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1995 – The Vancouver police evidently felt the passage, published three weeks before the riot, was more responsible for it than their own tear-gas volleys and baton charges, delivered without warning when the crowd got unruly.

The Province (Vancouver)
February 10, 1995
Page B13
PEELERS MAKE WAY FOR SEX PISTOLS
Mike Roberts

It was only my second trip to The Niagara on West Pender. Really it was.

Having failed to convince my cohorts that an evening of lights and lasers at the Planetarium’s Lollapalaser show (“ah man, how boring?”) was in their best interests, I found myself plonked down at a table in what was, until recently, one of Vancouver’s B-string strip clubs.

And it’s hard to say whether the revamped peeler palace is actually creating or responding to a growing trend within the city’s younger drinking classes.

The name of the game is low-overhead, high-volume pint-guzzling with a heavy dose of good-quality live local entertainment. Like The American and The Broadway Express pubs, The Niagara is tapping into the fickle, highly mobile youth market out with twenty bucks in its pocket looking for a good time beyond the flow of the mainstream.

Sure, these pubs are cashing in on a somewhat self-generating “scene,” but in providing much-needed venues for local talent and keeping costs down for patrons, they get full kudos from these quarters.

The New Niagara — as it’s billed in a TerminalCity advertorial by the magazine’s National Affairs Desk editor, Brian (Godzilla) Salmi — is, by any standards, a dingy joint.

With its low ceilings and innumerable pillars, it takes on an underground labyrinthine quality usually reserved for opium dens and bomb shelters. But the beer’s cheap and the tinsel still lines a stage once populated by exotic dancers and home now to different talents, of the musical variety.

It’s an ugly venue, with its green walls and mottled tan carpets – – exactly the kitschy kind of ambience that pulls in the cooler class of patron. Salmi calls it Mutant Mecca.

As the cohorts and I settle in, the Sex Pistols are screaming from the juke box: “We’re the future, your future.” The irony does not go amiss.

“It was my idea three months ago (to revamp The Niagara),” says Salmi, sitting at the back of the pub. “The place was deader than Kemano.

“We’re really the last place in town that hosts local rock ‘n’ roll talent,” he’s quick to boast. “No one else does it . . . here (bands) play to 300 and they get paid $500. . . . It’s a great place to check out the local talent and support your local talent.”

Salmi says affordabilty is the big draw. He’s planning Welfare Wednesday gigs and special shows.

“Good music. Most bars don’t serve it . . . underground bars, unknown bars, they do,” says local artist Mad Dog, over a pint. “It’s a good meeting place, too.”

Mad Dog, who works in metal at his Grease Pit Gallery at Gore and Pender (“very harsh metal art that wouldn’t look good in your garden”) reflects, cryptically, on The Niagara, then and now: “I don’t think an artist alive doesn’t enjoy live drawing classes. But I’m not a pervert, not at all.”

Check out Crankshaft, with guests, tonight at The Niagara.

The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
July 1, 1995
Page D.2 
Vancouver Where the pen is mightier than the spray paint
Robert Mason Lee

THE alternative press in Vancouver has never been livelier, but The Georgia Straight no longer plays a role in it. The Straight has long since lapsed into being a weekly entertainment tabloid. Its liberal politics are seditious enough these days, but hardly on the vanguard of change it occupied in the sixties. Like so many of its generation, the Straight has found it far more comfortable in the pew than in the pulpit.

The alternative paper worthy of the name is now TerminalCity, a free weekly with a circulation of 20,000. While the journalism in the Straight could be reprinted in any mainstream daily without comment, TerminalCity is proud that it publishes not a single item suitable for a family newspaper.

The Straight carries several pages of earnest personal ads, for instance, while TerminalCity has two sexually explicit advice-to-the- lovelorn columns: “Grrrl Trouble” for lesbians and “Savage Love” for gays. While the Straight covers protests, TerminalCity provokes them. The tone of the Straight is caring, concerned and occasionally close to tears; the tone of TerminalCity is sarcastic, raw and occasionally close to throwing a brick. I prefer TerminalCity.

