One of this city’s most loved clubs and popular music venues has a birthday coming up, and who doesn’t like turning a birthday into a birthday week? Commonwealth Bar and Stage celebrates four years in business with an eclectic and genre spanning week of great music and parties lined up to show the city more excellent times for the common good.

 

Kicking off with two great Canadian indie rock bands on Tuesday November 10th, Commonwealth presents Rich Aucoin with the Elwins, followed by legendary producer Just Blaze with local djs CSIK and Yung Nino on Thursday November 12th. The festivities continue into the weekend celebrating the four year residency anniversaries of both World Famous Fridays with Disoriental and Yung Nino and Saturday’s Modern Vintage with Dj Heebz, Ivan Rankic and Roy LT.

 

Cut Chemist rounds out the week November 19th.

 

“We love to throw a big party for the week to thank everybody and for making it four years, and every year we give out great swag bags for regulars and people who have been coming since the beginning,” says Colin Canning, Commonwealth’s marketing manager about the upcoming festivities. He points to three recent major announcements for the new year as no sign of Commonwealth slowing down- Lower Dens on January 25, Rob Garza of Thievery Corporation January 28 and Parquet Courts February 19th.

 

I asked Canning, who’s been with the company since “before the beginning” how CW has changed and whether the club has been able to stick with its original vision.

 

“I think we’re well on the path we set out. You know, our goal was always to have these amazing weekend nights and then to do shows that sort of surrounded those nights. I feel like we’ve really accomplished that and we’ve really stuck with it. It’s hard to even remember all of the shows we’ve done in 4 years- there’s been so many amazing ones. And you know, that’s why we try to get so many in such a short amount of time [during anniversary week] to celebrate that, to have a super fun week and of course to thank everyone for their support over the years.”

 

Speaking with DJs Brynn Collingridge and Troy Steinke, two of Saturday night’s Modern Vintage regular and longtime residents, it’s not hard to see how these weekend nights have been so successful. There have been some switches in the Friday and Saturday night line up with past residents such as Teddy Celebration and Ali B, but alongside Ivan Rankic, these three have been filling the dance floors on Saturdays for years with Ivan Rankic and DJ Heebz (Collingridge) playing upstairs, and Roy LT (Steinke) downstairs. They speak to the original concept – playing new music, but staying true to throwback and vintage tracks.

“It took us the first couple months to figure out what was really working. Ivan came up with the idea to start playing 90s, R’n’B to warm up and work in elements of new stuff and from there it sparked what we’re doing now,” Collingridge explains.

 

“I think the night as a whole has been getting busier. It’s always been bustling, but now there’s some nights that just burst at the seams,” Steinke says.

 

The festivities peak this weekend, and I ask the boys what they look forward to for this Modern Vintage Saturday and what they want for their ‘birthday’.

 

“For me, it’s a continuation of a great party. For that whole week, Commonwealth has some great events and artists, and it’s like that every year. They take an entire week and they bring really good talent through. And we get to be part of it. For me, I’ll be partying with everyone all week- CW is such a great family. Everyone there is friends with each other, you know? We hang out with each other. It’s a family and I really truly embrace that. So for that week, it’s like our family birthday and Saturday is just the pinnacle,” Steinke says.

 

“To be honest, we feel like we have the very best Saturday night, every week regular party in the city and we just really want to keep that going. To celebrate 4 years, we want that to keep up, we want to keep people lined up and having a great time,” Collinridge adds.

 

I ask what they believe has been the recipe for success, especially in a city like Calgary where clubs don’t always have the longest shelf life. Commonwealth has managed to only get busier over the years, bringing countless live acts throughout the week while the weekends provide a dependable, multi big room dance party with some of the most well known and favorite djs in Calgary. Steinke points to two of the owners, Pete Emes and Mike Grimes, the duo Smalltown DJs and also proprietors of one of Calgary’s longest running nightclubs, the Hifi Club and new venture, sports bar Home & Away.

 

“I think just being DJs themselves, you really get a good grasp for what people want, and what they enjoy in terms of music and entertainment, which is what we’re offering, right? They have a really good feel for that that, which was developed at places like the Night Gallery which had great dj nights which anchored the club, but also brought through a lot of really great live shows, and that continued with the Hifi. And it keeps going with Commonwealth.”

 

Commonwealth’s tagline is “An uncommon bar for common people”. For a venue to consistently fill on the weekends can be difficult, and the formula for that seems to be as fickle as the appetite for new venues can be. Finding a way to cater to “the masses” so to speak, but keep artistic integrity and original vision for the music they would like to play can be tough, but somehow CW has managed to find a way to give their loyal patrons what they want to hear by giving their djs the freedom to do their jobs to play music and hype the room, instead of telling them what to play. That listening back and forth seems to work and creates an authenticity and trust which is truly brought by what is always the pillar of a great bar- the music. The engineers of that vibe are the djs.

 

“I’d say from the beginning to now, musically for us it’s definitely changed as we’ve gone along. But I think that we’ve sat on something different from what most clubs offer but still managed to cater to the masses, and what people want to hear. Because it is still a giant club. It’s about finding the perfect balance, presenting it in the right way. A great balance to make it unique has probably been a big reason why we’re still lined up the same way now as we were at the start.” Collingridge explains.

 

“I think if you love music, you can discern of the new stuff that’s coming out, what’s classic, what’s great, what defines our time right now for music. And you can also dig back into the past and find new things that people haven’t heard yet. If you can walk that line, then you can always stay relevant.” Steinke says.

 

That authenticity drives their selections and what they give to the crowd.

“You know, there’s elements of turntablism, and real mixing, if you’re at Commonwealth, you’re always going to see someone that’s doing something real,” Steinke says.

 

“It’s just adding to the norm. A dj can play the same tracks that everybody’s been listening to, but if you present it in a different way, it’s more intriguing to people, and you can keep them coming back by being creative.” Collingridge adds.

 

He goes on to explain that while the crowds that come on Friday and Saturday have come to expect the same DJs they know and love to be there, each resident has their own individual style and sound that they bring to both of the floors at Commonwealth. The venue being the size it is and having multiple levels allows people to move freely around. The trick of CW’s success seems to be having dialed in a formula that manages not to be formulaic. Both DJs acknowledge the freedom they have in performing their jobs, and I point out that someone shouldn’t have to tell you what to do if you’re doing it right.

 

“One Hundred percent. You’re so rarely told what you have to play here, the only time would be private parties and pub crawls with certain things they’d like to hear. But for us it’s a blank slate, every night, and you paint the picture you want” Steinke says.

 

“And we’re blessed to just have that available. It isn’t always that way,” Collingridge says.

 

I ask if the guys have any birthday wishes for Commonwealth.

 

“Just congratulations to everyone- the owners, the staff, the djs, everyone who makes it a great place to party” Steinke says.

 

”And shout out to everyone who comes out every week and let’s us do what we do. We love doing it, and we love that people still line up to come see us. It’s an honest blessing. And let’s go another four years.” Collingridge says.

Bring on the birthday week.

By: Magdalena Gorski

 

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