Punk rock therapy for the community

Photo by Mike Elliott Photography

Before the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting mass quarantine, LanaLou’s was a bustling hub of quality live music and delicious comfort food. But for the past three months, like many “non-essential” businesses, the Downtown Eastside eatery and venue has been eerily quiet, the pervasive silence almost louder than the rock and roll that came through its doorways before the virus hit.

On Saturday, July 4th, that silence will end when LanaLou’s holds Vancouver’s first post-COVID punk show, but this time as a dinner party to abide by the new social distancing rules. With a maximum capacity of 50 guests, staff, and band members, the innovative Punk Rock Dinner Party will provide Vancouverites with a much-needed dose of electric rock and roll while having an exhaustive list of protection measures in place to keep everyone safe.

“It’s going to be really different, but I’m just happy we get to have live music again, no matter what it looks like,” says Lana Ryma, owner of LanaLou’s and drummer for The Furniture, one of the bands playing that evening. “It’s going to be awesome. There may not be 80 people in here, high-fiving and hugging, but there will be people who were in a dark place now having a good time.” 

The long list of measures in place will include: 

  • a plexiglass shield in front of the stage while keeping the singer six feet away from the audience
  • hand sanitizers at the entrance as well as on the tables
  • pre-planned seating to accommodate social distancing
  • visual reminders to physically distance and arrows to direct foot traffic
  • markers showing where to stand for the washroom
  • lights on the spread-out tables to signal to servers when the customer wants to order, preventing unnecessary interaction
  • mandatory face masks for all staff as well as masks for guests
  • a mandatory sign-in sheet should they need to perform contact tracing
LanaLou’s Bar

“I want to do everything right, the first time so that you feel safer in here than in a grocery store,” Ryma says. “I’m not rushing anything and I’m making sure it’s done properly – I care about everyone who walks through those doors.”

The headlining band for the dinner party will be Russian Tim and Pavel Bures, a band that has been a pillar of the Vancouver punk scene since they formed in 2017. Lead singer Russian Tim is excited to get back on stage. Their last show was more than four months ago – a lifetime for the prolific band that is known for their energetic live performances. 

“I’m excited to play live again,” he says, “but it’s going to be an unusual show and we’re going to look like we’re playing in an aquarium behind plexiglass.”

“With what the world has been through, it’s a fair exchange to have live music again, but in a safer and slightly weird circumstance,” he adds. “Over time, I think it will return to normal, but this is our reality right now.”

Ryma hopes that with this new reality, Punk Rock Dinner Party will be the first of several shows following this new format, possibly exploring other genres like blues, jazz and even metal.

“This may be a business, but more importantly it’s about the community and bringing happiness to the people in it,” she explains. “Music helps mental health – it’s therapeutic.”