August 25, 2020
Category: Blog Posts
A Look at the Starlite Room
Looking back at nights when a sweaty, crowded club was a joy to behold, we delve into history of The Starlite Room, one of western Canada’s premier live music venues. Built in 1925, this multi-level brick building has long history that includes many different businesses and organization occupying the building. The Salvation Army was the first company to call the space home until 1965. Shortly after, Citadel Theatre ran shows out of the space until the company moved to Churchill Square. And in 1989, the building became a live music venue called The Bronx and then in The Rev. Under new ownership, it’s been the Starlite Room since 2004.
With live indoor shows on pause right now due to COVID-19, management is getting inventive with programming. Online concerts, rooftop concerts and an extended patio are bringing the music to the people. In September, catch Le Fuzz, Jay Gilday and Melafrique on the patio for Downtown Live. In the meantime, here’s a look at some of the bands that have played at the Starlite in its 30 years.
The show that half of Edmonton claimed to see, but in reality only a handful ever did. Nirvana were then touring their Bleach album, and attendees seem divided on whether it was a poorly mixed debacle or the greatest live gig they’d ever seen. Hilariously, the grunge-rockers had no merch, but singer-guitarist Cobain saved the day by autographing cheap Bic lighters. Opening punk-metal outfit Zero Tolerance (playing their farewell show) are probably still dining out on the stories.
Green Day (1992)
They were still two years away from Dookie, the album that launched them into superstardom, but these East Bay pop-punkers were already making substantial underground waves with the just released Kerplunk. As with the Nirvana show, there was no chance that anyone was thinking they were going to see The Next Big Thing, they were simply enjoying the latest batch of catchy offerings from the popular trio. The price of entry? A paltry $6.
Queens of the Stone Age (1999)
Every album they make now shows up like clockwork on the charts, but in 1999 Queens of the Stone Age were simply the top end of the thriving but willfully indie desert rock scene in California. On the cusp of the 21st century nobody would have ever guessed that thundering riff-rock would go shoulder-to-shoulder with hip-hop, pop, and r ‘n’ b on the radio, but it did with 2002’s single No One Knows. Anyone who made it out to The Rev to catch frontman Josh Homme and crew pummel through the tunes from their self-titled debut might have had a hint of what was to come, though.
Corb Lund (2003)
Country gentleman Corb Lund was already putting out solo records during his time as bassist for regional metal legends, the smalls, so two years after they finally dissolved in 2001 he had accumulated a substantial following. The signposts were in place for the Lund sound with favourites like Five Dollar Bill and Time to Switch to Whiskey, and he was mere months away from working with such icons as Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Ian Tyson. Within a few years the chances of seeing Lund at a mid-sized rock club lessened as he began to be booked into outdoor festivals and venues like the Jubilee Auditorium.
Carly Rae Jepsen (2009)
If you knew Canada’s pop-princess for anything back in 2009 it was for her cover of John Denver’s Sunshine on My Shoulder or the title track of her debut album, Tug of War. Then in her early 20s, Jepsen was still a few years away from crafting the sound that eventually gave her the world wide hit Call Me Maybe. Added bonus: Jepsen’s touring mates on the Starlite stop of the Tug of War tour were fellow fledgling poppers Marianas Trench, who were just about to go double platinum with their sophomore release, Masterpiece Theatre.
By the time electro-pop wunderkinds AWOLNation dropped into the Starlite in September of that year it’s likely that you’d already heard their minor hit, Sail. What you couldn’t have known was that the song would continue to climb the charts, disappear briefly, and then climb even higher a year later, thus kicking off a career that continues today. Sail remains the most commercially successful song they’ve ever released, and if you were at the Starlite that evening you would have heard it before it became the part of the setlist that they are now obliged to play every evening.
July Talk (2013)
It makes complete sense that Toronto’s July Talk would want to play their first Edmonton show at the Starlite Room. Co-fronted by hoarse-voiced ex-Edmontonian Peter Dreimanis, the five-piece were by then a modestly successful act with a radio-friendly hit in Guns + Ammunition. The mesmerizing stage antics between Dreimanis and co-leader Leah Fay was just developing, but the hits kept coming for the alt-rockers, who eventually hit the next level with 2016’s Touch.
You can only see them in stadiums and hockey arenas now, but there was a time when Sweden’s Ghost battled it out in smaller venues with other bands. The mysterious and heavily costumed hard-rockers were definitely a known quantity in certain circles at the time, however; a former member claims that Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl put on the Ghost costume and played along at a show. Touring behind their second album, Infestissumam, the band were known in North America as Ghost B.C. for legal reasons, and that’s how they introduced themselves to Edmonton audiences.