With the recent closings of The Artery and The Pawn Shop, Edmonton venues are seemingly dropping like flies—and many others are facing financial troubles. For co-owners Jodie Donovan and Rod Gills, DV8, a punk-metal venue just off of Whyte Ave, is no stranger to the struggles that come with running a venue.
“I had been playing in my band Kroovy Rookers since 2004 and putting on shows in the Red Deer area since 2006, so after [Jodie and I] met, I thought I could help out the bar by bringing some of the bands I had met through playing and promoting over the years. After a while, I ended up leaving Red Deer to move to Edmonton and make the bar my top priority,” says Gills.
Although their location on Whyte Avenue means high rent, the owners have avoided making changes to their operation since it opened in 2009. “We try pretty hard to keep our prices affordable and make sure that the bands go away feeling that they were treated fairly for their efforts,” added Gills. “Most bands out there on the road are most likely spending more on a tour than they’re making. I’ve been that guy getting paid half a tank’s worth of gas money when the trip cost a tank and a half, so I do my best to make it people’s worth while.”
On top of that, the owners hardly spend money on promotion. “…Having three or four bands using their networking skills in addition to what a venue can do can really get the word out,” says Gills, who adds that they’ve never been able to have a spot in local music publications due to financial issues, and yet, promotion doesn’t seem to be an issue for the tavern.
“When we moved to the Ave, I started meeting people in different music scenes who were interested in working with us, and that’s been a key factor with keeping our doors open. [Jodie and I] are stuck here all the time, so variety is as important to us as it is to our patrons.” The owners truly understand the importance of music subculture—from, metal, rockabilly, hip-hop and ska.
DV8 is more of a community than a music venue, and the owners take pride in that. “There’s no elitist attitude here, and everybody is welcome to hang out here, play here, or book a show here if they want to.” If you treat people well, they come back—and that has certainly rung true for the tavern. “A lot of bands who started out small and gained momentum still come back. We appreciate what they’ve done for us and they appreciate what we’ve done for them. Street cred is a pretty big thing with me—you have to take care of bands as best you can,” says Gills.
“We’re as surprised as anybody else that we’ve managed to hang in there this long. For a place that has probably put the least amount of money into letting people know we’re here, here we are—creeping up on seven years. We have three more on this lease, so we’ll have to see how things go…until then, we’ll just keep on rockin’!”
Additional photo credit: Tom Von Hamfist