Nowhere is the contrast more sharply drawn than in their politics. The Straight, for a period when it suffered from institutional amnesia, had former Socred cabinet minister Rafe Mair writing its political column. The political writer for TerminalCity is a fun-loving anarchist with a Viking’s red mane known as Brian “Godzilla” Salmi.

When the Straight was convicted of criminal libel in 1968 for insulting a judge, it fought the conviction and overturned it on appeal. Twenty-five years later, a new generation of dissent was reflected when Mr. Salmi was hauled before the B.C. Supreme Court on a contempt charge for his part in the Clayoquot protest. Mr. Salmi informed the judge that he in fact did have nothing but contempt for him and his court. He went to jail. He takes his lumps.

Mr. Salmi is known to me personally and I have never regarded him as a threat to anything larger than a metaphor. (He did once spray paint the radiation symbol on a U.S. aircraft carrier, but it didn’t sink or anything.) So I was somewhat surprised to learn that the Vancouver Police force had investigated Mr. Salmi for causing the Stanley Cup riot.

Mr. Salmi had written a column anticipating the Vancouver Canucks’ entry into the playoffs. The offending passage read: “I’ll be happy to see the Canucks win the Cup because (I) need a new CD player. I’m talking Booze Up and Riot. I’m talking LOOT, LOOT, LOOT! I’m talking Robson Street the night the Canucks win. I’m talking Christmas for poor adults. Start your window shopping now.”

The Vancouver police evidently felt the passage, published three weeks before the riot, was more responsible for it than their own tear-gas volleys and baton charges, delivered without warning when the crowd got unruly.

Under an access-to-information request, the police investigation into Mr. Salmi’s column has now been made public: “SALMI is known to the author as a person with extreme views, a high intellect but a non-violent and a bark worse than his bite,” wrote Const. D. Reece of the terrorist/extremist section of the Vancouver police- department intelligence unit. “Very few intelligent readers take SALMI seriously. However, he writes with great conviction and in the language of the street to the extent that persons of street-level intellect might take him seriously.”

The report then left the realm of social and literary criticism: “SALMI wrote this article with a tongue-in-cheek attitude perhaps with no intent to actually incite the riot. He may not have realized what the consequences of his actions might have been.”

Although Mr. Salmi “has never been a lover of the Police or any type of authority,” it conceded he was fair to police in a follow-up article. A second police report added that, “given the ridiculous nature of the entire article,” it would be difficult to treat the offending passage seriously. Crown prosecutors ended the silliness by determining there was no chance of conviction.

Taxpayers should sleep easier at night knowing the counterterrorist branch is honing its skills at literary criticism while the Air India bombers go free. Defenders of liberty should rest easy knowing the police still allow those who do not love them to walk the streets.

And Mr. Salmi is reassured to learn that police cannot distinguish criminal intent from satire or extremism from dissent. “I think that in heaven, Kafka and Swift are reading this report and doing high fives,” he says. The Disney people wasted their money buying rights to the RCMP image; there was already a Mickey Mouse force in Vancouver.

The Province (Vancouver)
November 16, 1995
A54
Cardigans back, nose rings optional
Mike Roberts

They’re always up to something, those hotel-lounge types. Trying this, booking that, hoping to cash in on the latest craze.

Rock-a-billy, psycho-billy, acid jazz, thrash acts . . . we’ve seen it all in the hotel pubs and lounges as the trend toward intimate and interactive has moved into the smaller venues around Vancouver.

The Niagara (435 W. Pender) has been on the cusp of these entertaining developments.

The latest thing the pub’s promoter, Brian Salmi, has come up with is the Gin and Sin Lounge every Wednesday night.

Canadian punk-rock anti-heroes SNFU recently formed the Society Cocktail Club to oversee Gin/Sin night. You read it here first: The punks are going Lounge Music.

Youngsters with green hair, nose rings and tattoos wearing smoking jackets, sipping martinis and getting down to the sound of Perry Como (left).

Makes your head spin.

Says Salmi, “. . . (It) will, without a doubt, be even stranger than those weirdos who sit at the front of the bus and talk to the drivers all day.”

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