By: Winona Young, Head Staff Writer
The Revel Room is going to make you like Southern music. No, seriously.
Tucked away in Gastown, the 2008-opened Southern bar features booze, food, and lots of live music, jazz to rockabilly to blues. The Revel Room made me party like I was at a 1950s’ sock hop with my sweetheart. And I loved every ding-dang minute of it.
There’s no hospitality like Southern hospitality. The bar was lit up bright, with a buzz of energy in the air. The main floor was decked out in memorabilia revering Jazz and rockabilly legends — only the South’s best. The crowd, a mix of mostly seniors, were surprisingly the life of the party, either decked out in bright Hawaiian shirts or were wearing their hair done up along with a comfortable grin. My SO and I sat together on the brown leather seats along with others, but didn’t mind the company at all.
The first thing the doorman mentioned to us was very important: “There’s no cover.” All age groups from 19 to 90 were welcome. There is, however, a $2 charge to every bill, though it is reserved to pay the live musicians, which seems fair. The main floor itself was wheelchair-accessible, but the steep stairs to the second floor were decidedly not. In addition, the bathrooms were gendered.
The bar was nothing particularly fancy. While the dining menu was exhaustive (all Southern-style comfort food plus poutine), my SO and I only grabbed drinks. He got a rosé while I got a cider — both extremely adequate. For us, the drinks were mostly a precursor to stay for the performances anyway. It should also be noted that this was the first bar I’ve been to where every single bar seat was taken.
Live music: B+
Most nights at the Revel Room feature a different kind of live music. The theme on this night was Rockabilly and Texas Swing. Enter the Rocket Revellers, a group of cowboys with shirts tucked into their pants playing roaring music. And their lead singer, who doubled as the doorman, was the infectiously charismatic Dennis Brock. The set was mostly upbeat, although the lead singer would try to rope in customers from the street as the band played which got a bit disruptive. While the songs definitely blended into another to my ears, I’d be lying if I said I ever stopped swaying in my seat to the beat every song anyway.
The band started off with a catchy rockabilly tune and almost immediately, a group of women got up. All these women shuffled onto the small area in front of the band and started dancing. Midway, a new contender, a sprightly girl who looked my age, went up and joined them until the song ended.
And then it happened again. And again. And then I joined them.
Before the Revel Room, I never knew I wanted to Lindy Hop with senior citizens, but I do now. It was invigorating dancing my heart out; smiles were so easy to catch as I danced with these ladies all night long. The band switched from sweet, foot-tapping tunes to crooning ballads that got every couple (including my SO and I) to join in. The band ended their first set with a banging Southern-swing song, which had the main floor so crowded, one of the waiters gave up and jumped in too. I can’t think of a better night for music, dancing, dancing, and dancing.
It’s hard to remember my last dancing experience that had a) this many seniors, and b) this much wholesomeness. While the bar was nothing more or less than OK, the infectious live music and dancing is what makes me excited to come back.