue is barely-legal and makeshift. That's the whole point of Safe Amp, to have a real venue we can play at rather than makeshift places.” Explains Harrison Pratt, a local musician.

The Safe Amplification Site Society is a non-profit organization made up mostly of local musicians and show-goers who are tired of playing in unappealing environments. They're fund-raising to create a safe, sustainable, affordable, all-ages music venue, and their goal is $20,000, which is their estimate of what a year's rent would be. Caitlin Gilroy, a musician and one of the directors of Safe Amp, explains that although a party atmosphere is enjoyable for some shows, it gets tiring to play music for an audience that is hardly listening. “We wanted to play in a place that was really devoted to music 100% and not just the consumption of products.”

Not only is a 19+ venue undesirable for the musicians, but it discriminates against underaged fans who would like to go, but legally aren't allowed. Marita Michaelis-Webb became involved with Safe Amp for exactly that reason. “I'm 17 and I don't have a fake ID to go to bars because it's just not as comfortable for me, so I ended up going to the shows that were all ages.”

A general problem for all-ages venues, though, is sustainability. Hoko's Sushi Karaoke Bar used to host all-ages live music performances, but were forced to stop when inspectors determined that they weren't honouring their Food Primary license. Hokos isn't the only place to stop hosting shows, either. Getting shut down is a huge problem for all-ages venues.

To remain affordable is another goal of the organization. There are several Vancouver venues that can be rented and used for all-ages concerts, but they require the musicians to pay a fairly large rental fee, which in turn causes the cover price to go up. Admission to all Safe Amp shows will be $5 or less, so that show-goers don't have to go broke in order to support their local music scene.

“The laws that exist for venues are not really written in an easy place to find,” says Ryan McCormick, another director of Safe Amp. “Its fine as long as nobody enforces these mysterious laws, but over the last few years it seems like some of them have been enforced, and so venues close down.” Safe Amp is committed to learning all the venue and zoning laws and working with the city in order to stay open.

Why the name Safe Amplification Site Society, though? It's a play on the term safe injection site. “Music is kind of being treated like an illicit activity,” explains Gilroy, “People are doing it unsafely in illegal venues in dark corners of the downtown eastside... so the name is drawing attention to the fact that music is not something that should be illegal, but kind of is.”

A safe, sustainable, affordable all-ages space is what the founding directors wanted when they started the Safe Amplification Site Society, and it is what they are working to achieve. They put on multiple events per month and are garnering more and more support from the community. They are already a quarter of the way to their goal of $20,000.

Safe Amp hosts monthly fund-raiser shows at Little Mountain Gallery, as well as various other all-ages shows around Vancouver. For more information go to

//Sarah Vitet
Assistant Arts Editor

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