Vancouver--The World's Best Rehearsal Hall?
Even the big guys have to practice, and if you're a Vancouver resident you probably know that many of the world's biggest bands--including Aerosmith, U2 and the Stones--have chosen to rehearse here in the past. Both the Stones and U2 took up residence in Vancouver's GM Place last year in preperation for world tours, and Aerosmith made Vancouver a second home throughout most of the nineties, even recording albums here with local producer Bruce Fairbairn at his Little Mountain Studios on the North Shore.
Now, the local media is awash with stories of The Police's recent (supposed/probable/likely) descent upon our fair city--to prep for a worldwide reunion tour--and speculation and sightings pepper the press, including appearances on the front page of The Vancouver Sun and seemingly by-the-minute reports on what Sting and the boys are up to on Rock 101.
So what gives? What is it exactly that gets the big bands to Vancouver for extended stays? Sure, a band's ability to channel the "relative anonymity" (source: canada.com) is certainly part of the bargain--though front-page reportage is hardly anonymous, if you ask me--but it's something else too: Vancouver is a steal, and we're not very busy. We're a small city with big city hopes.
Sarah Costa is a stagehand for big shows at GM Place and other Vancouver venues; she was on hand for the U2 world tour rehearsals that took place in the arena last year. For starters, she says it's the same thing that makes Vancouver "Hollywood North" that makes it a mecca for music-types: the savings potential.
"Usually the Canadian dollar is more favourable," she says, even though that hasn't been the case of late. "Also, I'd say that in the off-season--that is, January to March--we have a lot of big venues and a relatively light productions season. And there are production crews readily available."
Costa also speculates that it's cost-effective to take up residence in a big venue like GM Place as opposed to similar venues in larger cities, even for the long term. As evidence, she points out that U2's entire rig--down to the last lightbulb--was installed in GM Place with the ability to hoist up into the rafters when NHL games came to town. It was no cheap or easy thing, but the band was thrilled to have a semi-permanent home before handing themselves over to the rigours of the road.
So is it all a matter of money, then? Not so, says Costa, who also worked the Stones rehearsals and their Vancouver show. Part of the appeal is the city itself, for reasons that are likely as individual as the bands themselves. When the Stones show was delayed for three weeks while Mick Jagger rested his voice, Costa says, "The [Stones] crew just stayed in a hotel here for 3 weeks, rather than going home."